Autumn Care Rehab patient working towards an amazing recovery
Eating is such a basic function of a person’s life, and most of the time, we don’t even think about it. We eat when we are hungry, and we eat for fun too. When you ask someone about a party or get-together, they most always mention the food. How would it feel to suddenly not be able to take part in such innate function of your life? Clyde England of Maggie Valley can tell you exactly how it feels – not good.
Two years ago, Clyde was diagnosed with a Zenker’s Diverticulum. This is a pouch that forms in the back of the throat where the voice box and esophagus meet. This pouch can make it very difficult for food to pass safely into the stomach. When someone with a Zenker’s Diverticulum attempts to eat, they often choke or regurgitate their food. An even more dangerous symptom occurs when the food collects in the pouch and then passes into the lungs causing pneumonia. A surgical procedure can be performed to treat a Zenker’s Diverticulum, but it is not always effective. Clyde underwent his first procedure two years ago and only had relief from his symptoms for two short months. After the first failed attempt for a treatment, a modified barium swallow study, which is a video x-ray of the swallowing process, determined that Clyde could no longer eat or drink by mouth safely. He had a feeding tube placed so that he could still receive nutrition. This diagnosis ended parties and cookouts with friends, and dinners out with his wife, JoAnn.
Clyde then underwent a successful surgery at Duke University. Not long after this surgery, he suffered a small stroke that set him back yet again. Clyde had little hope that he would ever be able to eat again until he heard about a treatment option called Vital Stim. This treatment uses electric stimulation to target the muscles in the throat and strengthen them to swallow again. He was referred to Erin Mack, a Speech Language Pathologist at Autumn Care of Waynesville, who is trained and certified in this specialized treatment.
Clyde began his outpatient treatment with Erin at Autumn Care the first week of March. Six weeks later, on May 10th, Clyde had another swallow study to see if the Vital Stim treatment was helping. Clyde, JoAnn, and Erin cried tears of joy when the results came back showing it was now safe to begin eating and drinking again. Clyde must start back slowly and still continue to use his feeding tube until he can eat more solid food again, but this is a step in the right direction.
Clyde feels that this would never have been possible without Erin and her expertise with Vital Stim. “I would recommend Erin and the Vital Stim to anyone who has swallowing problems. They have given me hope,” says England. Clyde continues to make progress with his treatments at Autumn Care and is hopeful for a full recovery.