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Swallowing Therapy: A Feast to Remember: December 28, 2011

Sit down celebrations are commonplace during the holidays, but this luncheon is serving an uncommon twist.

“We usually stick with the same type of a general menu; different consistencies -so we’ll have some salads, some soft salads and we’ll always have thickener on hand if somebody still needs thickened liquids,” says Stacy Brill, a swallowing therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.

There’s food at every place setting in anticipation of a feast and that’s no small feat. Many of the invitees hadn’t eating in years, until they started therapy.

The people in this room represent a variety of diseases and conditions that affect their throat and necks.

“I was diagnosed with scleroderma about back in 1985,” says Tom Werley.

With a tightened neck, Tom struggled to swallow even tiny pills. Therapy allowed him to satisfy his appetite.

“I ate everything. I have trouble opening my mouth wide enough as a result of scleroderma too but you know at least now if I can get it in my mouth I can swallow it,” says Tom.

We visited Stan Garratt during a therapy session. Throat cancer robbed him of his voice and his ability to swallow. A combination of electrical stimulation and stretching slowly restores eating and drinking movements. Now, with no windpipe or tongue, Stan is able to toast the holidays.

“Stan says it’s good to get together, and I think it is. It’s incredible, looking around the room how many people have been helped,” says Jessica Garratt.

Susan Lodge is a true survivor. A feeding tube keeps her alive, she supplements with liquids.

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but to be truthful it’s the coolest thing to be able to look around the room and know that you’ve impacted somebody’s life,” says Stacey.

In many cases, the intake is not enough to sustain them, but at any amount, it’s food for the soul.