Water me, please!
My husband picked some daisies out of our garden, and I thoughtlessly stuck them in a bone-dry vase that was home to a fake Mary Kay promotional daisy. Two days later the real daisies were slumped over and close to expiring, so I filled the vase with water and they miraculously stood tall again, were even perky. The sight of them reminded me of how water is serious business in my line of work.
Like so many other writers, I have a “day” job. Mine happens to be speech-language pathologist (SLP), more specifically “swallowing specialist,” at a state facility for disabled adults. I’ve watched more people chew and swallow than I care to count, but it’s all worth it when I can get them eating again, or if I can help them stay hydrated with water.
Most people take water for granted, but SLPs who specialize in swallowing do not. Unfortunately, we are a strongly divided bunch of professionals—almost as bitterly divided as politicians who choose left or right, red or blue. As a swallowing specialist, you either recommend water to people who aspirate thin liquid into their lungs, or you don’t. For the record, I’m one of those who recommend water, and I’m happy to say that I’ve never sickened or killed anyone with it.
That’s crazy, you’re saying, everyone drinks water! I agree with you; everyone should drink water, but there are SLPs in the world who literally abolish water pitchers from people’s hospital rooms and ask doctors to write orders for NO THIN LIQUIDS. Instead, people are supposed to drink thickened liquids.
What the heck are thickened liquids? Imagine drinking peach nectar all the time, even when you’re thirsty for a simple glass of water. You ask for water and are given a cup of tasteless glop instead—pure water that’s been polluted with powder or gel thickener. Even worse, maybe you’re unlucky enough to have a pudding-thick liquid order. In that case, your water must be eaten with a spoon.
I’m blogging about this today because I need to vent a little. I just acquired a new patient who was parched beyond belief, thanks to a pudding-thick liquid order he’d been cursed with before he got sent to me.
I also want to educate as many people as possible about this dichotomy in the world of speech pathology, so that as many people as possible can “just say no” to thick liquid.
So here’s what it boils down to: If you, or an elderly loved one (they are the ones who typically fall victim to these orders) are ever so sick that you can’t swallow well anymore, please do not accept a NO THIN LIQUIDS order without questioning it thoroughly. And don’t just take my word for it. Educate yourself on the dysphagia.com listserve. Call Frasier Rehabilitation Center in Louisville, KY, the facility that started the “free water” protocol in 1984 and knocked the first crack in the false belief that a drop of water in the lungs will kill you. Attend a seminar by Tom Franceschini through northernspeech.com. You’ll not only be thoroughly entertained, you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about swallowing as it relates to good health.
Water is a nutrient we all need to survive. Protect your right to drink it fiercely and advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves.
I’ll gladly try to answer any questions anyone might have about this water controversy.
Author of Love Trumps Logic
Second Wind Publishing