G-Tubes: A Blessing and A Curse

G-Tube

This was after his hand surgery, but you can see the button and extension in the picture.

We had a lot of family and friends over this weekend and naturally, questions about Braxton arose. Nothing bad, but just makes me think more about the little miracle we have.  Braxton has had his G-Tube since he was 2 weeks old and I remember very clearly how daunting the idea was.  Now, almost 17 months later I have found so much that I love about Braxton having a G-Tube, and so much that’s not so great. We often get asked about him having his tube and how difficult it is, whether or not it bothers him, and so much more.  For us, this is “normal,” for others, it’s new territory.  Joseph has even said he hopes all our children need tubes..jokingly of course, but we’ve grown so used to it over time and have realized several advantages. Here are just a few things I’ve found I like and some that drive me nuts!!

A Blessing

  • First and foremost, medicine – have you ever tried to get a child to take medicine?! If so, you are well acquainted with the wrestling match that ensues.  If not, allow me to enlighten you… No matter how “awesome” you make it seem or how much you flavor it, any kid sees a syringe or cup full of medicine and they’re out of your sight faster than you can blink. If you’re fortunate enough to catch them, you literally have to pin them to the ground sometimes and make them take the medicine! Maybe not always, but more often than not this is how it goes down.  With the G-tube you lay him down open up the medicine port and push the medicine in followed by a little water to make sure it’s in the tummy.  No screaming, no wrestling, no tears…yay! Definitely my favorite thing – especially since Braxton has been on medicine since birth basically.
  • Set it and forget it – With the G-Tube we can feed Braxton anytime, anywhere, and on the go.  We don’t have to wait to run an errand or go to an appointment because of feeding time.  We simply hook up the pump and Braxton feeds on the way.  Actually pretty convenient. When he was younger we had continuous feeds overnight [we fed him over the pump slowly for 6-8 hours] We’d set his pump to only feed him a few milliliters at a time so that 4 ounces lasted about 4 hours. When the pump beeped that the feeding bag was empty we poured in another 4 ounces and set the pump again. From the beginning, I think this helped Braxton sleep through the night because he was constantly fed, and mommy and daddy got plenty of sleep since we were literally awake 5 minutes while we set up the 2nd feed of the night. Thankfully, we didn’t have too many sleepless nights due to feeding every 2 hours.
  • Sister can help – from the moment I found out I was pregnant Aileen was dying to be able to hold Braxton and feed him a bottle.  Once we got the tube I thought her dream would be crushed, but we found other ways she could help. I’d let her help pour the milk in the bag, and even showed her what button to push to turn the pump on and off so now can run over and turn the pump off when it starts beeping or even do it in the car while I’m driving.
  • Always eating – Braxton gets his entire feed all the time. [With the exception of the vomiting spells he was having] Braxton is on a set calorie intake so we know exactly how much he needs to be able to gain weight in a healthy way.  Some kiddos won’t eat when they aren’t feeling well and end up dehydrated. When Brax isn’t feeling well he may have bouts of vomiting, but we can always dilute the feed with pedialyte and/or run the feed a little slower to make sure he still gets it. We don’t have to adjust the feeding schedule just because he’s asleep or anything like that. He eats on time all the time.
  • Easy to learn – Sure, it was pretty scary at first and I can’t tell you how many times there were gaps of air in the tubing because I just couldn’t figure out how to set it up correctly, but it was very simple to learn and we’ve been able to easily show others how to use it without any issues.
  • We can still play. – While Braxton is eating we can still play and interact with him. Sometimes I’ll sit him in a chair with some toys in front of him on a small table and I can work with him while he eats.  No jumping or spinning, but we can still have fun. 🙂

A Curse

  • Beep, Beep! – I dream of that dang beeping sound! When the feed is finished the feeding pump will beep to let us know and we can turn it off. No big deal huh? Well, sometimes the pump beeps for no reason! It will say “No Flow” or “No Food” and the clamp on Braxton’s extension is clearly open and the bag is clearly full of formula but still it’s beeping.  Usually it’s that there is some small kink in the line, piece of food got stuck in the tubing, or the sensor has something blocking it.  There have been times that I “fix it” lay back down for bed and the SECOND I get comfortable…BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!!! Oh man, had a few nights that this went on for several hours…our pump was almost smashed with a hammer and thrown out the window!
  • Leaks – Go to pick up Braxton and his shirt is completely SOAKED! Not from spitting up, but because the extension came loose, the balloon lost water, the medicine port opened and leaked all over the floor, or the tube came loose from the extension! Talk about a big mess to clean up.
  • It pops out!! – I still remember the first time the button popped out balloon full and all. We were so scared. I quickly remembered the steps the doctor told us regarding how to put the button in, but I’d never done it before. It was either try to do it or rush to the ER 13 miles away and risk the hole closing and needing surgery again…I tried and I got the button back in just fine. Braxton cried because of course it hurt having it pulled out, but we were able to console him.  Scary for sure, but glad I figured it out.
  • Medical Supply Company  – We can’t just pick up an extra bottle or pump or bag at the grocery store. All the supplies for feeding HAVE to go through a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) company and ANY changes have to be authorized and it’s nothing that happens overnight.
  • Ball and Chain – Now that Braxton is mobile, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to get him to stay still for a feeding.  We still have the pump over 30 – 45 minutes and anyone can tell you getting a toddler to sit still more than 2 minutes is impossible.  Braxton will crawl across the room with the tubing stretched tight in the 30 seconds it takes to throw something away. We’ve had to sit him in a chair with lots of toys to try to keep him content, but I don’t think that will last much longer!
  • Clothing! – We had so many cute outfits we bought before Braxton was born that he couldn’t even wear! 😦 Anything with a zipper was out of the question because it interfered with overnight feeds, couldn’t have him connected and zipped at the same time unless of course we cut holes in the outfit.  I also have to have him in onesies as wearing plain t-shirts I’m afraid of the button getting caught on something and coming out. There is adaptive clothing available, but some of it is pretty pricey and there is plenty that works instead for now.
  • Daycare – Fortunately, we found a daycare that isn’t designated as “special needs” but is willing to work with us and learned to use the G-Tube and they’re just amazing. But finding childcare is very difficult.  The moment I mention feeding tube everyone turns us away.  Since we’ve moved I found no one in the area to care for him, so we’ve stayed at the daycare by our old house. It’s a little out of the way, but I love them and Braxton is happy there so we’re happy. I just fear moving further away…hopefully we don’t have to anytime soon.

I’m sure there are many other things I could add, but I’ll think of them later..This is simply our own experience with a G-Tube so feel free to share your own in the comments! I’d love to read some of your pros and cons of feeding tubes 🙂

 

6 Comments

Filed under Family, Kids and Family, Life, Special Needs Child

6 responses to “G-Tubes: A Blessing and A Curse

  1. Chin up Mama Soldier. You’re doing great! Smooches to Brax! 🙂

  2. Great blog Vanessa! I have said so many of the same things about g-tubes. I wanted to add the list of benefits…giving meds and not having to wake a baby up! Such a great perk. Blessings to you all!

  3. Pingback: FTA Week, Day 3: Help for New Tubies | Undiagnosed

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