(Don’t) Fear the Feeding Tube
My feeding tube could make my life easier and better, but a visceral shame pulsed through me when it came to actually using it.
need Anesthesia is dangerous for me, so I would be going under twilight sedation instead. I’d technically be awake throughout, but the drug would ensure I had no memory of being so. The anesthesiologist said its proper name was Propofol. Like a schoolkid excited to know an answer before his classmates, Dad said, “Oh, like what killed Michael Jackson!”
The woman smiled politely at the familiar response and assured me this would be nothing at all like Michael Jackson. She gave me small amounts in ten- and fifteen-minute increments. She and the surgeon wanted me unaware, but only to a point—too much sedation and my lungs could give out. (The earliest gastrostomies were performed under chloroform anesthesia, a popular method despite the high risks, including respiratory failure.)
“How do you feel now?” she asked after each incremental ratcheting.
“No different,” I said for a few rounds. Then I suddenly felt very different, and then I felt nothing.
I was under no illusion about the ways my life had changed: I would never again have that cheeseburger. Never again face the challenge of a plate of barbecue with all the fixings. No more tuna melts or biscuits and gravy or simple turkey sandwiches. Spring would no longer mean boxes of Samoas and Do-Si-Dos. I was in denial, but not about the food—about the optics.
Kayla Whaley is a senior editor at Disability in Kidlit, a graduate of the Clarion Writers' Workshop, and an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at the University of Tampa. Her work has appeared at The Toast, The Establishment, Uncanny Magazine, Michigan Quarterly Review, and in Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, among other venues. She can usually be found being overly sincere on the internet.
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“I need a new way to eat,” I say. The nutritionist nods and says, “You want to lose some weight while we’re at it, right?”
Nothing had changed from the night before—except for the certainty that everything had changed. Food as I had always known it was now in the past.