Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: DELICIOUS (02/04/16)
TITLE: A Taste of Hope
By Holly Westefeld
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Finally weaned from the ventilator, and strong enough to reach my rolling table, I pluck a lemon swab from the ice bucket to moisten my mouth. It is so wonderful not to have to wait for someone to do it for me, but this bit of moisture and tartness of the lemon make me yearn for food and drink. Ironically, it is not the variety of restaurant cuisine I have consumed since opting out of cooking, but the dishes of my childhood on which I ruminate. Though simple country fare, what I wouldn't give for some succulent berries, a juicy tomato from the vine, or a soft cooked egg fresh from the chicken coop. It may seem masochistic to torture myself with such memories, as the G-tube drips its nutritional formula directly in to my stomach, but it is precisely those delicious reminiscences that spur me on to a few more minutes sitting upright to strengthen my spinal muscles, or a few more reps of swallowing exercises for the speech therapist.
At last the day arrives when I have sufficient strength to sit in the wheelchair long enough to go out to the mobile swallow clinic for a barium swallow test. I pass!
Back in my room, the speech therapist brings a small container of apple sauce. She dips perhaps a quarter spoonful and brings it to my lips. Remembering how I had done the same for my children, I open my mouth. The cool puree caresses my tongue, sweet, yet tart, though not like the lemon swabs. I close my eyes and swish it around in my mouth, savoring it.
"Are you okay? Are you having trouble swallowing?"
I open my eyes and let the applesauce trickle down my esophagus, smiling broadly. "Delicious! I was just savoring it."
Soon I am brought a menu, from which to select the next day's meals. Since everything will be pureed, I wonder if it will all taste the same. My mouth waters as I mark the menu, eagerly awaiting the next day, while the G-tube continues to meet my need for nourishment.
I watch the clock in the morning, awaiting assistance from bed to wheelchair to go to the dining room. It seems like hours from the time I arrive until a plate with several mounds of unappetizing-looking mush is set before me. Which is the eggs, and which the oatmeal? Picking up my spoon, I dip in to the closest glob. Delicious! Eggs! I haven't had eggs since ... the morning they said I aspirated on them and found myself on a ventilator for the first time... The oatmeal is not quite as scrumptious, but still my taste buds are delighted to have work to do. I'm surprised how much effort eating is.
After a morning nap, lunch pleases my palate with meat loaf, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and apple pie. An afternoon nap is in order.
I am able to consume more of each meal, sit for longer stretches, and nap a bit less each day. I have even managed a few supported steps in the therapy room. Yes, I have aches, but they pale when compared with the delights of dining again.
No. No! Not shortness of breath... Slow... Deep... I am to be moved off of the respiratory wing today. Perhaps no one will notice... But they do. Bronchitis takes hold, then pneumonia. My ambivalent relationship with the ventilator resumes.
My nurse looks at me sadly when I mouth that I want a menu. I wave off her awkward reminder that the G-tube is providing my nutrition. I just want to read about the delicious options. She hands me one, shaking her head, not understanding why I torment myself. But for me it is not torment, rather incentive to persevere through this setback. It is a taste of hope.
Fiction, based on a family member's ongoing challenges.
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