Pat, a sprightly, cheerful 84 year old, first experienced difficulty swallowing in her 20s. "Over the years I became used to pain when I swallowed, which varied from bearable to excruciating" she says "but eventually eating became just to painful".
The underlying cause of Pat's swallowing problems is not clear despite extensive investigations. However, about two years ago - during a long hospital admission complicated by peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the inner wall of the abdomen) and breathing problems - Pat agreed to enteral feeding through a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube. At the time her family remarked that she seemed drawn and, at one point, Pat weighed just 34kg (about 5 stone 5 pounds).
Pat has taken nothing by mouth since the tube's placement, yet her daughter recently commented that she no longer looks drawn and she's now a healthy weight. "Feeding using the PEG tube is no bother" she says. "It's an absolute godsend and I'd not be without it".
Pat, a former healthcare professional, is keen to use her positive experience to help reassure other people who need a PEG tube. During one hospital visit, she met a 23 year old woman who was due to have a PEG tube fitted to administer anti-epileptic medication when she experienced seizures. "I pulled the curtain around us and showed her my PEG tube" Pat recounts. "I told her that the PEG tube was fantastic, which seemed to go some way to alleviating her fears. I'd tell anyone who needs a PEG tube to get one and not to worry".