A Dream Becomes Reality An SLP who dreamed of volunteering on medical missions is called into international service by a family crisis. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   February 01, 2017
A Dream Becomes Reality
Author Notes
  • Belinda Weir, MA, CCC-SLP, is the lead speech-language pathologist at RehabCare/Kindred, a skilled nursing facility in Tucker, Georgia. A clinician for 14 years, she also works per diem for the Wellstar Healthcare Hospital system and Piedmont Hospital. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). bweirslp@me.com
    Belinda Weir, MA, CCC-SLP, is the lead speech-language pathologist at RehabCare/Kindred, a skilled nursing facility in Tucker, Georgia. A clinician for 14 years, she also works per diem for the Wellstar Healthcare Hospital system and Piedmont Hospital. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). bweirslp@me.com×
Article Information
International & Global / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   February 01, 2017
A Dream Becomes Reality
The ASHA Leader, February 2017, Vol. 22, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.22022017.72
The ASHA Leader, February 2017, Vol. 22, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.22022017.72
I’d always dreamed of being a successful speech-language pathologist who volunteers and goes on multiple mission trips to help those needing my expertise. But with working six or seven days a week in nursing homes and hospitals, it seemed that as the years went by, those dreams were really just dreams.
In May 2016, reality struck. My mother called to tell me that my 74-year-old uncle, who had retired to his birthplace of Manchester, Jamaica, had suffered an ischemic stroke. He had impaired swallow function, requiring tube feeding and nursing home placement. I was determined to plan his rehabilitation and acquire all the resources to get him the necessary therapies, a task that required many international calls and family discussions. I knew that I could be a key component in his successful recovery, given my expertise in the field and numerous certifications for modalities such as electrical stimulation and myofascial release.
I couldn’t leave for Jamaica right away. My mother, who had gone to Jamaica, helped out. Under my instruction via telephone, Skype, FaceTime and emails, she helped him complete oral-motor and pharyngeal exercises to help recover function. When I explained the Masako technique for oropharyngeal strength, she laughed and said that exercise was not possible as she herself was unable to complete it! My uncle, who had been lethargic and upset, was happy for her help and was encouraged about the treatment. He trusted that she would get him better soon.
I finally went to Jamaica in August, armed with an e-stim machine, tongue depressors, a mirror, lots of pharyngeal and oral motor worksheets, thickener packets and more.
After a bedside evaluation, I determined the best course of dysphagia treatment for my 10-day visit. The e-stim along with my aunt’s puréed meals and ice-cold water thickened to honey—and occasionally nectar—consistency worked well. I logged daily response and oral feeding outcomes, as well as e-stim amplitude/intensity measurement and electrode placements. I spent up to three hours daily for 10 days by my uncle’s side completing therapy and listening to his voice, which was merely a whisper when we first began.
At the end of September, he was granted his wish—he was discharged to home. Today he is at home in the countryside with a 24-hour caregiver, and family members coordinate trips to visit him. His voice is stronger and although the PEG is his primary source of nutrition, he is able to tolerate small amounts of cold nectar-thickened water with chin tucks.
I realize now how important a simple swallow and a wish to go home can be. Because of this experience, I can place myself in my clients’ shoes and make sure my interventions are personal and effective.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
February 2017
Volume 22, Issue 2