The week of February 6-10 is Feeding Tube Awareness Week and is officially recognized on the National Health Observances calendar each year. In this blog, I will talk about feeding tubes, a life-saving intervention, how a feeding tube saved my life and break down some of the myths associated with feeding tubes.
What is a Feeding Tube?
If you are unfamiliar with feeding tubes, you’re about to learn what they are! While most people can eat normally via their mouths to receive all of their daily calories and nutrition, there are some people who cannot. This is due to a variety of reasons. A feeding tube is a life-saving intervention in the form of a polyurethane or silicone tube that can be placed in the abdomen, either the jejunum or stomach, to deliver liquid nutrients to the body. There are a few different types of feeding tubes:
- Gastrostomy Tube or “G Tube” (stomach)
- Jejunostomy Tube or “J Tube”
- Gastrostomy-Jejunostomy or “GJ Tube” (combination of the two)
Some feeding tubes are long hoses that are very thin that are inserted through the nose or mouth and end in the stomach or jejunum. The most common ones are called NJ or NG tubes.
My first feeding tube was an Nasojejunal Tube, or NJ Tube, that was placed in my body in September of 2021. I no longer have it, as it has been replaced with a J-Tube in my abdomen. While some people have the nasal tubes temporarily, some people require more long-term use of a feeding tube. Their doctor may decide to place a surgical one into the abdomen. This is the case for me.
Can You Eat with a Feeding Tube?
While some people require a feeding tube for all their nutrition, some people are still able to eat with a feeding tube! Being able to eat with a feeding tube varies from person to person. Everyone is different. Some people are able to eat, but not enough to meet their daily calorie needs so they have supplemental tube feedings to reach their bodies intake needs. This is the same for water or other drinks.
Personally, I can drink liquids, but sometimes I am unable to. Food is off the table for me, although I still try on occasion. For me, my stomach does not work properly and anything that I eat comes up. This is why my feeding tube bypasses my stomach.
Do Feeding Tubes Hurt?
The short answer is that it depends on the type of tube and the person. I am going to explain what it was like for me.
The nasal tube I had, an NJ, hurt initially due to my nose and throat not being used to having something jammed in there. After a few days, the pain went away and I barely ever felt the tube after. I have never experienced an NG tube, which is much thicker, though I hear they hurt and are very uncomfortable. My J-tube area hurt after placement, but after two weeks it felt a lot better. I can still feel this one, although most of the time, it is not painful. When it is, the pain is light. Again, I would like to emphasize that everyone is different and may or may not have the experiences as me.
Does a Feeding Tube Affect Your Quality of Life? Are They Used When Someone is Dying?
A feeding tube can save someone’s life, like mine did. A feeding tube is there to help a person sustain life and meet their bodies’ intake needs. Whenever I had a tube placed in me, I have bounced back from being sick and I can do a lot more things. Recently, I even started going to the gym due to having energy again. While being hooked up to a backpack 24/7 can be a slight nuisance, I prefer it over my old situation.
Feeding tubes and their uses are different for everyone. I hope that this blog may have answered some of your questions regarding feeding tubes and that you learned something new!
About Chrysanthemum Chan: Chrysanthemum is an award-winning cosplayer and Quantum brand ambassador. She enjoys fashion, cosplay and music and has a TikTok channel with over 380,000 followers. Click here to learn more about Chrysanthemum.
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