Pneumonia after surgery led to permanent use of a peg tube

For me, pneumonia after surgery didn’t come right away. It was about 7-8 years after, that I had my first encounter with pneumonia.

Even though such a long time had passed, there’s no doubt it was a result of the surgery.

My very alert primary care nurse practitioner was the first one to suspect that the operation had damaged the valve in my esophagus that closes the passage way to my lungs when swallowing food.

She ordered a video x-ray of my throat and I had to drink and eat some food while the video was running. We were able to watch on a screen and I definitely saw that tiny amounts of food and drink made its way into my lungs. Not Good!

I do realize that saying "pneumonia after surgery" would make you think I am talking about immediately after surgery. That wasn’t the case with me, although it does often happen to patients. You could call it "hospital pneumonia" and it's common.

Here’s how pneumonia after surgery happened with me

My surgery (1990) was a bilateral radical neck dissection including oral surgery to remove tumors in my mouth. A tracheotomy was performed by a surgical incision through my neck directly into my windpipe in order to allow me to breath. Some how, between the operation and the tracheotomy, the valve that opens and closes the airway to my lungs was slightly damaged.

I always knew something was wrong with my throat, but what could I do? The doctors told my I’d probably have swallowing problems and I did.

For most people, pneumonia so long after the surgery is probably not the norm, but in my experiences I can see that if it does occur, it’s more likely to come immediately after and for different reasons, especially while a person is in the hospital and in a broke down condition.

It took quite a few years before pneumonia hit me and I’ll tell you why I believe it took so long.

As I already mentioned, the valve that opens and closes the airway to my lungs was slightly damaged. What nobody knew is that small particles of food were entering my lungs every time I ate or drank. In time, this caused infection, resulting in pneumonia after surgery. Although it did not occur immediately after surgery, it was caused BY the valve damage done in the surgery.

The interesting thing is that for all those number of years that I didn’t have any symptoms of pneumonia, at all. I was eating a well PH balanced whole foods meal, three times a day, without fail. The proper balance in my body created an environment where infection can not survive.

No infection …No pneumonia!

Then life happened. My wonderful wife who had prepared all those wholesome meals for me for all those years now had to take a job (as if she wasn’t already working enough). So we stopped being so strict about our diets. With me working full time and her also in the workplace, there wasn’t much time to prepare foods.

So we ate in restaurants (some fast foods) and quick "whatever" meals prepared at home.

It wasn’t long after this that I had my first bout with pneumonia after surgery, in fact, my first bout ever!

As far as the symptoms of pneumonia, I don't recall anything specific. It just remember going to the emergency room for various reasons, seemingly unrelated, and then being admitted to the hospital. After performing certain tests, sometimes a day or so later, I would be told I have pneumonia.

I remember one chest x-ray that a mass showed up in my lung. They thought it might be cancer and I was greatly relieved to find out it was food and not cancer.

Pneumonia now became a recurring event in my life every 1-2 or 3 years. It began taking its toll on my lungs, leaving me with emphysema. I was quite tired of all the antibiotics for pneumonia and spending time recovering from pneumonia.

I'm so glad my primary care nurse thought it would be a good idea to have a video x-ray done and have a specialist look at it. This is when it was discovered that food was entering my lungs.

It was this food that was causing infection. This never happened for all those 7-8 years that I ate a well balanced diet. My doctor then gave me two options.

One was a method of tightening the muscles in my throat while swallowing my food, which I found near impossible to do.

The second option was to reinstall a feeding tube in my stomach. Knowing the pneumonia was destroying my lungs, to me this was a …`no brainer`.

I chose the Peg Tube

Over the years I have sometimes used the Osmolite and Ensure which is provided through my healthcare system. This usually, sooner or later, results in problems, such as diarrhea, bloating and inflammation.

So for my health, I prepare my own foods from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, chicken (without the antibiotics and hormones) and fish. I use Aloe Vera juice or goat milk to puree it in the blender. It’s then ready to use in my Peg Tube.

I have gone on a trip for a week or two where it was difficult to tube feed. I did cheat and drink a lot of Ensure through my mouth … and guess what I ended up dealing with pneumonia again.

I’M DONE! I’M DONE! …I’VE HAD ENOUGH! With all that is in my control, I will not experience this "pneumonia after surgery" again.

I'm not saying I won't go on a trip, 'cause I will! I just gotta plan better and carry my blender along with me.

The best choice is whole, nutritious foods through my tube and whole food supplements as needed.

If you find yourself faced with any pneumonia after surgery, I hope this will urge you to get on the path to a healthier lifestyle. It is one thing we can control.

Remember, our health is a valuable asset.

Links related to Pneumonia After Surgery
Peg Tube (Feeding Tube)
Christmas Encouragement

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Hi! My name is Nick and I’m 56 yrs. old and this is part of my story. Let me tell you, I was like a lot of people out there and I had no idea that skin cancer was anything bad. I had Basal cell back in 2007, but that was no big deal and it was removed and that was the end of that. No one told me that it was a type of skin cancer (I looked it up on my computer). But still no big deal, it would not kill me.
But I did know the word "Melanoma"....." --by Nick

Read more of Nick's Story

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Our Cancer Stories are so similar, mine and Gary's! - by Valerie  

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