Seniors Learn to Swallow Again

A Therapy Using Electrodes Helps Patients Move from Feeding Tubes to Eating Normally Imagine if you lost your ability to swallow. How would you learn to eat again? Beaufort Memorial Hospital therapists are using a new method applying electrical stimulation to help stroke patients, seniors and others with problems swallowing regain that basic reflex. The regimen of electrotherapy, swallowing exercises and special diets is giving patients previously limited to feeding tubes, pureed foods or coughing at the dinner table a chance at enjoying their favorite meals normally. Beaufort resident Artie Heape is one of the hospital’s success stories. He began choking on food and accidentally inhaling it this spring after surgeries removing half his lung and a triple heart bypass weakened his ability to swallow. “When he started his treatment he had a feeding tube,” said Laurie Martin, pathology department director. “Three weeks ago I ate dinner with him at Duke’s BBQ.” After three months of therapy, Heape said he’s off his feeding tube and back devouring anything he wants. “You don’t think about (swallowing) when it just always happens and you didn’t have to worry about it before,” said senior speech pathologist Kim Cummings. “It’s like a life sentence if you can’t eat.” The disorder can disrupt social lives that revolve around eating out, cause weight loss and raise the risk of pneumonia, she said. About 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, most of whom are elderly, claims Chattanooga Group, which began marketing the therapy called VitalStim in 2003. For some, the normal aging process is to blame. Others have survived strokes,...

February 2005:Euthanasia

The Feeding Tube May Be Removed from Disabled Terri Schiavo 23Feb05 New Therapy Helps Patients To Swallow New Signs of Awareness Seen With Imaging in Some Brain-Injured Patients Groningen Protocol Can Be Used for Children And Retarded Adults Terminal Sedation Supreme Court’s Acceptance of Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Case Gives Court Opportunity to Restore Legal Protection for Patients     DISABLED TERRI SCHIAVO, set be starved and dehydrated to death when her feeding tube was to be removed 22Feb05, has gained a stay until 23Feb05. Terri Schindler Schiavo is a 41-yr-old woman in FL who has been disabled for several years after a mysterious “incident” in her home caused a lack of oxygen. She is not comatose; she is aware of people around her and recognizes family & friends although she cannot speak; she breathes on her own; she can swallow but has been kept on a feeding tube. Her parents have tried for years to obtain legal guardianship; her husband has refused. At least 17 Disability groups have also been fighting for her life; they know that Terri’s death will affect the security of their own lives. Terri’s parents want only to care for her and provide needed therapy; but her husband has been determined for years to work through the court system to remove her feeding tube so that she will starve and dehydrate to death.     NEW THERAPY HELPS PATIENTS SWALLOW — Called VitalStim, the approach was approved by the US FDA (2002) as an option for patients who might not regain their ability to eat any other way & is designed to help patients recover more quickly. For many patients, their ability to...