Byline: Karly. Click here for Karly’s blog.
Hello everyone. My name is Karly. I’m an 18 year old who is struggling with difficulty swallowing both food and liquids.
Two years ago, I went to the doctor with a painful, swollen throat and difficulty breathing. I was initially diagnosed as having pharyngitis and was put on a course of antibiotics. The antibiotics didn’t help, so I was put on another course of a different antibiotic. After this second course, I was told my problem was viral and that the glands in my throat were inflamed. Eventually most of the symptoms I had went away but I was then left with a distinct feeling of food getting caught in my throat. From this day on, my life drastically changed.
Everything I tried to eat felt lodged in my throat. The fear that followed was something I had never experienced in my life. It got to the point where I’d only eat solid foods when I was really hungry or when I had to eat with family or friends. Sometime later, I only would eat certain solid foods and then eventually, I was only having smooth/pureed foods.
Around two months later, I was due to start year 12. My lunch consisted of things like yoghurt, custard and mashed potato. I remember feeling physically tired, I was unable to do my work like I used to. I was easily stressed and I drifted away from all my friends, except one. But this friend started to get frustrated with me. We always used to eat together and meet up to do sport, swim, shop, etc. but not anymore.
Just a month or so into school, there was a particular day where I realised I definitely was not up to coming to school anymore. I felt dizzy, sick, hot and weak. I also had some weird feeling in my head. I thought I had been bitten by a bee or something, as I had been sitting outside and there were some around. I went to a teacher I had the previous year who I liked and trusted. I started to talk to her but ended up crying instead. She took me to the sick room and another teacher brought me an electrolyte drink and yoghurt. I told them both that I cannot swallow food and don’t know why. I was picked up and taken home, knowing I wasn’t coming back.
Since then, my problem has gradually worsened. Even smooth/pureed foods started taking a lot of effort to get down and now I am only able to manage liquids. Soup and nutritional supplement drinks make up most of my diet. Even these things take a lot of effort for me to have. Not only do things stick in my throat but they do in my mouth now too. I also have a range of other symptoms, most of which affect my throat as well.
In the beginning, I thought this would go away, just like a cold or something. I never knew what I was in for. Even now, this is still hard for me to accept. I still get frustrated, scared and cry sometimes. I will keep fighting and looking for answers because I want to be able to start my life.
I have found that writing a blog helps me cope with my swallowing problem. Here is a link to my blog if you would like to read more of my story: meonswallowing.blogspot.com.au.