December 06, 2021

Boro Park Center Residents Benefit From New Swallowing Technology

For most of us, the technique of swallowing is often taken for granted but it is one of the most critical areas of survival. 80 year-old Mary Lewis, a mother of four, and grandmother of six, is a Boro Park Center resident who’s originally from Grenada, later moving to St. Croix and relocating to Lincoln Place in Brooklyn. Her job of cleaning clothes and washing made her a people person early on. Last May of 2021, Mary had suffered a stroke and was taken to Maimonides Medical Center, across the street from Boro Park Center, the large 504-bed nursing and rehabilitation facility on 10th Avenue in Brooklyn. She was listed as NPO S/P CVA (Nothing Passed Orally, status/post Cardio Vascular Accident). After surviving the stroke, Boro Park Center started Mary on a strong rehab program through Jeff Grzybowski, Boro Park Center’s Rehabilitation Director. Mr. Grzybowski brought in one of his Speech Language Pathologists, Laine Cialdella (M.S., CCC-SLP) to help with Ms. Lewis’ swallowing mechanism and her speech.

After her stroke, Mary’s swallowing was very weak and could only eat pureed foods so it became Laine’s task to work with Mary diligently with her swallowing and speech. The goal was to get Mary to eat solid foods which would speed up her recovery from the stroke. Boro Park Center would not get in the new Synchrony state-of-the-art system for another three months so Laine, like her other three SLP colleagues, could only measure a patient’s swallowing progress through feel and repetition. Then during the summer, Boro Park Center started offering the Synchrony Dysphagia Solutions Program to their SLPs to quicken recovery time for their patients. It worked.

Equally as the Synchrony program helps SLPs measure a patient’s swallowing and keeps a record of their progress, patients enjoy watching their progress on the computer. The program graphs each swallow showing how strong or weak the patient’s swallow is. According to Cialdella, the facility has a large number of patients that have swallowing difficulty, which is clinically known as dysphasia. SLPs are trained to use a non-drug treatment called biofeedback where patients re-learn bodily mechanisms that have always been involuntary to them and SLPs can use electronics to help the patient through much repetition.

Like a sound board in a recording studio, Synchrony uses a blue bar demonstrates the power of the swallow, long bar shows strong and a short bar is weak. Electrodes are played on the patients neck to measure each swallow and then lead wires are attached to the electrode where it hooks up with the sensor, right to the Synchrony program. The therapist feels for the Adam’s Apple and the electrode is placed in front of it in the throat area. The patient swallows water ten to fifteen times per session and the SLP not only measures each swallow, but “coaches” the patient along the way to give a strong swallow each time. After each swallow, the patient would relax and the SLP praises the patient. There is an average baseline and all swallowing would be measured against that and that is done first. At the beginning of her speech therapy, Mary’s swallowing was not strong, later with Synchrony, a huge step forward. Additionally, the technology allows the SLP to use foot pedals that are used to mark the repetitions in order to record the data, giving each swallow a record to keep, such as “which swallow is better than the others”.

Although Mary has been diagnosed with early dementia, she has been a champion and an example of the success of using Synchrony. Mary can now eat whatever she wants now, except for steak. The whole swallowing process is not easy but like all rehab techniques, the art of repetition is what becomes effective…and it builds. According to Cialdella, some people can take multiple swallows to clear their throat and thus becoming a slow and steady progress as the swallowing mechanism becomes all about conditioning. Synchrony improves the timeliness and the efficiency of the timing of the swallow.

According to one of Mary’s daughters, AnnMarie Fench who lives Manhattan, her mother hopes to return to St. Croix again and perhaps that’s what inspires her every day to get better. Ms. Fench has been so happy seeing these improvements with her mom.

 

As see on Brooklyn Patch.

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