I was calm as they said my son was aspirating food and liquids. I was calm as they recommended a g tube and an immediate NG tube.
The experts at the swallow clinic had built an irrefutable case. They had just watched Deane eat solids – fairly runny mashed potatoes – drink liquids and eat a spoonful of applesauce.
With the mashed potatoes, he took an unusually long time – even for him – to swallow. On the x-ray, they saw it pooling just above his vocal chords, threatening to move into his lungs.
With water – flavoured with chocolate to hide the taste of the barium – out of his regular straw cup, Deane was fine at first but then started to aspirate it.
Thicker cream by cup entered his airway. He coughed and cleared some, but residue remained and went down the wrong way.
Applesauce – something Deane doesn’t like to begin with – was next. On the promise it was the last test, he swallowed it … safely.
In the meeting with the doctor and the speech-language pathologist, we heard their recommendations: only food the consistency of applesauce and liquids thickened and fed by spoon. They explained that with his level of aspiration, Deane’s lungs would be continuously irritated and could easily be pushed over into an infection – like the one he had had two weeks ago.
The swallow experts said Deane should get a g tube and, because he won’t be taking in enough liquid by spoon until then, the immediate insertion of an NG tube was necessary.
Despite my long-held and well-known reluctance to give Deane a g tube, there didn’t seem much choice but to accept their advice. I was calm. Deane did not react.
We came home and I prepared Deane’s dinner, thinning it from solid to applesauce. As I fed him, I thought about the foods Deane most enjoys. Does this mean he can’t have the chicken nuggets and fries he eats when we go out? What about his grandmother’s chocolate cake that he adores? Is this the end of the Cheezies the owners of the cottage marina order especially for him?
As the tears began to well, I realized I don’t know many of the realities of g tubes. I am in shock as I struggle to figure out the immediate changes to Deane’s diet. Where it goes from here, I’m not sure. I’m just trying to hold it all together.