Tag Archives: pump feeding

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:


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





An unexpected day off!

As a parent of a child with a chronic illness, one of the unexpected challenges you have to cope with is finding people you trust to take on their care, even for a short while.  It can be difficult to entrust your child and their needs to anyone other than immediate family and, for Mums in particular I suspect, that may mean you end up doing almost all of their care by yourself.  The opportunities to have that much-talked about and desired “me-time” are often few and far between and, to be frank, if you do manage to grab some, it’s usually at the cost of not spending it with your significant other at a point when time together is most needed.  shipsIn the 6 months since M had his tube, Mike and I have become like those proverbial “ships that pass in the night” as we juggle work commitments, school timetables, extra-curricular activities and those few social events that have helped keep us sane.  Any time we have managed to spend together has revolved around appointments or meetings about M and the constraints of school hours.

We are extremely blessed that we do have an amazing support network surrounding us, which pulls together to ensure that we are able to keep going to work and can even occasionally both be out on the same evening, albeit often at separate events.  helpMy days are made easier by the fact that M’s school have so willingly shared my burden and responsibility by ensuring there are members of staff who know how to take care of his feeding pump and tube, meaning that I don’t have to be there every minute of every day.  Without a doubt, their decision was made easier by the fact that I work less than 5 minutes away and they know they can call whenever they need to, but those phone-calls have been few and far between.  My Mum lives close enough that she has been able to continue the routine of picking G and M up from school a couple of times a week, allowing me to work my hours and has been willing to provide some invaluable school holiday care for us too.  We even have a babysitter who was willing to learn about the tube and whose GP parents, less than 5 minutes away, were an added bonus for the couple of hours we’ve needed once or twice.

Last week, we had an amazing offer from good friends – in fact, those GP parents I’ve just mentioned – which astounded us and gave us a break from routine that we haven’t enjoyed since last December.  It all started at the beginning of half-term, when an unexpected text arrived on my phone as I was in the middle of convincing M to help me clear out and clean the pit he calls his bedroom:

Hi, we wondered if we could look after the kids for you on Bank Holiday Monday so that you can have a bit of time for yourselves.  Let us know what you think. O x”

Then there was a flurry of messages between us as I sat on M’s floor, overwhelmed and close to tears at the kindness of these friends.  Not only were they offering to take G and M for a couple of hours, as I originally thought, but in fact wanted to look after them for the whole day and take them to a local wildlife park that I knew my 2 would love.  They sorted out food, were not phased by the pump and tube and even claimed to be excited at the prospect of having G and M as their guests for the day.  What was even better was that the children were as thrilled as their hosts at having a day out too; and what a day they had!  For the rest of the week, it’s been endless tales of marble-run competitions, playing in the hay barn, seeing the animals and the zip-wire in their back garden.

timeoffAs for Mike and me, well, we had our day together and enjoyed every moment.  It may not have been the adrenalin-filled adventure experienced by our children, but we had time to buy some much-needed bits and pieces for the house, enjoy coffee and cake mid-shopping trip and lingered over a late lunch not constrained by complex food allergies and a restaurant of our choice.  We didn’t get to the cinema as we had originally hoped we might, but thanks to my Mum, we got our night out at the theatre the following weekend instead – I know, two dates in one week, unheard of!  Most importantly, we were able to spend precious time with each other without worrying what G and M were up to and without waiting anxiously for my phone to ring.

Pump action

pumpHaving sussed making the elemental feeds, and NGT management having quickly become second nature, our final challenge was to learn all about the small piece of equipment that is going to become a key member of our household for the next few months – the pump.  M has the Flocare Infinity pump from Nutricia, which has proved to be easy to handle and quick to program.  I was trained in just 40 minutes whilst M was still admitted at GOSH and even though it all felt rushed, it was actually all I needed and I was just about confident enough to go home with him 2 days later.  Our excellent Nutricia nurse, from their local community nursing team, came out to train Mike the day after M was discharged and she has also held a training session at school to ensure key members of staff are up to speed with what they need to do during the school day.

