Monday, January 13, 2014

Eat: An evolution

A toddler, making a mess of his yogurt for breakfast wearing a beanie knitted by a neighbor and a puppy apron. There's nothing extraordinary about it. At least, not on the surface.

Contrary to what many may think, cardiac defects do not affect just the heart. We often say that the heart is the seat of the emotions. Emotions affect every aspect of daily life. Thus, it is only natural that a heart defect would affect something as simple and instinctual as eating.

Elliott had trouble breastfeeding. He pretty much starved his first few days of life as I, a desperate, exasperated new mom, tried to make it work. I eventually gave up. There's a good chance his cardiac defect made it difficult for him to nurse.

He took to the bottle well, but he still often tired out while feeding, and rarely finished two ounce bottles his first few months of life. He weight gain slowed.

After his surgery, he failed a swallow study after silently aspirating his feeds. It's possible that his respiratory issues caused by his heart defect were to blame. Or, maybe it was the methadone wean he was on at the time, or maybe an issue with his vocal chords after surgery. He was sent home with a feeding tube.

After two months of the NG tube he passed the test with thickened formula, but was slow to eat. I mean, slow.  It would take him an hour to eat four ounces. The weight gain slowed again.

Eventually he got faster at bottle-feeding, was starting to eat solids, trying finger foods. Elliott went from being fed formula by a machine to fully thriving on real, honest-to-goodness adult foods. A bit slower than an average child of his age perhaps, but still, he had put those struggles of eating behind him. Today, we don't just eat our breakfast. We eat, we taste, we make a mess. We celebrate how far we've come.

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