On occasion I've lost or broken sticks and had to use the bag without... I didn't like it nearly as well, though it's certainly possible.
I don't know why just removing the sticks when not in use didn't occur to me. Good idea. I'll go with my sliding sticks thing for a while and see if I like that better though...
A fairly simple field fix if the stick is falling out but not lost is to put it in place, and then wrap the end with thread (using a needle) so that it's bound to the sil nylon.
If you're ever without a bag at all and have to mouth inflate, use the big valve not the mouth valve (except at the end)! Take short breaths that are less likely to lead to hyperventilation. I learned this from Gordy Vernon, who I watched inflate a standard Alpacka in 6 minutes by mouth... The main problem is drooling into the boat, so sometimes I lie on my back. Also you can get a fair amount of air in just by tugging on the raft with the valve open (thanks to Roman for that one.)