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Healthy Living: Saving Cynthia’s Swallow

Stroke, injury, and certain cancers and diseases are just a few of the causes for a swallowing disorder.

Something that used to be automatic can suddenly become extremely difficult—or impossible.

Two researchers are pioneering a new therapy that their patients say is nothing short of a miracle.

Carlton Vaught and Cynthia Sucher have been married for 43 years. They love their dog Murphy-Brown and enjoy Carlton’s home-cooked meals.

“Cooking is a passion for me and that’s probably how I got to know Cynthia, by doing special meals like crawfish Étouffée and stuff like that for her,” he says.

But that all changed after Cynthia had surgery for a benign brain tumor and lost the ability to swallow.

Unable to eat or drink anything, Cynthia had a feeding tube for five months.

“I thought I’d eaten my last pizza, I’d eaten my last rhubarb, I’d eaten my last peanut butter pie. It was just…I just lost hope,” she says.

Until she found researchers at the University of Central Florida who developed an exercise-based treatment for patients to re-learn how to swallow.

Professors of speech pathology at the University of Central Florida, Gieselle Carnaby and Michael Crary, say in their program every swallow is like a pushup and eating food is like lifting barbells in the gym.

By Cynthia’s fifth session, she was eating full meals again. They’re back to enjoying life—and Carlton’s peanut butter pie!

Carnaby says treatment typically takes three weeks, with many patients like Cynthia recovering more quickly.

She says they have about a 90% success rate.

Crary says they are working on developing a website where patients can find a certified provider that knows the training in their location.