Wednesday, December 23, 2009
'so is the hospital food as bad as people say?' asked my friend innocently. i felt my heart stop for half a second. i was speechless (ok even if i wanted to say something, i couldnt. but i didnt know whether to look up for yes or down for no). i realized i hadnt eaten or drank anything for weeks! how was i stilll alive? and then i remembered , my PEG tube. i hated the idea that i had one, but right now, it was keeping me alive. it was basically a tube connected from my stomach to the outside world through which i would get my medications, water, and these milkshake like drinks that served as my meals. a few weeks later when i could open my mouth a little, i started practicing swallowing, which sounds easy, but it was pretty hard for me. my speech therapist, emily, started me with lemon swabs. they just tasted like lemon and stimulated random swallows. and then we tried lollipops! strawberry-flavored, simply delicious. then, to increase my swallowing coordination and swallowing strength, i started getting electrical stimulation on my throat muscles. uncomfortable? definitely. but i got used to it because i had to do it everyday for an hour for 14 days. but with the e-stim on, i could actually try swallowing liquids! so we moved onto big things - diet coke! we had to add this starch like powder to thicken it a bit which ruined the taste a bit, but it was still DIET COKE! (because thick liquids are easier to swallow than thin liquids, like water). i remember that first sip that teased my palate and glazed my throat, was the first drop of liquid to tickle my throat in weeks. it was unreal. after i completed the 14 days, it was time for my 'swallow study' which was basically a test to see whether i could swallow different things without 'aspirating' - letting any food/liquid go down the wrong way. i didnt realize how big a deal it was, but i will probably remember that day, january 20, forever. first, i tried swallowing 'honey thick' liquids, and repeatedly, i swallowed it fine! then we tried 'nectar thick' liquids, and to everyones surprise, i swallowed that fine too! we got carried away and decided to try 'thin liquids', but i completely aspirated that. finally, we tried a solid (a puree FOOD!), and i handled that fine too!! so i had been approved for 'nectar thick' liquids and puree solids! basically i could eat and drink again!! my nurse said, 'wow, that made my day!', then my doctor said, 'that made my month!', and then emily excitedly yelled, 'that made my career!!!' i was ecstatic. but i didnt realize the significance of what just happened until dinnertime that night - i actually received a meal tray! my doctor said if i could finish 75% of my meal, i wouldnt have to have my tube feed. i decided that day would be the LAST day i would ever have a tube feed. though the trays were massive, i had absolutely no appetite, i could only handle tiny bites so each meal would take an hour, eating was exhausting, and i was vegetarian on a puree foods diet (EWWW!), i wanted to do everything in my power to not be fed through a tube again. though my tastes arent normal yet (like i dont have a taste for alcohol yet), i was one step closer to singing with biggie, 'birthdays were the worst days, now we sip champagne when we thirstay!'