Monday, September 13, 2010

nothing says hello like emesis

Vomiting as a form of social greeting is not usual but neither is it rare in Multiple Sclerosis caregiving.

Picking Patti up after dinner at her care facility, I was greeted by a smiling, hands up in the air, “yeah” instantly morphing into a pantomime of needing a trash can.

It’s living with Multiple Sclerosis symptoms of dysphagia. One study or another reports dysphagia affecting a third to half of people diagnosed with MS.

Swallowing is an extraordinarily complex neuromuscular activity. Multiple Sclerosis essentially impairs the brain’s ability to communicate. Eating can be a train wreck waiting to happen.

Even factors that may not seem directly related such as coughing or laughing while eating or immediately afterwards can be a dangerous mix.

Obviously one cannot eat in a vacuum and let’s face it eating in our culture is a social function. One cannot fix this so the answer is planning and vigilance.  

Learn the Heimlich Maneuver, and specifically for a person in a wheelchair.

Adapt YOUR social ways for the moment, smaller rather than larger dinning situations. Monitor eating offering verbal cues and prompts as necessary. Separate social and eating until the chewing and swallowing is over.

Able bodied, able minded people only have to give up a meal of their time, a person with symptoms of dysphagia could be giving up a life.

Beyond the immediate potentially fatal act of choking, aspirated food or liquids can also cause aspiration pneumonia, another cause of death in people with MS.

Even the regurgitation of undigested foods can be part of this cycle. Perhaps it was throwing her hands up in the air, perhaps it was the excited “yeah” … who knows? MS is about baffling intermittent symptoms, neuromuscular short circuiting.

Seemingly a lifetime ago we used to dance to …
“Put a quarter in the juke
And boogie 'til you puke”
Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band

Now days I try to always have a plastic grocery bag in my back pocket and moist wipes in my man purse. And of course, … for old times sake, a quarter for the juke.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 
musings: patrick ponders


  1. Hi Patrick, I can certainly relate. Have you ever gone to do a stand pivot transfer and had vomit run down your back? I guess all we can do is laugh at it and ourselves right? Have a great day!

  2. I am sure care giving is never a dull moment for sure, but you certainly have adapted over the years Patrick to be prepared for the majority of things that can be encountered.


  3. Great advice here. I'm printing it out for my MS-challenged caregivers. You may have just saved my life.

  4. Thank you all, yes caregiving is some unusual experiences and yes even the most unassuming activities can be at risk.


Blog Archive