Patti’s symptoms of Dysphagia can confuse all swallowing related functions as Myelin deterioration short circuits communication between brain and appropriate muscles. Patti can really choke if not monitored and assisted with eating, but also her brain can go into ‘choking mode’ without any actual threat to her safety.
Sadly this malfunction seems to be increasingly impairing one of her favorite outings, movies. Concessions have nothing to do with these episodes. Rather they seem to be triggered if a scene is too startling, or too funny, or too thrilling. What begins as a cough or a clearing of the throat accelerates to choking.
The first rule of first aid for choking is “If the victim can speak, cough, or breathe, DO NOT INTERFERE.” Accompanied by bursts of cursing <grin>, flailing about of arms, and “pauses” so she can catch her breath before continuing, these episodes are not “at risk”.
Regrettably if not interrupted they can trigger the involuntary muscle responses involved in gagging and vomiting.
Usually I try to distract her and simply tell her she is not choking, just breathe normally. Sometimes her brain listens and sometimes it does not.
After an attempt or two, well intended fellow movie patrons often begin to offer suggestions. “Shouldn’t you hit her on the back?” “Do you want me to go get help?” or less well intended have begun to complain … “Hey! We’re trying to watch a movie!”
Once out of the theatre and in the hall her bout of choking ends. My theory is that the sudden change in environmental stimuli with bright lights, NO movie screen, etc ‘restarts’ her brain much like rebooting your computer when it locks up.
Such episodes were once rare but now probably affect 1 out of 3 movies anymore.I’ve never found any formulas for success to insure Patti’s involvement in family type activities. Progression of MS symptoms can be as formidable as Goliath. As a caregiver you just have to keep throwing stones.