By Ellen Jones, Bayhealth Medical Center
For most people, enjoying a piece of cake to celebrate a birthday is an annual treat pretty much taken for granted. However, for Walter Dzur’s 86th birthday on September 23, that piece of cake signified a great achievement. Dzur didn’t eat a single piece of solid food for more than a year.
“Now I can eat, actually more than I should,” he smiled, patting his belly.
In October 2011, Dzur suffered a fungal infection which in turn caused multiple medical problems and eventually prevented him from eating solid foods. He was fitted with a PEG tube, an artificial method of feeding in which a tube is inserted in the stomach and the patient is fed with a thick liquid fortified with vitamins and calories. Even so, he couldn’t consume a great deal of the liquid, and absolutely nothing by mouth.
He was referred to Bayhealth Milford Memorial’s Speech Pathology Department, where a video swallowing study was performed. During the study, an X-ray evaluated and tracked his swallowing to test whether the food is swallowed safely and appropriately. Following the study, he received therapy for his swallowing disorder, which consisted of swallowing exercises and neuromuscular stimulation. With this type of therapy, electrodes are placed on the throat and low levels of electric current pass through the electrodes to stimulate muscles in the throat. Since he was still battling his other medical problems, Dzur made minimal progress with his swallowing disorder, so he took a break from therapy in November 2012. In July 2013 he felt healthy enough to resume treatment, and hasn’t looked back since.
“He had a repeat evaluation and swallow test and had shown great improvement since his last visit,” said Bayhealth Manager of Speech Pathology Meredith Sullivan, MS, CCC-SLP. “So we restarted the swallowing exercises and he’s now eating solid foods again.”
Speech pathologist Abby Johnson, MS, CCC-SLP, worked with Dzur on his swallowing exercises. “He was really motivated, so he would want to do double exercises while he was here at therapy, and then he would go home and practice exercises there as well,” she said.
“The therapists here have done a fantastic job with me, a bang-up job,” stated Dzur. To celebrate his birthday and the end of his successful treatment, the staff surprised him on his birthday with a piece of cake. “I’m glad he’s better but it’s kind of sad because he won’t be coming in here for therapy anymore,” Johnson added.
For more information about speech pathology and other types of rehabilitation services available at Bayhealth Milford Memorial and Kent General, individuals are encouraged to visit www.bayhealth.org.