Kim Du is looking forward to his first taste of solid food. He’s been slowly progressing to this moment, since having surgery for cancer in his upper jaw in January.
Surgeons removed a part of his jaw and replaced his upper palate with tissue and bone from his leg.
Recovery from this kind of treatment has a huge impact on a person’s ability to swallow. For Swallowing Awareness Day, we asked Kim about his experience.
For the first 6 days Kim was fed through a feeding tube and on the sixth day, he was able to start having sips of water.
Kim shared his experience of travelling to Australia on a boat and only being able to drink seawater for 4 days. He landed on an island where rainwater had collected in the large fronds of plants.
“That taste of water was the most delicious I ever had,” he said. “It was the same when I had my first sip after surgery.”
Kim’s face was very swollen after surgery and his lip had been affected. He had trouble getting his lips to seal and keeping water in his mouth. Working with speech pathologist Virginia Ricketts, he started using a syringe and then moved on to a straw, which helped him get the water into his mouth.
The next day he was able to move on to thicker consistencies like clear broth and jelly. He had to learn how to use a spoon and position it upside down to get the food in as his lip was unable to scoop the food in, something we do without thinking.
Next were custards and yoghurts, followed by pureed food and soups.
“Having pureed food was exciting, but it soon got boring.” He said, “Now I know why babies always reject pureed food, it’s too boring. If it doesn’t have texture, it just all tastes the same.”
“We give them a written handout and talk to them about how to make pureed food more exciting, like adding sauces or flavours, but it’s just not the same,” said Virginia.
Kim is recovering really well and was waiting to hear whether he could move back to soft solids like fish and slow cooked meats. He can’t wait. He said, “The first thing I want to eat is a Big Mac.”
It may be a few days before that but we’re sure Kim will really enjoy that Big Mac when it comes.
Virginia played an integral role in helping Kim progress through the steps. She said, “So many factors contribute to difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, Kim’s face was very swollen, we have to wait for him to heal and he has to get used to the new way the inside of his mouth feels. It makes it much harder to move food around the mouth and get it down.”
We wish Kim all the best and hope he gets that Big Mac soon!