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You are so brave with this struggle. Of course, I know exactly what you are going through and you have my heartfelt sympathy. I have just passed the 9th anniversary of being unable to swallow, so I thought I’d share with you some the ways I cope with what you described. You are so fortunate you can still swallow, and even though it is difficult, your swallowing muscles are being exercised when you use them.
In my case, I use a G-tube (gastrostomy tube) to take all my food, which is, obviously, liquid. It is called Boost Plus, and it is by prescription from my physician and covered by insurance.
With respect to drinking, as I am unable to swallow (the muscles at the base of my tongue that govern swallowing were fried in the course of radiation for Tonsil Cancer), I must let gravity do the work. I take a breath, take a sip, tip my head back, and let the liquid (coffee, water, tea, scotch, vodka) flow down. But the key thing I must remember is to take that breath and hold it before I take the sip. It is vitally important to take that breath. Otherwise I have that dreadfully frightening reaction you described.Sometimes I forget to take the breath, and I really have to work to get some air in in order to resume breathing.
Once I have quote swallowed unquote (I’m not really swallowing), I then let out the breath and it moves what little bits of liquid still remain in my esophagus. It sounds easy but took me quite some time to figure it out.
I wish you the best, my dear, and hope this has been helpful. Keep on posting, and we’ll stay in touch that way.