Monday, November 9, 2009

spirometer/exercise update

Before Mrs. Merrill arrived today, I took Mom through a set of heel raises and squats, and later got her to work with the incentive spirometer.

The spirometer is a device that measures lung capacity when you inhale. It has a small indicator that rises and falls according to the rate of inhalation; the person doing the exercise needs to keep the indicator floating between a set of lines. This means inhaling at a certain moderate speed: inhale too fast, and a tiny indicator on the side will float too far out of bounds.

The spirometer's larger main indicator is a large cylinder that goes from 0 to 4000ml, marked off in 500ml intervals. The object of the game is to inhale repeatedly, doing one's best to top one's previous "score." (See here and here for pictures and details.) Back when Mom got the spirometer at the hospital, we four guys all tried it and scored 4000 on our first or second tries. Mom was never able to get much above 1500 back then, and over the past few days, her capacity has been distressingly low: around 750 or so.

So we've been putting Mom through her pulmonary paces, encouraging her to try ever harder with the spirometer, and today I witnessed a breakthrough: Mom broke 1000ml twice-- both times without cheating. Yes, Mom quickly figured out that the spirometer has a little "blowhole," and when this blowhole is blocked by a fingertip, even a weakling can easily score 4000. We have to watch Mom's fingers to make sure she doesn't cheat, but she cheats only because she's joking with us, not because she's earnest about faking results. The point is that, tonight, Mom showed legitimate improvement. She hates being put through this sort of regimen, but we're going to keep at it for her sake.


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