Allen was referred to my practice for swallowing problems, including aspiration ( liquids getting into his airway during drinking) which have persisted since he underwent a double lung transplant last July. On our first visit, he and his wife recounted his arduous surgery and lengthy recovery which lasted several months. His swallowing problem is one of the last rehabilitation issues he faces, and the jar of thickener on the kitchen counter has been a daily reminder and motivator for his goal from receiving therapy , which is to safely return to drinking thin liquids.
When I met with him several weeks ago for our first visit, I re-inforced to him the roles we would play. I would serve as his "coach" instructing him in a variety of exercises designed to strengthen the safety and efficiency of his swallowing mechanism, but he would be required to do the work of daily swallowing exercises. With Allen and others, I do what I can to set them up for success. Sometimes that includes making a video recording of the patient performing the prescribed exercises and downloading it to their computer. Then, between visits, they can review the instructions as often as they need to, with my voice on the recording acting as their virtual coach.
So, in the case of Allen, he did his part. He was diligent about performing the daily exercises, and during our weekly visits we would review his log discuss his progress and identify goals for the following week. He has demonstrated strategies he must perform on his own, and asked for clarification of techniques he is unsure of.
Yesterday I had a phone call from Allen who had just returned from his repeat videoswallow study. In only one month of treatment and hard work on his part, his swallow function had improved to the point of being able to discontinue the use of thickened liquids. Needless to say, we were both thrilled. I often kiddingly say to patients that THEY are my walking testimonials. When they do good, I look good.
In reality, every person is different, of course, and not all patients will achieve the remarkeable improvement that Allen did. But the one characteristic I seem to be seeing in several patients lately that does seem to be a predictor of their success is their willingness to do the work.
So, how about you? If you are about to begin a course of therapy, I would ask you to honestly answer the question: are you ready to DO IT?
Hear Manny's story of success....