MONDAY — on the food front

Some progress was made on the food issues today.  The speech and swallowing specialist worked with Nancy prior to lunch and then came to her room to watch while she chewed and swallowed.  When one doesn’t swallow well it is called dysphagia, or disordered swallowing.

To get proper nutrition food has to be prepared in a manner to make it easy to swallow and some foods have to be avoided.  We have assumed, in Nancy’s case, that her difficulties originated from the insertion of a breathing tube (endotracheal intubation) in the ICU.  There is a possibility that her problem preceded that and the intubation just added to an existing issue.

As early as last spring we recall some episodes of her not being able to swallow well, followed by spitting up something she had just tried to swallow.  This may be a false lead and her problem might clear up with a bit more time and exercise.  Swallowing a liquid such as water or anything else like water can be a problem because it goes down so quickly that your throat, being a bit out of practice, doesn’t have time to close off the airway.  Liquids that are a bit thicker – tomato juice, say – allow more time for a sluggish throat to function.  Thickened soups and drinks are recommended.

So, the dysphagia consultant examined the food in Nancy’s lunch.  There was ground meat (beef, maybe) with a gravy and mashed potatoes without gravy.  Well the problem with ground beef is that when cooked it adheres together (think of a grilled burger – if it didn’t stick together it would fall through the bars of the grill).  Thus, the meat portion met the letter of the directive but not the intent.  The consultant took it back to the kitchen and came back with the stuff newly ground.  That helped.

At supper the protein portion (tuna, I think) was prepared properly and brought in a bowl, that is, not as a sandwich.  No chewy sticky bread is good.  A thin watery soup accompanied the meal.  Not good.

I keep two canisters of yogurt in a small ice filled cooler in her closet.  We used one of those with supper to help add calories and nutrients.  The soup went back to the kitchen untouched.  I suppose I will be carrying corn starch or tapioca in small plastic bags to add to soups such as that tonight.  Carrying small bags of white power around in these troubled times seems to be unwise, however.  I may rethink this issue.