More than half of stroke patients experience weakness in their throat muscles making it extremely difficult to swallow thin liquids like water. Right before Thanksgiving last year (2010) Nancy Naeve Brown met a Worthing man who had a stroke and learned to swallow again at Avera McKennan with the help of his speech therapist and electrical therapy.
On November 7th, 2010 in the middle of the night Romy Ysbrand (pronounced eyes-brand) from Worthing, South Dakota had a stroke leaving his entire right side limp.
Romy says, "It pretty much got my whole right side. My arm and my leg and I could hardly talk."
Not only was his speech greatly impaired so were his throat muscles.
Romy says, "I couldn't drink anything, water or anything liquid. It would go down the wrong pipe. If it gets in your lungs too much you'll get pneumonia. Therapy helps out tremendously."
Romy's speech therapist Mary Wrich at Avera McKennan showed us Romy's initial modified barium swallow study. You can see how liquid went down his airway instead of his esophagus. That was before using vital stimulation therapy.
Mary Wrich says, "VitalStim is a form of neuromuscular electrical stimulation developed specifically to target muscles involved in swallowing to help strengthen and re-educate the muscles."
Romy's biggest motivation to be able to swallow again was a bottle of Pepsi.
Romy's face lights up and says, "I love Pepsi. I even had to smell it before I took a drink. It was delicious."
Mary says, "The best therapy for swallowing is swallowing. Romy was a very good candidate for another technique. We used frozen lemon swabs and hooked him up to stimulate different swallowing reflexes. We got a really really strong contraction.
Romy says he didn't mind having to gag a few times if it meant getting back to normal and 8 days of VitalStim got him there.
Romy says, "I feel a lot stronger. I'm ready to go (home) thanks to Mary."
12 days after having a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to drink, Romy is walking out of Avera McKennan with his wife Sharen a grateful and healthy man who can't wait to wash down his turkey with a little Pepsi.