Excellence in Action: Improving Patient’s Quality of Life By Restoring Mealtime Connections

Eating is one of the greatest pleasures of life and offers us many opportunities for socialization with those around us.  When we lose the ability to eat, many times, our joy and our connection with our loved ones are lost as well.

A patient began receiving outpatient Speech services at our Merritt Island, FL, facility, due to difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia) following a partial glossectomy due to oral cancer.  His cancer had recently reoccurred, causing him to have an additional glossectomy with flap reconstruction, resulting in a small base of tongue in April 2020. 

Since then, the patient has struggled with an ongoing history of aspiration pneumonia, a decrease in diet tolerance, and received nutrition and hydration through a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastronomy (PEG) tube.  He desperately wanted to try to safely swallow food again but was unable to pursue outpatient Speech services due to COVID precautions, as he is immunocompromised. Recently, the patient’s physician referred him for Speech Therapy services but gave a poor prognosis for return to oral intake.

Right away, Connie, SLP accepted this challenge.  The patient was referred for a Modified Barium Swallow Study (MBSS) and based on the results, therapy was initiated for pleasure feedings. Additionally, Connie utilized Surface Electromyography (sEMG) feedback technology to target effortful swallow. sEMG is a non-invasive procedure involving the detection, recording, and interpretation of the electric activity of groups of muscles at rest (static) and during activity (dynamic).  By placing electrodes on the skin surface over the specific muscles targeted, Connie was able to provide the patient with visual feedback to guide and challenge his ability to perform an effortful swallow, and thus improve his overall swallow function.

 Through Connie’s skilled intervention, including sEMG and Chin Tuck Against Resistance (CTAR), the patient was able to progress from NPO (nothing by mouth) to liquified pureed textures for 3 meals per day, with no further aspiration pneumonia or PEG feedings.

The patient, his family, and his physician are thrilled with the progress that he was able to make through Connie’s intervention.  Even after his discharge from Outpatient Speech Therapy, the patient and his family continue to reach out to our department and thank Connie for changing his life for the better.  They stated that they can’t believe his continued progress as he continues to implement all the strategies he learned while on therapy.

In Merritt Island, FL, we are ALL In for providing a caring customer experience by improving patients’ abilities and quality of life, while restoring their ability to experience mealtime connections with their loved ones.