Pat has acquired a faithful retainer who follows her everywhere, ever vigilant, never sleeping. His name is Baxter. Baxter is the machine that meters out her TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition). Pat calmly announces his name to me. I am mildly concerned that Pat has taken to humanizing a machine. “Why Baxter? “ “Well, because that’s what written on the machine.” Sure enough, in bold letters in the top left-hand corner, Baxter announces his name to all who can read.
Baxter the Butler is how I think of him. Dinner, m’dam? Highly nutritious, if slightly on the bland side. “I would kill for a cappuccino”, mutters Pat. One of Pat’s docs is within earshot. “Well, you can probably have one if you want. It just gets sucked back up the gastric tube.” And just like magic, doctor’s orders are written for cappuccinos.
Petra, who cherishes her own cappuccinos, has been mourning their loss for Pat. We feel that she should do the honour – and the next morning, Petra appears with two in hand. Cautiously, Pat sips on the cappuccino (double sugar). She savors the taste on her tongue, like a fine wine, and then swallows. A quarter cup later, no disasters have occurred. And with morbid curiosity, we watch the gastric tube for evidence of exhumed cappuccino.
Pat is ecstatic. The taste of food, the act of swallowing. The doc suggests she try a popsicle next. Sharon fetches a popsicle from the hospital fridge (Baxter refusing to leave Pat’s side, even for a moment). A grape popsicle. Pat cautiously sucks on the popsicle, carefully navigating its tip around her gastric tube. She gives a huge grin, and we realize that the popsicle has turned her teeth and tongue purple. So we agree that perhaps not grape the next time.
We learn the rules – if the food is liquid enough to pass through the gastric tube (which is about the circumference of a large straw), then it can go into Pat’s mouth and down the throat. Gravy from stew is next on the menu. Broth is requested. The possibilities begin to unfold.
Pat tells me that doctor’s orders have been written allowing her two glasses of wine a day. I think we will have someone other than Baxter make the wine choice.....