By Jordan Robison MS, RDN, LD
When I tell people that I have a feeding tube, most of the time I get looks of disbelief. They don’t see how an active 24-year-old woman like myself, could be dealing with something that sounds so terrifying.
Sometimes, it’s even hard for me to believe that I live a completely normal life with this medical device. I’ve only had my feeding tube for two and a half years, but since I received it I’ve graduated with my Master’s degree, become a registered dietitian (RD), and worked as an RD for over a year. I have married my high school sweetheart and seen my confidence and self-esteem grow like never before.
My personal and professional life has been flourishing for the past two and a half years. You would think it would be the opposite since I have this tube coming out of my stomach. But before I had my feeding tube, I was so thin that people thought I had anorexia. I have cystic fibrosis, which means I just have a really hard time gaining weight. Before receiving the feeding tube, no matter how hard I tried, I just kept losing weight. The feeding tube helped me put the weight back on, and then some! I no longer see my ribs when I look at myself in the mirror. It’s like I’m looking at a whole new me, and I love it!
Recently, I was talking with a middle-aged woman who was due to have a feeding tube placed in a few days. She was nervous about the procedure and she did not want to go through with it. We talked on the phone for several minutes about her reservations. Her perspective towards the surgery began to change when I opened up to her and told her I have a feeding tube myself. She began to tell me some of her fears. Friends had said things to her like, “Just eat more” or “You can still eat, why do you need a feeding tube?”
It’s clear feeding tubes are misunderstood. I even misunderstood them before I had one myself! What you need to know about feeding tubes is that they are a source of nutrition, not just food. Many people may be able to eat, but that doesn’t mean they are getting the nutrients their body needs from that food. For some people, like myself, they may not be able to eat enough, or at all, so the feeding tube is their sole source of nutrition. They may rely on it to get most of the nutrients they need or everything they need.
Think about it like this: Food + Water + Oxygen = Life. If you or someone you love wasn’t able to breathe enough oxygen, wouldn’t you want to do something to change that? Feeding tubes are what help us “tubies” get the nutrition and hydration (or “water” and “food”) we desperately need.
There are so many medical conditions out there that are invisible. When someone isn’t able to see that disease or condition, it can be difficult for them to understand why a feeding tube is necessary. This is why sharing stories and spreading awareness is so important! We need to make sure others know that feeding tubes are nothing to be afraid of; we need feeding tubes to be understood. So if you have a feeding tube yourself, consider sharing your story. And if you don’t have a feeding tube, take time to expand your knowledge and listen to someone who does. Let’s share the truth of what feeding tubes can do!
3 Feeding Tube Myths
You don’t need a feeding tube if you can eat
Some individuals need feeding tubes even if they can eat by mouth. If an individual’s body cannot process food properly, they may not be able to get adequate nutrition no matter how much they eat. That’s where a feeding tube comes in!
Feeding tubes get in the way of a “normal” life
Feeding tubes can give you the strength and energy to live your life the way you want to. Just take it from Jordan!
Feeding tubes are scary
This may be true at first but it doesn’t have to be forever! Talk to someone who has a feeding tube, learn more about this kind of nutrition, and it won’t seem so scary anymore.