But my new speech therapist told me that I was penetrating, not aspirating, and showed me images that I couldn’t understand. And she added that, in any case, I wouldn’t get pneumonia (the biggest of doctors’ fears). Then, she dared me to take a big mouthful of thin liquid, and swallow it – “No guts, no glory,” she said teasingly. She explained how to push the liquid with my tongue and use the swallowing apparatus to shove it down the pharynx. And she made me practice, first with a shot glass, then with a larger glass.
When Eric and I were back home every day because of the hiatus, I started following her directions every day with the help of the nurse aids. At first it was very hard – I felt the need to cough, but I couldn’t, and I had to practice many times to swallow fast. Nevertheless, I practiced; and practiced; and practiced some more, while using a spoon or a straw to drink coffee at the coffee shop: I was still scared of aspirating – I’m sorry, penetrating.
After a few practices, I started drinking coffee directly from the glass. The key was pouring the water very slowly so that I pushed very little liquid with my tongue (which I would do inadvertently) to avoid coughing; if I got distracted, I’d start coughing right away. After a good while, I was swallowing the water without choking. Then, I mastered the way of controlling the liquid that came into my mouth and pushing with my tongue while using my swallowing apparatus. I’m still coughing if I forget to pay attention, and can’t avoid it, but coughing beats not being able to drink water hands down.