The set-up is easy.  The first thing we have to do is set the volume of the feed – either 1000mls or 500mls for M – and the rate in ml/h, which we set to 150 ml/h.   The pump retains the information from the previous feed, so it is important to check that these 2 figures have been set correctly for the feed you’re giving.  I then press the “info” button, which tells me the exact dosage that was given to M in his previous feed and clear this number from the pump’s memory.  This records how much of the required volume has been given since the pump was started, so if you don’t take care to delete the previous information, you could find yourself giving a lot less than the required amount.

The pump is then attached to the feed bottle via a feeding kit, which is a length of tube that joins the bottle to the NGT via the pump itself.  We were provided with a small plastic stand, which holds the pump at the bottom with the bottle hanging upside down above it, firmly strapped in place.  The feeding kit is attached to the top of the bottle, threaded around the pump stand, carefully avoiding getting it trapped between pump and stand, and then looped around the mechanism inside the pump.  Before connecting the loose length of the feeding kit to the NGT. you need to fill the entire length of the feeding kit tube with the feed to make sure you’re not pumping air into your child.  We were shown to do this using the “fill set” button, which runs at the fastest rate possible and takes seconds to fill up.  Once this is done, it’s simply a case of attaching NGT to feeding kit tube and pressing start.  All being well, the feed is now underway and, in an ideal world, you can leave the pump alone until the feed is finished.


However, reality is very different and you will quickly become attuned to the beeping of the pump alarm.  It can and will beep for any number of reasons: there’s air in the tube, the tube has become kinked or blocked on the way into the pump mechanism,  the tube between the pump and your child’s NGT has been kinked/blocked/sat on/folded tightly between your child’s fingers such that the formula has no place to go or sometimes, just because.  Sometimes the alarm is easy to resolve, simply a case of stopping the pump, removing the air/blockage/kink and restarting; but sometimes no amount of jiggling wires, shaking formula bottles or removing everything from the bag and the stand will stop that alarm sounding every 5 minutes or less.  We’ve even tried that old IT support favourite of switching it off and then on again and have had limited success in silencing the beeping for more than 5 minutes.  Both G and M know how to switch the alarm off, but both are guilty of occasionally forgetting to make note of what fault featured on the digital display, leaving it to my superior Mummy detective skills to work out exactly what might have caused the problem that time round.  Nevertheless, the odd mad beeping episode aside, the pump generally does what it should and copes in an admirable fashion with being bounced around on M’s back for 10 hours a day.

Courtesy of minionlovers.weebly.com

Courtesy of minionlovers.weebly.com

So this little purple pump has become our new best friend.  Just like a favourite fashion accessory, we rarely leave the house without it or the trusty back-pack.  M can do almost everything whilst wearing it and has become adept in the art of adapting to its very presence in his everyday routine.  And whilst it is ever-present, we’ve learnt to have a laugh and have attributed it with its very own personality.  Some of the lovely FABED family shared that naming the pump helped make the whole experience easier and more fun for their child and one Mum even said that the pump reminded them of a minion.  This latter idea made all of us smile because we knew instantly what she was referring to: the incessant beeping of the alarm which is hard to distinguish from the “Bee-do bee-do” heard from the Fireman minion who helps put out Gru’s office fire.  Of course, even though M’s pump bears more resemblance to one of the evil purple minions from Despicable Me 2, bent on a path of destruction, it’s hard work and support in providing M with the means to have the nutrition he needs is far more comparable to their loveable yellow counterparts.

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical expert and this blog does not constitute medical advice. I have detailed how we have been taught to run M’s pump by the professionals involved in his care. Please note that any questions concerning a feeding pump and the associated kit should always be directed to your medical team.

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.

