Stroke Victim Regains Ability To Swallow After Years of Tube Feeding

Now I eat well, I sleep well, and I can fully enjoy my time spent with friends and family.”

– Jan Blume, Dysphagia patient, Appleton, WI

Jan Blume, a school nurse in Appleton, WI, suffered a stroke in November of 2008 at age 56, leaving her unable to swallow. For two full years, Blume was on a gastrostomy tube feeding. “It’s so isolating to not swallow,” confides Blume. “It adds hours to your day. You can’t go out with friends, have a quick snack, or share a meal with family.”

In addition to the inability to enjoy food, another complication of not swallowing that Blume could not have foreseen was the inconvenience of having to “spit saliva.” “I didn’t realize that when you’re dysphagic, you have an excess of saliva, and you have to keep spitting it out,” Blume explains. “It’s the most difficult part. No one wants to eat or drink around you, because you constantly have to carry a cup around to spit in.”

Blume’s husband discovered the work of Dr. JoAnne Robbins and approached her on behalf of his wife. “Dr. Robbins called me at home, and she told me ‘I don’t want to promise you anything, but I think we can help you.’ By the time I got to Dr. Robbins, I truly didn’t believe I would ever be able to swallow again.”

She continues, “First thing, I did a swallow test: I hated doing them as I found them to be very negative and it was disillusioning to me.  But Dr Robbins said, ‘I think we can figure this out.’”

Dr Robbins and her staff carefully evaluated Blume, completing a comprehensive swallowing assessment that included videofluoroscopy and lingual pressure measurements. They determined that Blume had diminished tongue strength, and felt she could be a good candidate for the MOST© device. “They introduced me to the MOST© and explained it was important that through this therapy, I could strengthen my swallowing muscles to regain functioning,” says Blume.

Dr. Robbins realized that one of the biggest challenges was convincing Blume that she could overcome her dysphagia. When Blume began swallowing therapy using the MOST© device, she was pessimistic about her chance of success. However, with the expert help of Dr. Robbins and her Team, Blume began to see results.

 “It was not easy to regain swallowing function,” admits Blume, “but after my initial consultation, I told my husband that I was starting to believe we could get our lives back.” In the fall of 2010, Blume traveled to Madison to work with Dr. Robbins in her clinic, using the MOST© device therapy system. She took home the MOST© device with her, and worked intensively over the next several months to strengthen her swallowing muscles.

Blume recalls, when she had spent time with Dr. Robbins, “we worked on swallowing with Coca-Cola because if it was going down the right pipe, Coca-Cola would make me belch, marking successful feedback. Finally, I was able to get a teaspoon down!”

According to Dr. Robbins, Blume had not belched or burped since she began on her gastrostomy tube.  She continued working with Dr. Robbins, her Team and the MOST© device for over a year. Blume was ultimately able to have her gastrostomy tube removed permanently.

Today, Blume, who was one of the longest non-swallowers in Dr. Robbins’ practice, is eating, drinking, and swallowing normally.  “Once I was able to eat normally, I really didn’t stop,” Blume confides. “The food is great, but the best part is not having to carry a cup for spitting.”

“I was very thin after two years of tube feeding,” adds Blume, “and now, I’m working on losing a few pounds. There’s no justice!”