Al Hewett couldn’t swallow anything at first. But thanks to VitalStim, he is now able to enjoy food, including lunch with his son at the popular Dulaney’s Restaurant in south St. Louis County.
Hard to Swallow
VitalStim helps patients with swallowing disorders
WE'RE HERE FOR YOU: For more information about VitalStim therapy or other outpatient therapies offered at St. Anthony's Sports and Therapy Center, call 314-849-2366.
Al Hewett, 78, took for granted the normal involuntary functions of his body. He blinked, breathed and swallowed without effort. That changed when the St. Peters resident developed pneumonia, which resulted in his being placed on a ventilator in an intensive care unit for several weeks.
When he was removed from the ventilator, despite physical and swallowing therapy at the hospital where he was a patient, Hewett was unable to swallow normally and had to use a feeding tube. He only was able to swallow his saliva when he was released.
“My home care therapist suggested I try electrical stimulation for my swallowing problem,” Hewett says. That’s when Hewett met Paul Davis, speech therapist at St. Anthony’s Medical Center’s Sports and Therapy Center, and was introduced to VitalStim.
“Patients who have had a stroke, head injury, neurological disorder or multiple medical problems that required the extended use of a ventilator, intubation or feeding tube are candidates for this treatment,” says Davis. “VitalStim stimulates the neck muscles to help facilitate swallowing.”
Twelve treatments later, Hewett was able to swallow normally again. With Davis’ help, he gradually began eating pudding, then fudge, and, finally, brownies. His last test was popcorn and he passed with honors.
“Paul said, ‘Now you’re ready—you can eat anything,’” Hewett says. “I still eat slowly and concentrate on what I’m doing, but it’s great to be able to eat regular food again!”
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
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