Tag Archives: enteral feeding

NEAW 2017 – The journey continues

NEAW 2017 is drawing to a close, but for those of us living with EGID the journey doesn’t stop here. Everyday will continue to involve taking a number of medicines, examining food labels, careful food preparation, monitoring symptoms and hoping that the next day will be even better. Small hiccups might become major hurdles to leap, or may pass by almost unnoticed as we breathe a sigh of relief that they didn’t become something more. Parents will continue to find last-minute solutions to unexpected activities at school, plan trips out with military precision and pull together paperwork, photos and lists of symptoms to take to the next hospital appointment. We will comfort our children whatever their battle, be their most ardent cheerleaders and be prepared to tackle anything and everything to get them the very best healthcare and support. Despite the increasing uncertainty about the EGID diagnosis, we will continue to raise awareness and, more importantly, we will never stop believing in our children.

This is the short film G and M made 2 years ago to explain EGID to their classmates. Whilst M does not have his feeding tube any more, the message is as clear now as it was then and I wanted to share it again:

This year we have decided to continue our support of the amazing charity, Over The Wall and their camps. If you’re able to donate even a very small amount, please follow this link to my Virgin Money Giving Page where your donation will help more children living with chronic illness like G and M by giving them and their families a chance to enjoy some much-needed time away from it all.

Day 6: Educating those around us

With the growth of the internet and the increasing popularity of social media platforms as well as the plethora of blogs out there that cover a multitude of topics, the world has become a lot smaller and it’s easier to spread the word and work towards greater understanding. Our family has become adept at educating those around us about EGID, a necessity when even the medical community struggles to reach a consensus about this rare disease and whether it really exists or is simply part of a much bigger picture. As a quick aside, try living with anyone who is in the midst of an EGID flare and, bigger picture or not, you’ll understand why we will continue to fight for research into this unquestionably chronic and life-impacting illness. T_2384403_orighe same is true when it comes to feeding tubes as sadly misconceptions are rife and the reasons behind a tube can be as complex and individual as there are stars in the sky. Even with children or adults living with the exact same condition, their symptoms and need for additional nutrition can be vastly different.

Of course, those of us who live with the reality of additional nutritional support and tube-feeding often have the best opportunity to educate those around us about it, but we can’t do it on our own. PINNT (Patients on Intravenous & Nasogastric Nutrition Therapy) here in the UK and the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation in the USA do an amazing job of supporting families going through nutrition therapy, be that newcomers to the world of tube-feeding or those who’ve been doing it for years. They also provide tools and advice that can be effectively used to educate the outside world about the reasons behind this treatment and how to give easy-to-understand answers to the most difficult of questions.

Last year, M made a video for National Eosinophilic Awareness Week, which he used to help teach his classmates and the wider school not just about EGID, but also about his tube and, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t think of a better way to help educate my community than sharing it once again:

A Numbers Game

Tomorrow’s Tubiversary marks:

20141207_12421712 NG-tubes and the accompanying tube changes, which included…

2 tubes pulled out by accident and 3 that broke unexpectedly;

4 pump backpacks worn out and replaced (and number 5 will be needed soon);

approximately 70 Feeding Friends stickers and 60 strips of Tegaderm used to keep that tube firmly stuck to the side of his face;

and at least 3 other tapes tried, tested and rejected;

1 Christmas, 1 Easter and several birthdays survived and celebrated;

11026157_10152614450811123_382817830123987117_oNearly 1 whole school year achieved with only a few days off;

1 week away in Cornwall enjoyed;

4 weekend trips planned, packed for and successfully negotiated;

5 safe foods and 2 safe oils identified and back in his diet, resulting in…

…around 15 new recipes adapted and perfected…20151121_162110

4 new kitchen gadgets invested in and well-used…

…and impressively 16 restaurants found to be amazingly able and willing to accommodate the trickiest of dietary requirements

 

Not forgetting:

20150212_082048

M's daily batch of medicines

410 litres of E028 pumped

12 daily medicines reduced to just 3;

nearly 3kg of weight gained

5cms of height grown

 

And including:20141216_121143

12 months of stock counting, and rotating, and checking, and ordering

52 weeks of new syringes and dressings

365 days dealing with pumps beeping – …on…off…start…stop…blockages…settings…errors…”just becauses”!

