Cough Assist


So, I went to my 3 monthly MND clinic appointment last Monday. I have had 3 courses of antibiotics for chest infections since Christmas and so I was interested to see what the team thought was the next step. Do I go on antibiotics full time or is there something else?

They thought I should put Audrey back in business part time – get my calories via the PEG tube and “eat for pleasure” – which basically means eating lots of chocolate puddings.

My MND nurse, Rachael, is a brilliant advocate for me; she got straight on the phone to the ventilation unit at the Churchill Hospital and asked if they could see me today – they ended up seeing me straight away.  So we popped into the Churchill after the appointment.  I went straight in to see the physio and they took the usual measurements – my cough was stronger than last time and they gave me a new gadget – a Cough Assist.

It is basically a fancy pump that pumps air into your lunge to inflate them – and then switches to sucking – to help you do a big cough. It feels like your lungs have been hoovered –  in a nice way – leaves them feeling really clear.

Ben tried it and he said it reminded him of the Scream Extractor from Monster Inc. So that’s its new name – or SE for short.

The NHS is fabulous – everyone we meet is so keen to help, solve issues and make this journey more comfortable.

Over the last week – I have been coughing less. I use the Scream Extractor twice a day and it keeps things clear. I haven’t coughed all night since using it, much to Julia’s relief.

It also allows me to take some risks and eat blended food now and again – Saturday the lads from the neighbourhood got together, ordered an Indian take away and blended mine.  The beer messed up my voice but it was worth it. A brilliant evening. Mike even did the hot towels!

If you are in to praying – please pray that I’ll not get any more chest infections or coughs.

50 shades of brown; adventures with blending



If you mix all the parts of a home-cooked meal together they will inevitable look brown. To make brown you mix a primary with its complementary colour, for example blue and orange or red and green. There’s no going back; once it’s brown it can’t go back, just change shade.

We set out on a voyage of discovery, using three different kinds of blender; the hand-held, the mini and the juicer. After a week on tube feeds Mike would have eaten anything, so he was happy to try everything, which is just as well because there’s no hiding it; some of the food ended up looking like it had been eaten once already.

In celebration of Mike putting Audrey into semi-retirement our lovely neighbours, Chris and Baerbel, threw a “Will It Blend” event for him. The usual suspects all turned up (we are blessed with a fantastic group of friends in The Square) and the blending commenced!

Baerbel, our talented and welcoming host.


On the left, Sag Aloo (homemade with fragrant potatoes with spinach, cumin, garam masala, garlic, onion and other yummy ingredients). We added some of the juice from the cauliflower curry after our first attempt because it did not blend. Not at all. The end result was fair although the spinach was resistant to anything more than wrapping itself round the blades.

On the right is Baerbel’s wonderful chicken curry. It blended beautifully and although it resembled something which should never be mentioned at the dinner table a little coriander garnish and it looked fine.

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Of course, it’s never going to look as attractive as Karen’s un-blended plate, and we drew the line at trying naan and samosas.

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Sarah added some well-cooked basmati rice and cauliflower curry, which was very soft, and Mike tucked in!

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Mike and his buddies enjoy a moment of male bonding over the lovely curry and a choking episode on an onion bargee.

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Blending all of Mike’s meals soon became routine; our biggest problem was getting whoever was on the washing up rota to stop ignoring the blender.

Tesco Pepperoni Ready Meal blended well but needed some extra pasta sauce. I keep a jar in the fridge and just slosh some extra in if it’s looking a bit too stodgy.



Tinned peaches in syrup with fresh mango. Even ripe, the mango didn’t blend until the tinned peaches and syrup were added.

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Spaghetti Bolognese with a “garnish” of peas and some pasta sauce which had been warmed up.

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Macaroni cheese blends really well and doesn’t need anything added to make it a good consistency. With some parmesan and black pepper it looked OK and tasted lovely.

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Spaghetti with meatballs was not great when blended and needed a lot of extra sauce to make it wet enough to swallow.

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Gauging how much sauce or gravy to add to the meat element of a meal is an art; too much and it looks like wet brown cement. Too little and it looks like tree bark.


Hunter’s Chicken.Pretty gross unfortunately.

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Ham hock with mustard sauce, mashed potato, cabbage and carrots combined. While this looks quite disgusting it was a great success.


Chicken casserole has got to be the most successful meal when it comes to appearance; it was helped by being cooked slowly so the carrots were extremely soft.

5 Chicken caserole

Spaghetti Carbonara blended very easily and although it looked like cold Ready Brek tasted lovely. Apparently.

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This is what roast chicken, mash and veg looks like. More green than brown really.

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So on to the blenders…………

The hand held blender was pretty rubbish when it came to large volumes, leaving chunks in the bottom of the jug. The smoothie maker sometimes struggled with pasta and chicken and was a beast to clean as food gets under the seal and the seal is tricky to remove. The Kenwood Mini comes out top as it blends well and is the easiest to clean although it took a few tries (and swears) to work out how to click it into place on the base. It’s perfect for blending each part of the meal separately but as it’s quite small you’d struggle if you wanted to blend the entire plate full in one go.

So for now we’ve settled into a routine of cooking and blending and Mike has decided to lay off the Hoola Hoops to see if this stops his persistent cough.