SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Intensive care units (ICU) are notoriously grim environments, filled with scenes of grief and worry. But thanks to a new line of musical endotracheal tubes produced by Party-Goof novelties, the morose atmosphere in ICUs across the country may be getting a boost. These whimsical airway devices promise to lighten the mood for the caregivers and families of even the sickest patients, no matter how bleak the prognosis.
With every ventilation, the festive sounds of party horns, slide whistles, and comical trumpet honks keep the staff and visitors in a perpetual state of amusement. Each size tube has a different noise-making element, but with optional adapter kits all sorts of combinations are possible. A perpetual favorite with pranksters is the “Whoops!” attachment, which makes a loud flatulent sound with every exhalation and gets inevitable laughs that quickly drown out sobs and moaning.
Respiratory therapists at Quintac Hospital were the first to play actual music. Maryanne Belichman learned how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by changing from SIMV to AC and back again while rapidly adjusting PEEP settings. From there, friendly artistic competitions blossomed between various members of the critical care teams, leading to remarkable displays of musical talent.
Dr. Lyle Wonack recently performed “Danny Boy” to a rapt audience with the help of an end-stage COPD patient under heavy sedation. “If you allow just the right amount of sputum to accumulate in the tube, you can get this poignant, sustained tremolo effect when you do an inspiratory pause. We totally nailed it, even though she did drop a lung.”
The innovation has compassionate uses too. Thanks to a new brass endotracheal cuff attachment, it is now possible to play a sad trombone noise just before a terminal extubation. Many palliative care experts agree that a final “Womp womp womp waahhhhhh” sound helps to give family members closure and begin the process of healing.
As with any new art form, there are setbacks. The harmonica port had a promising beginning, but simply couldn’t tolerate congealed phlegm without losing timbre quality. Another failure was the pediatric recorder attachment: the repetitive, incandescently high-pitched shrieks actually liquefied the eyes and shattered the teeth of connected patients after more than 35 minutes of exposure.
The makers at Party-Goof are making the most of the unexpected success of what they thought would be niche one-off novelty item. Sensing additional opportunities, plans are in the works for Foley collection bags featuring agitated cartoon chicken whose wings gyrate with urine flow.