8,760 hours of making sure Pictures July 06 019the tube is tight enough, taped enough, in the right place enough…and not getting caught on anything

525,600 minutes of longing to be able to hold or stroke or kiss that precious little face without the tube getting in the way

Countless tears shed, hugs shared and frustrations vented

 

All amounting to…

One year of the best health ever

20150208_181917

 

 

 

A Super Tubie of my Own

Courtesy of feedingtubeawareness.com

Courtesy of feedingtubeawareness.com

This week is #feedingtubeawarenessweek, a week that our family is embracing with every ounce of our being this year.  Last year I wrote about our 2 previously brief encounters with a NG-tube, knowing that there was an ever-present chance that M might end up needing one at some as-yet-unspecified point in the future.  Just 12 months on and the state of M’s health due to his EGID means that a NG-tube is now part of our everyday family life.  The aim of the campaign this year is to dispel the myths and misconceptions that surround tube feeding and to show that adults and children can live their lives and have fun with the tube in place.  A tube is often the path to improved health and development and should be embraced as such by us all.  Their theme is “The truth about tube feeding”.

Picture1M’s friends and class-mates have accepted it as very much part of who M is and have been amazing at looking out for him at every turn without leaving him out of their games.  One friend was so intrigued by the tube and how it worked that I spotted him peering up M’s nostril to see where the tube went, just before M opened his mouth wide and pointed out that the tube could also be seen at the back of his throat – how I love the honest interest of 9-year old boys!  He was more bothered by the Year 3 children at school, who he often caught staring at his tube, but he developed his own coping mechanisms and when asked what “that” was – a question often accompanied by a finger pointing towards his nose – he started telling them it was “…nothing, but a mere figment of your imagination…”, before walking off, leaving in his wake a stream of very confused 7- and 8-year olds.

In light of all this, I was chatting to M this afternoon about his tube and people’s attitudes towards it.  I was interested to find out how he feels about strangers staring and what response he would want them to give instead.  His reply fascinated me as it expressed clearly how much more awareness is needed about tube-feeding and the impact had on those living with a tube. He didn’t mind the idea of people asking me about his tube and the reasons for it, but he isn’t yet comfortable with having to deal with those questions himself.  However, the most telling statement was this one:

“Adults should know not to stare, but sometimes they do and I don’t know why”

and that, in turn, made me think about how I feel about M and his NG-tube.  Hospital, home and support groups all exist within a protective bubble, where nothing is unusual and normal is defined by each individual and their particular needs.  It’s only when you go out into the outside world that you suddenly come up against opinion and prejudice and the harsher side of life; against people who don’t understand that this tube is bringing nutrition and healing to my child and who find themselves unable to pull their eyes away from the tube stuck to the side of his small face.

Courtesy of timemanagementninja.com

Courtesy of timemanagementninja.com

We’ve been lucky and haven’t experienced negative comments or unwanted interest.  Yes, I’ve seen the intrigued looks or double-takes as passers-by register his tube, and I’ve received the sympathetic smiles from other parents as they’ve watched me attaching his pump or silencing the alarm, but nothing more.  We’ve been fortunate to have the most amazing support from the families and friends who are part of FABED, many of whom have been in the same boat at one time or another and know how it feels to be suddenly following a slightly different path through life than the one we thought we were on.

Today, I found an article written by Traci Nagy, the founder of the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation, in 2013 to discuss the importance of feeding tube awareness and thought I’d share with you this excerpt that sums up for me just why awareness matters so much to families like mine:

“It matters that people understand something about feeding tubes other than Terry Schiavo or that silly KE diet.  It matters that they know there are well over 200 medical conditions and diseases that can lead children to need extra nutritional support through tube feeding.  It matters that they realize that these conditions aren’t always visible, and that looking “normal” doesn’t mean there isn’t more going on inside.  It matters that they know that the feeding tube can be thought of like any other medical device in that it helps you do what you can’t do on your own…for now.  It matters that they understand that the benefit is that children get the nutrition and hydration they need to grow, develop and thrive.”

20150208_181917So, this week we’re the family proudly sporting the “I love a Tubie” t-shirts accompanied by the live-wire that is our very own “Super Tubie”.  Stop and say hello and don’t be afraid to ask me questions, but let M get on with whatever he’s doing.  We’re hoping to raise awareness and are happy to start in our community, after all, we know that every journey begins with a single step.

Managing a NG-tube

Formula made, it’s time to move on to what was, to me, the most daunting part of our NG-tube (NGT) journey and the bit that scares other people the most – the NGT itself.  Whilst it now feels like second nature, this was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome in my quest to become confident in managing M’s enteral feeding at home.  Let’s start with the very basics of what a NGT is and the job that it does.

