Just like in many aspects of his life, D has come a long way in eating! Let’s start back in the beginning… but first please note that I do not have a medical background and none of this should be taken as medical advice!
To recap, due to his brain injury, D couldn’t safely swallow – not even his own spit – which is why we chose to get a feeding tube surgically placed when he was 6 weeks old. Shortly before the feeding tube decision, D did two “swallow studies,” and has had three afterwards to measure his progress. A swallow study (aka modified barium swallow study) is when they give the patient some barium mixed in either liquid or food, and then watch under x-ray video where it goes in their mouth/throat. The barium makes the food show up bright white, and (at least for us) there is a radiologist, tech, and a speech therapist there watching what happens. They take account of:
- How easily they can manipulate the food around their mouth
- When or if the swallow reflex is triggered to close off the airway and let the food go down into the tummy – could be when the fluid hits the back of the tongue, seconds after, or never
- If they let anything go into their lungs (“aspirate”), or go up their nasal cavity
- If they let the fluid hang around dangerously in the back of the throat