It was time for my long awaited VitalStim evaluation appointment. Although VitalStim has been used at UC Davis on adult patients for quite some time - I am the first pediatric patient. In a windy rain storm we arrived at UC Davis. Mommy was so anxious to get me out of the elements and in the building she even forgot to put up the handicapped parking placard - oops! Once inside I flirted with a little boy in waiting room until my name was called. Now that I can walk I am much harder to contain - even if Mommy brings toys from home to play with!
Once we got into the exam room, Jan got on the floor with me to play with some toys. She told Mommy that I had enough room on my chin to put the electrodes so that was the first hurdle. The next was to get the area cleaned with an alcohol prep pad. I let Mommy do it without any fuss. Now it was time to actually stick the elctrodes on my chin. I didn't mind them being put on so much but I wanted to take them off right away. (You can see a picture of me wearing them above). Mommy gave me frozen fruit in a bag as a distraction but also to encourage swallowing while Jan went to get an ace bandage. We used that to try to secure the electrodes in place by wrapping the bandage from the chin to the top of my head. Because of all my dancing to the songs Jan and Mommy were singing that was a challenge but Mommy finally got it tight enough. Then, while we all sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" Jan turned on the electrical stimulation. She got all the way to 3.5 before I noticed and then I wanted those electrodes off! Mommy and Jan let me have a breather and took the bandage and electrodes off but I was a little hesitant to want to put them back on. Jan pulled out some foil star stickers (the little ones that Mommy's teachers sometimes put on her papers) and all the adults in the room (including Lucille) put the star stickers on their face. Then it was my turn. Lucille handed me the sticker and..... I promptly put it in my mouth! Mommy quickly tried to fish it out but I bit down hard on her finger and by then it was too far gone to retrieve. For the next few minutes I gaged and coughed and finally managed to swallow it. No more little stickers for me! Jan and Mommy were going to try one more time to put them on but I had a little melt down (okay temper tantrum) and that was pretty much the end of the session! Jan was happy with my progress. She wasn't even sure she would have been able to get to the point that I allowed the electrodes on at all. The fact that she was able to turn it on and I tolerated it to 3.5 was even better. Jan said that it goes from 0-25. Those who have neurological issues sometimes have it really high before they feel it - but even having it as low as 3 has been proven to result in swallowing improvement. Mommy's assignment was to bring home some electrodes and start having me wear them periodically to get me used to the feel of them. Jan may even try to come out to one of my feeding therapy appointments.
Peyton Nicole Smith