The Other Side of the Spoon Difficult post-operative swallowing changed this SLP’s perspective on how to best help her own patients with dysphagia. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   October 01, 2015
The Other Side of the Spoon
Author Notes
  • Yvette McCoy, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, specializes in adult neurological rehabilitation with a special interest in dysphagia and stroke rehabilitation. In practice for more than 22 years, she is the owner of Speak Well Solutions in Leonardtown, Maryland. She is a member of the Dysphagia Research Society and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. info@speakwellsolutions.com
    Yvette McCoy, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, specializes in adult neurological rehabilitation with a special interest in dysphagia and stroke rehabilitation. In practice for more than 22 years, she is the owner of Speak Well Solutions in Leonardtown, Maryland. She is a member of the Dysphagia Research Society and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. info@speakwellsolutions.com×
Article Information
Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   October 01, 2015
The Other Side of the Spoon
The ASHA Leader, October 2015, Vol. 20, 80. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.20102015.80
The ASHA Leader, October 2015, Vol. 20, 80. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.20102015.80
As a speech-language pathologist with a passion for dysphagia for the past 23 years, it never once occurred to me that I might end up on the “other side of the spoon.”
In May 2012, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor—a pituitary adenoma. I had worked in rehabilitation medicine for the majority of my career, so I knew what I was up against. The tumor was removed successfully. I suffered a mild cerebrospinal fluid leak, but no other complications.
When I opened my eyes, I could not feel anything from the alveolar ridge to the soft palate. I could not swallow without pain. I was hoarse and my throat hurt. I learned that the intubation had not gone as smoothly as they would have liked, but as the swelling resolved, things should get better. Isn’t this what I tell my patients?
I had generalized weakness from the trauma to my nose and throat that was making it difficult to eat. I remember thinking that my patients with a diagnosis of generalized weakness were not working hard enough. I kept trying to swallow but it hurt, and my tongue felt like it weighed 1,000 pounds. I could not form a cohesive bolus and get it down without much effort.
Straws were restricted, yet the nurses kept bringing them to me. I kept reminding them that I could not use them, and immediately thought about my patients who could not say this for themselves. I was so much more aware of how fragile the swallowing system really is—just a little extra swelling and a less-than-smooth intubation had caused my difficulties.

No one ever asked me what I wanted, what my goals were or how they could help me in my recovery. It made me think about the times I just quickly rattled off recommendations to a patient because I was busy.

I was becoming increasingly frustrated because staff were talking at me and not to me. As I was recovering, I thought about what we recommend for our patients and why. No one ever asked me what I wanted, what my goals were or how they could help me in my recovery. It made me think about the times I just quickly rattled off recommendations to a patient because I was busy.
There is nothing like being on the other side of the spoon to help you with perspective-taking. My tumor taught me how to be a better, more empathetic, patient-centered clinician.
I learned to be mindful of how I communicate with my patients. The fact that they are in need of my services does not mean that they are not to be treated with compassion from a caring, empathetic clinician (no matter how busy) who was once on the other side of the spoon.
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October 2015
Volume 20, Issue 10