LEHI, Utah — A 77-year-old old Utah woman has relearned how to swallow just in time to enjoy Thanksgiving.
While other Americans settle down for turkey, pie and cranberry sauce, Brenda Weech of Lehi is hoping to get down a few bites of her beloved cornbread stuffing, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Weech suffered a stroke in February following open heart surgery. It paralyzed her right side and caused her to lose all sense of taste. Bread became like cardboard, she said, and her husband remembers her only liking watermelon and ice cream.
Their son, Jared Weech, said they “almost had to force-feed her — it was a chore to get her to drink Ensure.”
“It was too much work to eat,” Brenda Weech remembered. “I lost maybe 40 pounds.”
She started to regain her appetite by watching cooking shows, according to her husband, Dall Weech.
“You eat with your eyes first,” he explained. “There is pleasure in pretending, but no nourishment.”
Then a second stroke came in October. Brenda Weech was still unable to taste and now she couldn’t swallow, either. The stroke also shut down her left side.
She started over by retraining her throat muscles and trying to wiggle her fingers. For three weeks, Weech has been doing rehabilitation at University Hospital in Salt Lake City, where she spends four hours each day doing exercises meant to help her get down tiny pieces of solid food. She has made slow but steady progress.
The staff gave her a “rocker knife” with a curved blade to help her cut meat with one hand and a plate with sides to keep food from falling off. Meanwhile, her ability to taste and swallow soft foods has returned.
“I can eat turkey,” said Weech, smiling, “but I have to cut it carefully.”
She’s also taught herself to consume other solids, including potatoes and gravy and apple pie. On Thanksgiving Day, she will leave the hospital and return to Lehi, where she will work with her husband to recreate the cornbread stuffing that reminds her of her childhood Thanksgivings in the Texas panhandle.
“You don’t realize what a pleasure eating is,” Weech says, “till it’s gone.”