The tube is a length of flexible material, which is inserted through the nose and travels down the oesophagus into the stomach with the purpose of allowing food and medicine to be placed directly there.  There are a myriad of medical reasons for a NGT to be passed and in M’s case, it was because he wasn’t able to drink the quantity of E028 needed each day due to being a reluctant drinker and the very unpalatable taste of the feed.  The NGT is measured against the child’s body before it’s inserted to make sure enough length is passed for its tip to sit comfortably within the stomach.  There are varying types and sizes of tube that can be used to allow for the age and size of the child, differing situations and the various medical needs.  M has a long-use “10 silk”, which he found to be the most comfortable to have in and can be left in place for up to 8 weeks before it needs to be changed.  Other tubes are more rigid and require changing on a weekly basis, something that just wouldn’t be practical given his current anxiety about having the tube passed and his allergic reactions to anaesthetic.

Once the tube has been passed and is in place, it is secured to the cheek using dressings and tape.  There are a number of these available and it really is a case of trying them out to see which works best for your child.  We quickly discovered that M has an allergic reaction to Duoderm and Micropore, two of the most commonly used dressings and so we’ve had to work out a method of fixing the tube to his cheek that won’t cause his face to become red and inflamed.  For us that proved to be a small strip of Tegaderm, which I then decorate using an amazing product I found on an US website called Feeding Friends.  These stickers are printed on medical tape and add some fun to the prospect of having a NGT on permanent show.  By sticking one over the top of the Tegaderm strip, M’s skin doesn’t react and he loves nothing more than choosing which friend will grace his cheek each time.  I change his tape approximately every 3 days, though we find that if it gets too wet in the bath or shower, then we need to replace it more often.

So far, so good and nothing too scary you may think, but now comes the most difficult bit, making sure that the NGT is still in the right place before starting a feed.  This is known as “aspirating” the tube and requires you to draw an amount of liquid up the tube to check that its tip is still sitting in the stomach and hasn’t become dislodged or moved during the time off the pump.  We were told to use nothing smaller than a 20mls syringe to aspirate the tube and are provided with 60mls syringes by our home delivery team.  Remembering to “kink”, or create a block in, the NGT before you start – this ensures that no air can go down the tube whilst you fiddle around with it – carefully attach the syringe to the end of the NGT and pull back on the plunger with – in my experience – your fingers tightly crossed that you can draw some of the liquid out from the stomach.  Depending on the time of day and what your child has been up to beforehand or even what, if anything, they’ve had to drink, this can prove to be something of a challenge.  It is possible for the tip to become stuck to the stomach wall, which creates a vacuum when you try to pull upon the syringe. I’ve found that sometimes it will “pop” free and a sudden flood of liquid will rush into the syringe and at other times, your gentle tugging will be met with nothing but stubborn resistance and a failure to draw even a millilitre out from the stomach.

The key thing to remember at this point is NOT TO PANIC. The first time it happened, I desperately scrabbled around in the depths of my memory to recall what advice the GOSH nurses had given, all the time attempting to resemble an oasis of calm and to impart none of my increasing anxiety to an unaware M.  There are 3 easy ways to try to resolve the problem:

  1. Give your child a glass of water to drink, wait around 15-20 minutes and then try again
  2. If the drink hasn’t helped, take a deep breath, lean your child at an angle of approximately 45° for 20 minutes before your next attempt
  3. If you still can’t aspirate the tube, get your child to lie on their left-hand side as this is where the stomach is positioned and may encourage that stubborn NGT to finally drift away from the stomach wall and allow you to test exactly where it is

If none of these has worked, or if your attempts to aspirate are causing your child discomfort, then you need to get the tube medically checked.  In our case, this meant a trip into our local A&E department, but could simply mean a phone-call to your local community nursing team or feeding team, who will be best placed to advise you on where to go and what to do next.

Courtesy of jamali4u.net

Courtesy of jamali4u.net

However, assuming you are able to aspirate the NGT with relative ease, you now need to check the pH of the liquid you’ve drawn from the tube to make sure that all is where it needs to be.  You will have been provided with pH strips as part of your enteral feeding “kit” and testing couldn’t be easier.  Simply drop some of the stomach juices on to the pads at the end of the strip and watch them change colour.  Memories of secondary school chemistry lessons come flooding back at this point and testing substances to see whether they were alkaline or acidic.  In M’s case, we are looking for a pH of 5.5 or less, indicating that the liquid drawn is acidic and therefore likely to have come from his stomach.  Always check with your nursing team what pH level is safe for your child as certain medicines are known to affect the results and an adjustment to the recommended results may be made.

Although aspirating the tube is a scary prospect, the risks associated with a misplaced tube are great.  I was lucky to be trained on all aspects of M’s NGT whilst we were in GOSH, but even then found the first few attempts a frightening prospect.  The most important lesson I learned was to “kink” his tube every time I did anything with it and now I don’t even think twice about doing it – it’s just another step in the process of starting his pump feeds. Once it’s confirmed that the NGT is correctly positioned, tube feeding can now begin, but that, I fear, is a lesson for another day!