The 3rd and final step

M and his tube at GOSH

M and his tube at GOSH

With steps 1 and 2 complete, we were now onto the third step, the one which is going to have the biggest impact on M’s life for the next few months.  NG-tube in place, dis-impaction done and pellet study under way, it was now time to move M to an “elemental” diet, one which sees all foods removed from his diet and replaced by a nutritionally complete feed that consists of amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.  The ideal would be for M to drink the 1.8 litres of this feed that he needs each day to have the right amount of calories and nutrients for his age, weight and height, but I knew we had no chance of getting him to do that.  Not only is he a reluctant drinker at the best of times, meaning it would be nigh impossible to get nearly 2 litres of liquid into him on a daily basis, but the feed is truly revolting to taste and even adding generous quantities of approved flavouring was never going to be enough to convince him to let more than a minimal amount pass his lips.  The only alternative was to feed him via his NG-tube, which meant an intensive few days in hospital for us as we worked out how best to give the feeds, the timings and rates that he could tolerate and I was trained on how to manage his tube.

The original plan proposed by the dietitians was that M receive six 300mls feeds a day via the gravity-feeding method, which meant that we would attach a large syringe to the end of his tube and gradually add the 300mls over the duration of the feed to ensure he took the full amount.  The principle of gravity feeding is that you can adjust the speed of the feed as the flow of the liquid is driven by the height of the syringe and the effect of gravity:  the higher the syringe, the faster the flow. The dietitian was keen that the feed be given over around 20 minutes, but it quickly became obvious that this just wasn’t going to be a method that would suit M.  Within 5 minutes of his very first feed starting, he turned pale and grey and complained that his stomach was hurting. The nurse giving the feed adjusted how high the syringe was held, but no matter how the syringe was positioned, things didn’t get better and by feed number 2, the nurses were adamant that this just wasn’t going to work for him, something I wholeheartedly agreed with.  At this point, we were only giving him 200mls instead of the full 300mls, but even that was proving too much for M’s sensitive digestion, so the dietitian finally had to agree to what the nurses were telling her and everything was changed yet again.

M's rather snazzy new pump

M’s rather snazzy new pump

Our new routine saw the feed mixed to a higher concentration, meaning that we only needed to get 1.5 litres into him a day and we were introduced to the wonders of a pump.  The pump means that the rate of giving the feed can be at a speed that best suits M and can easily be tweaked as each individual situation requires.  There was a lot to learn in the few days we had as I needed to know and be confident in how to check that his tube was correctly positioned, what to do if it appeared to have moved, how to prepare the elemental feeds and how to attach and properly operate the pump.  There was also the added complexity that the pumps used on ward by GOSH were not the same as the one approved in our community and whilst the principle was the same, the processes were slightly different.  However, by the time discharge finally happened, I was as au fait with this new part of our life as I could hope to be, felt that we could cope at home and, more crucially, had enough medical supplies to see us through the next few days.

M and his tube at home

M and his tube at home

Since that first day, now over a month ago, that original regime has been changed and tweaked more times that I care to imagine.  The suggestion of 6 feeds being administered at separate 30 minutes periods throughout the day were impossible for M to manage as he wasn’t able to tolerate the 250mls over either the initial proposed 30 minutes, nor our second attempt of an hour.  It also quickly proved impractical as any issues with the placement of the tube would take at least 20 minutes to resolve and that was time that we couldn’t expect the school to give him as he doesn’t get any individual support.  We soon realised that M wasn’t coping either physically or emotionally with the constant feeding and we have now settled on a routine that seems to work for everyone concerned.  His first feed is a 1 litre one starting at around 6.30am, which is given slowly enough to avoid too many tummy aches or occurrences of reflux and which lasts until the end of lunch-time.  The pump is disconnected at that point and M is able to enjoy an afternoon free of the encumbrance of his pump whilst at school.  The final 500mls feed begins between 4pm and 4.30pm and takes us all the way through to bedtime.

This is the routine that we will be living with for the next month or so and then the task of food reintroduction will begin.  As our local dietetics team has refused to be involved in M’s care, we will be working with the dietitians from GOSH to work out a detailed approach to trialling foods and the order we try them in.  The elemental feeding via NG-tube will continue alongside these food challenges until we have identified enough safe foods for M to eat and get all the calories and nutrients he needs to be healthy.  It’s not going to be an easy or quick task to complete, indeed there is a long and arduous road ahead, but it should be one that leads to more answers for M’s health than we’ve ever had before.