Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feeding Tube Awareness Week - Life with a feeding tube

Luke eats through a tube. He has never eaten orally and right now is not allowed to eat anything orally as we are not sure that his muscles and all the swallowing parts function. We do think he can swallow but as a three year old who has never practiced it would be dangerous to try as he could choke on his food or fluid could get all they way down into his lungs causing an infection and difficulty breathing. So we feed Luke through a tube. So what does that look like?

(click the pictures to see a bigger version)
Luke plays with toys while eating. We also encourage him to put an appropriate toy in his mouth to associate oral stimulation with eating.

This is a picture of the actual button that we feed him through.

We used to hold him and feed him. As babies are held to get nursed or bottle fed. We probably held him until he was 2 years old or so. Then we moved to the high chair. I have been trying to make his live as "normal" as possible within the limits of his medical issues. So he eats in a high chair. He usually doesn't eat when we do as it is hard to feed yourself and him at the same time, although it can be done. We are lucky that Luke doesn't have any digestive issues, he just isn't able to get food to his stomach so we help with that.

Luke is fed 5 meals a day. Right now I blend up his entire day's nutritional requirements and then divide it up in 5 equal parts. We have thought about making 3 bigger meals and 2 snacks but our lives our a little crazy and 5 equal meals is working right now. We feed Luke real food that you or I would eat (or maybe not, he eats beet and turnip greens, and is a very good disposal for nutritious veggies from our farm share that we don't really like or eat as much of). For more on his food go to these posts: Blenderized diets. I must say that the medical world of tube fed babies, children and adults in American seems to be centered on feeding tube fed people formula or some form of it. And yes some people have allergies or special requirements and they need this formula. But for the most part I really don't like that the medical professionals are so against feeding real food to tube fed kids. I have had my run ins with dietitians. I have found that it is easier for dietitians and others to calculate all their calories, fats, proteins, ect.. when they can just read it off a label and it is all neat and clean. I have had a conversation with a dietitian where I was asking a question about fluids and she basically told me that if I was using formula it would be she could give me an answer right away but she would have to have me submit to her Luke's blends of food so she could run them through her program. So I asked my pediatrician, which I should have in the first place, and he gave me an answer as he would for other kids. Luke is just another toddler. His food just arrives at his stomach a bit differently.

Okay so what does feeding with a feeding tube entail. Well you need to make sure you have enough supplies. If you don't have tubes that connect to the button that connects the outside world with his stomach then he can't eat. If you don't have a syringe to put on the tube, he can't eat. Also, you have to make sure the button that connects to his stomach is working and doesn't fall out. The hold the button is through is a constant open wound. Think about that, having a constant open wound. Before Luke was very mobile he had the best g-tube (even though it is a button that is what it is called) site the doctors had seen. Then he started crawling and standing and walking with his walker and it does not look good anymore. We are constantly watching it and it bleeds and oozes and there is a lot of extra skin growing. It can get infected so cleaning and constant care are a must.

One thing that is hard for us is that if you forget food, or are somewhere and aren't going to get back for dinner normally you would just pick up some food, either at a restaurant or grocery store. With Luke if you forget his food, you have to go back to get it, or get back to the house if you forgot it. We were on our way downstate and forgot it, thankfully my dad was able to go to our house, pick it up and then meet us halfway back home. We had left early thankfully so we were only a little late that day. There is a lot more planning ahead and awareness for meals for Luke.

Some pluses of eating with a tube...
you don't have to taste those icky nutritious things
you can eat while you sleep, although lately I am trying to not be feeding Luke when he sleeps
it's easy to eat a perfectly balanced diet

Kids are super curious which is good, I don't mind telling them about Luke and his tube and they usually think it is pretty interesting and sometimes cool. Parents get a little weird when their children stare or ask questions. To parents I would say if you see your child looking take that as a cue to ask questions yourself and you and your child will learn. I have heard other tubie parents say they have had some bad reactions from people. I haven't seen this and I am glad. It is a little odd and takes some explaining when someone wants to just give your child food (we are so protective and must look it because it has only happened once or twice to us) and you tell them they can't have it. You usually have to explain its not just you don't want them to have sweets it's that it is dangerous for them to have it.

Luke does get hungry, although not often, we feed him on a schedule and he really only complains and gets ansy when we are off the schedule by a lot. He knows his food and syringe and tube. He likes to watch the food move to go in.

Right now we expect Luke to eat one day. We are doing oral motor therapy to get his muscles working for when that day comes. We are also working on getting him tasting things off his finger and putting small amounts of food in the back of his mouth with a syringe to start training him to swallow it.

So there you have a little of life with Luke and his feeding tube. :)

1 comment:

  1. Emily, this is great. Many people don't realize that a number of children and some adults are tube fed all of the time. There is nothing weird about it. It is different. I think the more we talk about things such as this, the more we will accept things that are different. When Luke starts school if he is not able to eat regular by then, you will have a job doing this education all over again. Good luck to you and to Luke on learning to swallow. It will happen.