The Goldfish started to have problems swallowing. I did some research and found some good articles, which I printed out for me and Wee-sis to study. I also asked the GP to for a referral to the speech and language specialist. She phoned to make an appointment to see the Goldfish and came to visit within days of the referral.
The Goldfish smiled at her when she arrived and promptly went to sleep so she couldn’t check what happens when he eats or drinks. It was a good meeting and she said pretty much what we’d read. The main difference, really, is the assumption that there is loss of appetite, which is not the case with the Goldfish who continues to enjoy his food – when he can swallow it.
Apart from our worries about food or liquid going into his lungs and setting up pneumonia, it must be really scary for the Goldfish. I tried not swallowing to see how it feels and it’s impossible for me not to swallow reflexively. The trouble is his swallow reflex is no longer working as it should. It’s as if he has forgotten how to swallow.
If he has taken a bite of toast or sandwich and we see it hasn’t gone down after an appropriate length of time, it is so tempting to suggest he takes a sip of juice or water to help it. That doesn’t work as the liquid joins the food in his mouth so he starts to acquire the appearance of a hamster. His eyes look panicked, though, and of course he can’t speak.
I keep a little jar – it once had a very nice creamy dessert – near us at meal time and refer to it as his spittoon. Holding it up, I ask if he wants to “spit it out”. Frantic nodding, and sometimes he succeeds in spitting out what’s in his mouth. Very often, though, nothing emerges and I have to take action and try to hook it out with my fingers – so grateful, he’s not a biter. Once, I removed almost an entire pancake with butter and jam. If it’s liquid, there’s nothing else for it but to put a straw between his lips and suck; then I spit.
At other times the Goldfish spits. I don’t mean when he can’t swallow – he just spits. I sincerely hope it’s not an indication of what he thinks of my cooking.