Mr. Gates’ Success Story
Ocean Springs Neurosciences Therapist: Stephanie Stensland MS, CCC-SLP
Mr. Gates’ responses to questions:
(Stephanie): Can you tell us about what helped you get to this point?
(Mr. Gates): “My exercises had a whole lot to do with it, my Therabite machine and then tasting food got me ambitious to try hard. I was frightened to eat food and scared that I would choke. But I’m now building confidence and eating more. I thank God for helping me out and sending me to the right people.”
(Stephanie): What’s your advice for others going through swallowing problems associated with head and neck cancer?
(Mr. Gates): When you’re feeling your lowest, stick to your exercises and remember your goals. It makes a difference. You’ve got to invest in yourself and know you can do this thing. I still have my times where I have to clean out my mouth and start over, but I always remember my goals.”
Mr. Gates is the perfect example of a patient who has been consistent to come to therapy, comply with swallowing strategies and complete his home exercises. In July 2013, Mr. Gates was diagnosed with head and neck cancer, requiring chemo, radiation, jaw reconstruction and a feeding tube. He was given doctor’s orders to go “NPO” (nothing by mouth) since he was silently aspirating and at risk for aspiration pneumonia. Since then, Mr. Gates has had an ongoing journey of dysphagia therapy. This November, Mr. Gates’ hard work paid off when he was able to pass his swallow study. He has used a combination of approaches to acquire his success: Choosing appropriate consistencies of food, using the supraglottic swallow strategy, following aspiration precautions and gradually increasing the amount of food he consumes on a week to week basis. Treatment involved several types of oral and pharyngeal strengthening exercises, range of motion exercises, manual therapy to help manage stiff scar tissue, use of the Therabite tool, diet changes (starting with purees and honey thick liquids and working up to mechanical soft and thin liquids) and use of the supraglottic swallow strategy. Mr. Gates continues to use his PEG tube for optimal nutrition, but has been able to safely sample all of his home cooking. We are so excited that Mr. Gates is able to eat just in time for the holidays!