“It honestly changed our lives”: helping people of all ages with swallowing

Senior Speech Pathologist Danielle Surwald assessing baby Kenza Pranskunas’ ‘suck:swallow:breathe’ coordination, as her father Zac offers a bottle feed.

Swallowing is one of the most important yet overlooked functions of the human body.

That’s why today, 17 March 2021, Peninsula Health is actively promoting Swallowing Awareness Day.

“A swallowing problem can occur at any stage of life,” says Peninsula Health Senior Speech Pathologist (Children’s Team), Danielle Surwald.

“Most Australians are unaware of how difficulties with swallowing can be frightening and life threatening.”

“Swallowing Awareness Day is an opportunity for all of us to learn more about swallowing difficulties and how they impact on the lives around us.”

The theme for this year’s Swallowing Awareness Day is: ‘Dysphagia. A difficult diagnosis to swallow!’ Dysphagia broadly refers to any problem with sucking, swallowing, drinking, chewing, eating, controlling saliva, taking medication, or protecting the lungs from food and drink ‘going the wrong way’.

Fortunately, Peninsula Health has a large team of dedicated Speech Pathologists who work closely with people of all ages suffering from the condition.

Impacting people of all ages

Having difficulty swallowing is not something that only affects adults. It can also affect babies – even only weeks old – which can hinder their ability to feed.

Take baby Kenza, for example. Kenza was admitted to hospital at just six weeks old, after she was having serious feeding issues which affected her weight gain.

Following some initial tests, Kenza began speech pathology sessions with Danielle at Frankston Hospital alongside her parents, Raquel Burgess and Zac Pranskunas.

“Danielle examined Kenza’s feeding, listened to her suckling, breathing and swallowing,” explains Raquel.

“Within 20 minutes of our first consultation, Danielle’s advice and instructions led to instant results as Kenza fed without coughing and choking for the first time in weeks.”

“It honestly changed our lives and we can’t thank Danielle and the team at Peninsula Health enough for their help.”

Helping parents like Raquel and Zac is something Danielle does on a daily basis. She cares for babies and children in our Special Care Nursery and Children’s Ward, working closely with families to develop an individualised plan to support feeding and swallowing.

“Working with young children and their parents is something I really enjoy,” says Danielle.

“If feeding isn’t going to plan, it can cause parents a lot of stress or anxiety. But if you can guide them through the process and turn it all around, you can really make a difference to their daily lives.”

“Being a part of that journey is very rewarding.”

Zac Pranskunas and Raquel Burgess consulting with Danielle Surwald about baby Kenza.

How to find out more 

To find out more about Peninsula Health’s services, please visit the Speech Pathology page on our website.

You can learn more about our Adult Services, including information on our clinics and referrals, here.

You can learn more about our Children’s Services, including information on our clinics and referrals, here.

If you have a baby who is having difficult with feeding and swallowing, please speak with your General Practitioner, Paediatric physician or mMaternal & Child Health Nurse.