Our first lesson in Elemental feeding

Courtesy of shutterstock.com

Courtesy of shutterstock.com

The last 11 years have been filled with one parenthood-survival lesson after another and it has to be said that the majority of those can be attributed to M.  I’ve now honed my parenting techniques to become, not just referee, cheer-leader, taxi-driver and chief bottle-washer, but also self-made expert in rare gastro conditions, skilled negotiator with both small children and medical professionals alike and ardent advocate for (my) children’s rights.  Our latest, and steepest, learning curve carries an uncanny echo of the challenges my own parents had to conquer nearly 30 years ago when faced with the diagnosis of my Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).  They had to learn fast all about blood sugar monitoring, counting carbohydrates and, perhaps most daunting of all, how to give insulin injections.  There could be no question of whether they felt comfortable in doing these things because they knew that their new role in my life was not just as parents, but as the front-line defenders of my everyday health.  I have hazy memories of learning to inject on an orange and know that those oranges were subject to the first faltering attempts of my whole family.

Courtesy of soteriapublishinghouse.com

Courtesy of soteriapublishinghouse.com

We’ve had to learn how to feed our child via NG-tube, a process known as enteral feeding and similarly there’s be no time to stop and question whether we were ready, willing and able to do this because M’s health demanded it of us.  Each step is not particularly complicated in itself, but the anxiety of remembering what we had to do and when was overwhelming in the first couple of weeks and I was scared of getting it wrong.  Due to a desperate need for M’s bed in the long-term gastro ward at GOSH, I had no choice but to learn as much as I could as fast as I could, so as not to be left struggling once we were back in our own home.  We have the support of an excellent nursing team from Nutricia, the company who provide M’s pump, feed and medical supplies, but that’s it.  Mike and I have quickly had to become experts in this new part of M’s journey and the extraordinary has now morphed into the routine.

For those of you who have never had to do enteral feeding, or who are learning about it for the very first time, my next couple of blog posts will cover the process in a “step-by-step” approach, which will hopefully give some useful tips on managing tube feeding.  I would also highly recommend reading this blog post by fellow blogger, MumAnnie123 – it was my “go-to” article when we were incarcerated at GOSH and gave me lots of tips and advice about maintaining my sanity as we ride the NG-tube feeding roller-coaster.  The one thing I’ve quickly learned is that everyone will have a slightly different approach, be they parents or medical staff, so make sure you follow the basic rules, adopt recommendations that meet your family’s needs and adapt to a routine that suits you and your child the best.  At the end of the day, you are the people living with the elemental feeding and need to have a system that works for you – alter the feeding routine to work with and around your life at home.

20150203_082342Following a timetable that is hugely reminiscent of our days with a baby, each day actually begins the night before, when I have to make up the bottles of M’s feed alongside the preparation of G’s packed lunch for the next day.  Each evening as I boil the kettle, I gather everything needed to make his feed – packets of the Elemental E028 powder, scoops (1 blue, 1 yellow), a 1 litre plastic measuring jug, hand whisk and 2 sterile packs containing the 500mls and 1000mls plastic feeding containers, also more glamorously named “reservoirs”.

We have a detailed “recipe” for M’s E028 feeds, which was calculated by the GOSH dietetics team to provide the calories and nutrients he requires daily based on his age, height and weight and I carefully measure the required scoops of the formula into the measuring jug.  Next comes adding the boiled water, which was surprisingly trickier than it sounds as Mike and I both made mistakes on our first weekend at home.  What hadn’t been made clear to us in the hospital was that the water added is enough to make the required amount , in M’s case 550mls, and NOT, as we both first read it, add 550mls of water to the mix.  Whilst this sounds a fairly inconsequential error, the nuance was important and the outcome was that we ended up with a lot more formula that M could drink and at a lower concentrate that he needs to remain healthy.  I add the boiled water whilst it’s still warm as I’ve found this dissolves the powder more thoroughly and a good whisk ensures that there are no lumps poured into the feed bottles.  This is important as those miniscule lumps can be enough to block the tube and cause the pump to alarm.

20150203_160111Feed mixed and bottles filled, we then store them in the fridge for up to 24 hours, following the advice of both our dietitian and the community nurse, who reassured us that this was safe to do and is a shortcut that makes my life a whole lot easier.  M hates having his E028 cold, so I make sure that the bottle is taken out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before his feed is due to start and warm it in a bowl of hot water – a great tip shared by the nurses at GOSH.  The first few days felt chaotic as I rushed around making up feed, storing bottles and trying to make sure that we were doing everything we were supposed to do.  Now I’ve found we’ve fallen into a steady rhythm as I’ve found my feet in making this process work for me and that was the key to our success.