I had a follow-up modified barium swallow test today. I was quite worried about it, fearful that it would show no changes since the one at the end of April. Last night I had several related dreams. The one I remember is being invited to an award dinner at a restaurant, and following several people in, who walked directly into the back of the place to their table. As I went in, the room suddenly became very small, and for some reason I had to step up onto a chair and walk across a table onto another chair to follow them. And then it turned out I was at the back wall of the room. I couldn’t follow them, because I couldn’t walk “into” the wall.
Luckily, the test this morning showed important positive changes since April. Not that I’ll be scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July*, but improvements none the less. It’s clear that sensation in my throat has improved. I’m better able to feel the stuff going down, and clear any that seems headed for my windpipe. In fact, I don’t think I aspirated anything this morning, which was a big change.
We discovered that turning my head to the right (the side the surgery was on), with chin slightly down, enables me to clear things more swiftly, and with somewhat less “pooling”, which is what they call the collection of fluid that doesn’t go all the way down. This suggests that we may be able to train me to take best advantage of whatever function I do have.
We might have gone further, but by the time we’d gotten that far, my swallowing muscles had noticeably tired. With several swallows per spoonful, and several spoons tried, I’d done a lot. Also, that barium is very sticky, and drying, and once you’ve had enough, it can become a hindrance of its own. So we stopped before we got to the barium “pudding”.
The good news is that the extraordinarily wary Marie cleared me for “swallowing exercises” with water, to work on building up my swallowing strength. Twice a day, I get to try half a spoonful of water, and practice a swallow-swallow-swallow maneuver. I’m allowed three half-spoons each “exercise” period. The water is supposed to be chilled, so I’ll be able to feel it going down.
So, it’s something. There HAS been change for the better, even if it’s less than I might have hoped for. I feel like I can let go of a little bit of my fear that I’m never going to really eat again. That’s a good, good thing.
*This is a metaphor. Hot dogs have too much sodium for me to eat on my diet. Burgers, though…mmmm. Maybe next year.