After spending 6 months in intensive care at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, Bob Bendall was left with severe dysphagia, a condition which makes eating, drinking and breathing difficult as it affects the ability to swallow. Thanks to a specialist health care team Bob has now regained his independence.

Bob Bendall, from Valley on Anglesey, underwent major surgery for an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm in May 2018 and spent six months on the Intensive Care Unit, including being on a ventilator and having a tracheostomy.

His wife, Linda, said: “When the doctors first tried to bring Bob around it didn’t work out well, he wasn’t able to breathe by himself so he had to be kept on a breathing machine and also had a tracheostomy.

“It was a very frightening time for the family, we nearly lost him on a couple of occasions but Bob was determined to get better.”

During his time in hospital Bob was put under the care of the Speech and Language Team where he met Nicholas de Mora-Mieszkowski.

The 65-year-old began to receive intensive swallowing treatment to help him learn new techniques to regain his independence.

Nicholas, a Clinical Specialist Speech & Language Therapist, said: “I used an approach with Bob called the ‘McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program’ which I was lucky to attend training on last year.

“Therapy was carried out after completing a video swallow examination which showed some but generally very little movement of the muscles used to swallow.

“While in intensive care Bob had been referred to the nutrition support team for a gastric feeding tube and it was agreed with his consultant that while he was waiting for the feeding tube we could try this therapy.

“We completed almost daily therapy over a few weeks and then repeated the video swallow exam.”

“This showed ongoing difficulties but enough improvement for Bob to start eating and drinking again and to cancel the procedure for the feeding tube insertion.

“Therapy has continued since and I am really pleased to hear that he is continuing to make gains.”

Bob left hospital in October 2018 and has since been making progress at home with the help of his wife and Speech & Language Therapist Anna Dent.

“I have slowly been building up to trying more challenging foods but it’s all about being brave enough to try different things.

“I could only eat pureed food to start with but I am now able to eat food such as chicken, casseroles or stir fry’s – I even managed a Christmas dinner!

“It has taken a lot of determination to do the therapy as it’s learning how to eat and drink again but I’m really pleased with the improvements I’ve made,” said Bob.

Anna who has been visiting Bob at home to help with his continuing treatment said she is amazed how much Bob has improved over the last few months.
She said: “Bob has done an amazing job, he was really determined to get better and his wife Linda has been fantastic in supporting him.

“It’s really rewarding for me to help someone get their independence back and after all Bob has been through it’s amazing to see him drinking and eating again.”

Bob who is sharing his story to mark Swallow Awareness Day on 13 March wishes to thank the team for their continued to support.

He said: “I am really grateful to the Speech & Language Team for their support and also the therapy they are continuing to provide for me.

“Last year I wasn’t sure whether I would get better but with the help of the team, my wife and my own determination I knew I would get there in the end.”

Nicholas added: “What was special about this situation was that as a team we were able to be in a position where I could complete a potentially risky therapy with Bob intensively and make relatively rapid improvements with him.

“I think it’s safe to say that without the support of the medics, nurses, physiotherapy and the hard work Bob put in himself he might not be eating and drinking now.

“The team around him could see how important this goal was and worked to manage the risks to give him the opportunity and have the best outcome.”

Photos: Linda Bendall with her husband Bob Bendall and Speech & Language Therapist Anna Dent.