Trouble swallowing

Healthwatch

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What if you lost the ability to swallow your favorite food, or even take a sip of water? A new treatment is restoring this reflex in record time.

Carlton Vaught and Cynthia Sucher have been married for 43 years. They love their dog Murphy-Brown and enjoying carlton’s home-cooked meals.

Carlton Vaught said, “Cooking is a passion for me and that’s probably how I got to know Cynthia by doing special meals like crawfish etouffee and stuff like that for her.”

But that all changed after cynthia had surgery for a benign brain tumor and lost the ability to swallow.

Unable to eat or drink anything, Cynthia had a feeding tube for five months.

Cynthia Sucher said, “I thought I’d eaten my last pizza, I’d eaten my last rhubarb, I’d eaten my last peanut butter pie. It was just, I just lost hope.”

Until she found UCF researchers, who developed an exercise-based treatment for patients to re-learn how to swallow.

Giselle Carnaby, PhD, MPH., CCC-SLP, F-ASHA, Professor of Speech said, “So, we no longer view foods and fluids as a source of nutrition in that regard. We view them as barbells in the gym.”

Michael Crary, PhD, CCC-SLP, F-ASHA, Honors ASHA, Professor of Speech-Language Pathology and Internal Medicine, Center for Upper Aerodigestive Functions, University of Central Florida said, “In this approach, swallowing is the exercise. So every swallow is like doing a push up basically.”

By Cynthia’s fifth session, she was eating full meals again.

Vaught said, “It’s like she’s 500, 600 percent better. It’s just unbelievable.”

They’re back to enjoying life. And Carlton’s peanut butter pie!

Professor Carnaby says treatment typically takes three weeks, with many patients like Cynthia recovering more quickly. She says they have about a 90 percent success rate.
 

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