Water is defined by Dictionary.com as a "transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid." When you think of water, what sort of thoughts come to mind???
Within the last week, it has become a blessing. Let me explain further... I got stomach flu over Thanksgiving break and it was no fun! Even water was my enemy. Hours ticked by and as they did, I grew desperately thirsty. I longed for small sips of cool and refreshing water. My lips began to crack and my tongue was dry and raw. My mind was consumed with my thirst. After hours had passed, I started with small sips and quickly moved to big gulps. My mistake indeed, my body retaliated greatly. Again, I started the waiting game, hoping I would feel better soon. Another few hours passed and I again tried small sips, this time being more mindful of how quickly I was drinking the water. I stayed with small sips for a few hours before I tried bigger sips. About 24 hours after it all started, I was finally able to hold some water down. I can't just describe it as water. To me, it was cool and crisp, it even had a sweet hint to it. Okay, okay... am I crazy???
Water is tasteless, right?
This isn't the first time I have experienced this. Over six and a half years ago when I was lying in the ICU recovering from brain surgery, I became severely dehydrated. I remember desperately trying to swallow so I could finally have something to drink. I was overwhelmed with frustration, my body wasn't working, and no one could understand me. Nurses gave me oral swabs to add some moisture to my mouth until they could determine if I would gain back my swallowing ability or if they'd have to declare me NPO status and get a NG tube placed. I'm not sure I will ever be able to forget the way my mouth felt. My lips were cracked & no matter how many times I tried to lick them, I never found relief. My tongue was thick and rough as if it were covered in sand paper. It felt swollen and fat, although I'm not sure it was. At this time, my face was asymmetrical, I was black & blue and I had the crazy drugged look....we won't even mention my hair or my over active salvation glands. I was a mess! Even after I had the NG tube then the PEG tube, I always had a longing for a cool drink of water. On the PEG tube, I was able to give myself free water with my liquid food to keep me hydrated. When I was finally able to swallow, I had to start with a tiny amount (teaspoon) of thickened liquid. I then worked up to other beverages that provided me other stimulus to help aide me in swallowing. Liquids with flavor, temperature (hot/cold), and texture were easier than water. Without fail, 99% of the time, I'd choke on water. About 9 months after I returned home, I remember waking up in the middle of the night. I stood at my bathroom sink, thinking about water. Usually, I would just put my mouth to the faucet & I'd let the cool water wash over my tongue, being careful not to let any stay in my mouth. On this particular night, I decided to be a little daring. I put a little water into a cup and tried to take a small sip. I remember how hard I was concentrating. I remember the cool water as it sloshed in my mouth. I was mindful of where it was in my mouth. I knew if I tried to swallow it without being ready, I would most certainly choke. Instead, I stood there with my head slightly faced down and I really enveloped the flavor of the water. The longer it stayed in my mouth, the warmer it got. It was sweet in flavor and it felt so refreshing. I closed my eyes and relaxed my throat. I visualized the water and hoped it would go down. I swallowed. I waited a few seconds, expecting a coughing fit. Minutes passed and I was fine. I tried again and again. That first night, I managed to swallow water 5 times before I aspirated. VICTORY!!! I was filled with emotions. I was happy, overjoyed, hopeful, nervous, scared, apprehensive & thankful. It took many more months & years to be able to drink a glass of water with ease. Actually, if I'm honest, I still am more cognizant when I am drinking water. I probably will always be. I just so very thankful I am able to swallow again.