shilo has been on a blenderized diet for around two months now. it has completely transformed our lives, for the better. no more puking or gagging. no more constipation. no more hours of being hooked to a feeding pump. she recently came off of zantac completely (reflux medicine) and can sleep flat in her bed (instead of with her mattress at an angle). when i think backwards to all of this, my eyes tend to fill up with tears. i've had a few people suggest that maybe it was just the type of formula she was one. but we had tried multiple formulas, and nothing ever changed.
our most exciting development, though, is that she is really interested in eating. by mouth. she watches our forks from plate to mouth. she wants to be part of meals. and as always we continue to work with her on her oral feeding skills.
but it's become somewhat disheartening. everyone keeps saying, 'oh she will get it.' or, 'just give her time.' the thing is she's not getting it. she doesn't gag. at all. she loves food in her mouth. she even moves it around with her tongue. but she doesn't have a swallow reflex anymore. it's completely baffling because she doesn't slobber at all. so either she doesn't produce much saliva, or she swallows her saliva.
we've been working with an o.t. on eating stuff. and tomorrow a speech pathologist starts. but after many a conversations someone finally said, 'you know it's possible she has nerve damage from being intubated so long.'
i politely agreed, hung up, and jumped on google scholar (google scholar has medical articles, and reputable sources, where as if you just google something, you may or may not be getting truth). i came across numerous articles on extended intubation and something called dysphagia. dysphagia boils down to being a swallowing disorder that can be anything from tongue issues to the esophogus not doing what it should. i read article after article.
then i came across one that made my heart sort of stop. it was on pediatric patients who had open heart surgery and the risk factors for dysphagia. i read through the numbers and statistics and looked through the list of things that put a child at higher risk for having issues: under three-check, intubated prior to surgery-check, transesophogeal echocardiogram-check (an echo is a picture of the heart by ultrasound. after ohs they do this by putting a probe in the throat to make certain everything is repaired before closing the chest), intubation of more than seven days-check. sounds like shilo was a pretty high risk case for having dysphagia.
i continued to read. and came across the lines about how a child who has this will do best if they have intense speech therapy as soon as possible. nope. we didn't get that. matter of fact, we are almost nine months out from surgery and we are just now getting ready to start speech.
so we are taking deep breaths here. with each new vocabulary word, label, diagnoses, that comes along with our children, i am always surprised at how disheartened i feel. shouldn't i have this down by now. both of our children have multiple diagnoses. but this one stings a little more than others. it isn't like when we found out she was deaf and just shifted to signing and finding other ways to communicate.
it's more of the wondering if i will be washing g-tube extensions for the rest of my life. it has me considering that the blender i make jokes about being part of our family, really will become a standard part of each mealtime. and it breaks my heart a little that my little who is very interested in eating food, may not be able to be sustained by it.
i have made goals for shilo and eating. and even with this new word looming (we don't have an official diagnoses yet) i still will continue to do all that i can to try to help her learn to eat. i just wanted one thing, for shilo, to work for her instead of against her. but, somehow, i know that with each new obstacle before her, we will continue to see new and amazing things with her. we will learn over and over to celebrate the small victories that other people miss, and we will learn that God's grace is sufficient to get us through.