There is an easier way to maintain GI suction on a post - op patient suffering from a paralytic ileus. I'm not talking about those plug in "portable" machines that weigh 1/2 as much as your patient. There are few pieces of medical equipment that generate a more annoying buzz saw noise than portable suction machines. A bone saw in action might sound worse, but at least the patient does not hear it.
Electrified suction machines in action remind me of the time a yellow jacket flew inside my full coverage motorcycle helmet while cruising on Lake shore Drive. You can't turn off a buzzing suction machine when suction is necessary and you can't remove a helmet in heavy traffic. Meanwhile that persistent buzzing is driving you nuts.
In old diploma nursing schools, instructors like Miss Bruiser, my all time favorite, frequently said that we should learn how to do something "just in case." Students were required to "learn" how to smoke cigarettes so we could better relate to psych patients. Other various hacks were part of the "just in case" curriculum like using sterile finger cots to perform procedures in the event we ran out of gloves.
We were also taught how to construct a do-it-yourself Wagensteen suction using 3 large glass bottles, rubber tubing and a glass drinking straw "just in case" of a power failure. Old hospitals had no backup power supplies. The principle underlying manual Wangensteen suction was Boyle's gas law which stated there was an inverse relationship between pressure and volume. As the water flowed out of the glass bottle on top, a negative pressure was created by the increase in size of the void within the bottle. A glass drinking straw inserted through a hole in the stopper served to harvest the vacuum created by the falling water
The clothesline pulley on top of
the stand facilitated bottle exchange
A more elegant system involved a pole outfitted with an ordinary clothesline pulley which according to my notes could be obtained at any hardware store. A length of rope about 7 feet long was attached to each bottle and threaded through the clothesline pulley assembled at the top of the pole.When the bottles needed exchanged after draining, a nurse could swap their position with a not so gentle tug on the connecting rope. As the bottles made their up and down journey continuous suction was maintained as water continually drained from top to bottom. Dr. Owen Wangensteen, the inventor would have been most proud.
There is something to be said for simple devices cobbled together with a nurse's two hands. Wangensteen suction was a breakthrough discovery in the 1930s that reduced operative mortality from 44% to less than 20%. Owen Wagensteen should have received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1931, but they gave it to someone who discovered an esoteric enzyme. Simple, silent devices like this suction engender those immersive, visceral feelings old nurses experienced from directly helping someone feel better even if the nurse was too busy yanking on the clothesline to take a break for a Coke and a smoke.