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Off the Feeding Tube: August 24, 2011

“He was diagnosed with early stage throat cancer on the base of his tongue. There was no option other than actually the most radical surgery that was possible and he lost his windpipe and his entire tongue,” says Jessica Garratt wife to Stan Garratt.

Cancer surgery saved Stan’s life, but left him unable to speak, eat or drink. A computer is giving him a voice.

“Staying in touch with people is very important to me.”

Therapist Stacey Brill is giving him hope. The goal is to get Stan off his feeding tube.

Each patient presents their own set of challenges. For many this is their last hope and best shot at swallowing again.

“We are trying to strengthen the pharyngeal wall so that is can get a good squeeze to get the liquid to go down into the esophagus and then obviously into the stomach,” says Stacey Brill, a swallowing therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Stan started with swabs dipped in liquid and moved on from there.

“We worked our way up to ice chips and using a head tilt so gravity will help to push it back and then swallowing ice chips,” says Brill.

After weeks of intensive therapy, Stan took his first drink.

“When we started with him the goals were he’d be able to drink liquids for nutrition and hopefully one day be able to get rid of the feeding tube,” says Brill.

We’re really pleased with that progress because it’s changed some of the forecast for what we can do,” says Jessica.

For now, Stan is savoring his first taste of success.

“Eating and drinking is a very social event.”