Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Playful Case of Dysphagia

Ha – you take-things-for-granted person. You probably don’t even know what dysphagia is. You probably think it’s the name of a beautiful Italian actress in one of those confusing foreign sub-titled films, or a province in Northern Spain, or a flashy new car model. All of those guesses are wrong. You’re off. Way off. Dysphagia actually means having difficulty swallowing. And, it’s no fun at all.

You’ve probably never even thought about swallowing!

We swallow about 6,000 times per day. We swallow our food, our saliva, and even foreign objects – quarters, fish bones, and beer caps to name a few. And no one thinks about swallowing. Except Speech Pathologists. They think about. They think about it all day. Then they go off and read books about it. They need to get lives. 

I met a sick cute little old lady with dysphagia recently. She was Spanish-speaking and so I had to slosh out a pathetic Spanish word salad as a means to communicate with her.  Poor her. I should send her a sympathy card. I need to go to the post office to get stamps... Anyways, back to my poignant story.

I haven’t spoken Spanish for a very long time. So, I kinda majorly suck. But, we made it through.

Anyways, this cute old lady called me “mi amor,” and made a point to say “gracias” and “adios” when I left. (Maybe she felt she had to be extra nice to me because she thought I was mentally disabled). But, when I bossed her on how to swallow, she got all sassy and playful and repeated “unn traaagiiiito!!” and looked at me with a mischievous edentulous smile. Then we laughed. Then we smiled. Then we giggled. Then I said it back to her and wagged my finger - with my usual dopey grin. Then we laughed again. Then we smiled. Then we got back to business. 

That lady made my day and put a smile on my face. When I got to thinking about why it because she was endearing but also because we played. We joked around and we didn’t even know each other. We even had communication barriers - her with no teeth, and me with my crummy Spanish. This got me to thinking about playing. Adults need to play more. Seriously. Most of the adults I know are stone-faced, almost all the time. We’d all enjoy our lives more if we played more. And we might even like each other - without having to dole out bribes. Think about the money that could be saved by not having to bribe people with extravagant gifts!

So, if a sick little old lady, with dysphagia, can play and joke – with an outright stranger, and in broad daylight, well, then so can you and I!

Listen to what your mother said and “go play!”


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