Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tummy Trouble

Twelve years have passed since my son has undergone multiple surgeries, including two open heart surgeries. He also had a G-tube until he was three years old. We literally lived at UCLA the first year of his life back in 1997. It was not fun for any of us, especially him. Thankfully, he has no memory of the hospitalizations. I have not forgotten the torturous first-time-mommy experience. Well, I try to. I think that is maybe why I like wine so much. I know I have to deal with the bad memories. Thakfully with time, the anxiety, fears, and sadness have shrunk in size.

Today I am taking him to another city to a pediatric Gastro Intestinal doctor. Eating was never normal for him. Having food pumped into your stomach while you are asleep on a ventilator is so far from normalcy. Even after he weaned off the ventilator, he was so against having anything put in his mouth, including food. He was conditioned to know that things like tubes and, tracheotomy suctioning, come with discomfort and pain. He refused to let anything close to his sweet baby lips. Did you know that eating is a learned behavior? It is not something we all know how to do automatically as babies. So my son let's just say Lucas was slow in learning to eat and enjoy food. Which is ironic because I am Italian and, well, you know how we are with food (and wine). Italian babies are conditioned at an early age to believe that "food is love". His lack of desire to eat frustrated me, saddened my mother, and insulted my grandmother, who lived to feed the world.

We had therapists come into our home to help us in teaching him to eat and swallow. Lucas would turn his head, spit food out ,and start to cry. We tried to get him to play with his food. I would put a big plastic bag down on the floor of the kitchen, and we would take out all different kinds of yummy foods. The session would end with whipped topping in his hair, jelly on his nose and syrup on his toes. Toys would be incorporated, so we could get some serious playing with food done. The idea was that he would interact with the food, and have come to enjoy it. To desire it. In the process, we would try and encourage him to bring it to his mouth. See how "fun" food can be? I am not sure of it worked, but it was an experience I won’t forget.

I would try and feed him in front of Barney videos. I would attempt sneaking in baby food that had been "pumped" up with calories, and slip a bite in his mouth when he wasn’t looking. I would try and trick him into eating. It did not feel right. However, if we were ever going to get the feeding tube out, he had to be able to support his little body. I pressed on.

He finally did get the G-tube removed after 3 grueling years of eating practice. I don’t like to complain about the eating issue because this little boy is alive and thriving today. Eating really was the least of his problems that first year of life.

Fast forward 12 years...we are going to the G.I. doctor today because he is having symptoms. We will get through it. Please pass the wine.

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