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  • 53 year old Mahesh Khatre was the victim of a hit and run accident a few months ago. He fell and hurt the right side of his head. The sudden impact left him dizzy so he decided to go for a check up. The doctors found a brain haemorrhage and he had to undergo an operation.
    After two weeks, when he regained consciousness, Mahesh found that he couldn't swallow anything, not even his own saliva. This inability to swallow, which the docs called oropharyngeal dysphagia, caused a lot of stress and Mahesh rapidly lost 15 kilos.
    Mahesh desperately needed to learn to swallow once again to prevent malnutrition and severe dehydration.
    Fortunately Dr Sanjay Bhatia, an ENT surgeon, walked into Mahesh's life and helped him to learn to swallow.
    The first thing that Mahesh had to do was to suck a lollipop twice a day. Sucking is one of the first reflex actions human beings learn. Then he learned the 'tongue click' where he had to make a clicking sound, stick out the tongue and then fold it back inside the mouth. To strengthen the tongue and cheek muscles he had to fill his mouth with air and push vigorously from cheek to cheek.
    The 'chin tuck' was used to constrict the airways and elevate the larynx manually. This was done by tucking his chin to his chest. This enabled he brain to control the neck muscles.
    To help the windpipe to close and open, he had to place a toothbrush at the back of the tongue. This was called the 'toothbrush gag.'
    In a month's time Mahesh was able to eat semi-solid food like yogurt and mashed potatoes. At 10 weeks he was able to eat solid food and slowly gain the weight he had lost.
    I wonder what life would've been like for Mahesh, if he hadn't learnt to swallow. Would he have had to be fed through feeding tubes? Would he have been housebound? Would he have been able to work?
    Sometimes we have to learn to swallow our pride, or to eat humble pie. And its difficult. How do we learn? Is there an easy way to do it? Or do we wait until it's too late and the damage becomes irreversible?
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