Learning to Swallow

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After my heart surgery for a leaking heart valve (more difficult and longer than normal) the hospital staff, my wife, and I discovered I had a severe swallowing problem.  I apparently had a swallowing problem before my surgery that was manageable.  But it was impossible after the surgery (5 hours with a tube down my throat).

No Nutrition or Sleep

Day after surgery doing blog

Then I had 3 days with no nutrition or sleep.  Lacking my meds for restless legs and anxiety my body was twitching constantly.  The solution was to give me Benadryl which gave me hallucinations.  I’m told I was attempting to remove the many tubes in my body and arms.  I ended up in the “bad boy” room right next to the nurse’s station.

I was already in a brain fog and disoriented.  I knew I had surgery and was in the hospital.  But everything else seemed foreign to me.  I did appreciate the doctors and nurses.  Everyone was doing what was needed plus making sure I did what I needed to do.  I kidded that they were “mean, cruel, and heartless’ but they were more concerned than I was about getting home in good shape.


I had a stack of cards with three-dimensional pictures and Christian thoughts that I gave out to everyone who served me, ornery as I was.  They would often remark about my smile whenever they saw me.  I would just point up and they would smile.  Most of the staff and the hospital culture is Christian.

I did progress from ICU to Intensive Care to a rehab center at another location.  I was in the hospital system for 22 days as opposed to 5 days for the normal stay after heart surgery like mine.  The Rehab Center was great.  I had five to six sessions with Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Speech Therapists every day.  We worked on the goal to get me well enough to go home (with home care to continue my rehabilitation).

Now that I’m home I have several things I’m supposed to do and not do every day.  I keep testing the limits and get tired of the regimine. I’ve fallen twice and failed my most recent swallowing test.  I’m feeling discouraged and frustrated and told my wife it’ll be Dec. 31st before I’m back to “normal”.


I’m supposed to “Let Go and Let God”.  But that is much easier to say than to do.   Maybe “normal” is not in my future?  Is there something different for me to do than what I would like to do?  Maybe learning discipline is the point?  Maybe even drop this blog?

And the most frustrating aspect to date is eating.  1) Two small bites; 2) Swallow liquid; 3) Cough; and 4) swallow again.  I can just imagine being in the middle of a Cracker Barrel restaurant with this routine (NOT)! My speech therapist said eating is going to be a chore – and she doesn’t know how long this will last.

What I need to do: (Galatians 5:22-23 WEB) 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Doing LGLG

This is the most difficult part for me. As I reflect on my life there was an awful lot of “me” in my ministry. This 75 year old problem of mine won’t go away without a fight. But it’s something I must do for me and for my wife.

And something I must do for God. If I seek a close relationship with somebody I would mentor I need to be transparent. And the mentee needs to see that what I’m saying is what I’ve really done. And I discover I’m too much of the “go it alone” attitude to suddenly just LGLG. No – first I must become more intiimate with God Himself. Including taking time out of my “retired and enjoying leisure” lifestyle.

And how do I do this – PRAYER


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Categories: dependence, men, mentor, struggle

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1 reply »

  1. You have an enormous physical and mental challenge ahead of you. I had only 3 days where I could not swallow. It was hard not to panic. You and the Lord will work it out HIs way I’m sure but meanwhile I will definitely pray from here (the hinterlands of the internet).

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