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Powering home healthcare: Enteral feeding innovation is allowing one young boy to live a fuller life

Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions plays an instrumental role in providing patients and caregivers critical tools they need for care in-the-home. This article is part of an ongoing series on the innovations, products and services the business delivers directly to patients’ doorsteps on behalf of its 5 million customers nationwide.

Enteral tube feeding (ETF) can be complex, especially for those just starting out. According to the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.)[1], ETF is a way to deliver nutrition and/or hydration to someone who cannot maintain a nourished state through an oral diet alone. Some people may be born needing ETF or end up needing it later in life. And some may need it their entire lives, whereas others may grow out of that need. If short-term nutritional support is needed, a feeding tube is inserted through the nose into the stomach or small intestine. If the need is longer-term, the feeding tube is inserted directly into the stomach or small intestine from the abdomen.

Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions, a leading provider of medical supplies, delivers critical products to patients every day, including supplies needed for home tube feeding like enteral feeding pumps and nutrition.

“We ship more than 88,000 packages to patients every day – and that number is increasing as we see a growing trend in healthcare shifting to the home, an aging population and more innovations that are making home management of certain conditions more accessible than ever before,” said Rob Schlissberg, president, Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions.

In this story, we sit down with the parents of one of those patients to hear how home care delivery and recent innovations allow them to live more freely and adventurously.

When California-based Mikey Pizzo was two months old, he and his mom, Christina Pizzo (a registered nurse), were dropping his big sister, Olivia, off at school when the unthinkable happened: Mikey went into cardiac arrest. Though he was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, Mikey went more than 45 minutes without a pulse; he suffered a brain injury as a result and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He has limited vision and mobility.

Five years later, the Pizzos still don’t know what caused the incident. But today, Mikey is a happy five-year-old who loves laughing with his sister.  He can walk with assistance, does horse therapy and loves to swim. The Pizzos take advantage of giving him experiences that will help him feel new types of movement.

“We just took him to Disneyland for the first time – he loved the teacup ride,” Christina Pizzo said. “He just smiles so big when he gets to try something new.”

Because he has trouble swallowing, Mikey has been enteral feeding since going into cardiac arrest. Once Mikey was old enough to digest it, his family began giving him a homemade blenderized diet, which is pureed food that’s administered directly into the feeding tube.

When Mikey started out, Christina Pizzo began with basic recipes – like bone broth with rice and chicken. Today, she brings in more adventurous ingredients – like bison – and creative seasonings so Mikey can experience new tastes. (Some patients may even be able to taste these foods, even though the nutrition is not delivered orally, according to the Oley Foundation.) Christina Pizzo works closely with her son’s dietitian to ensure the blends she’s making meet his dietary needs but treats Mikey’s meal prep just like they do their own meals.

“Feeding kids is part of the fun experience of being a parent and watching your kids grow – we approach Mikey’s meals just in the same way we pack Olivia’s lunch for school,” Mikey’s dad, Michael Pizzo, said. “At the end of the day, it’s just feeding your kid – and that’s the mindset we live by.”

The Pizzos began using Cardinal Health’s Kangaroo™ OMNI pump, the newest pump in the Cardinal Health Brand portfolio. It is one of the first pumps on the market to specialize in and accurately (+10%) administer thick, blenderized formulas. The Pizzo family says this new pump has been a game-changer for Mikey as he’s started school. Because the pump is programmable, the Pizzos load everything into the pump Mikey will need before he leaves for school, so his teachers simply turn it on at the correct time. The Kangaroo OMNI, they say, is also more travel friendly than pumps they’ve used previously.

And they travel often – whether for fun or for Mikey’s specialty doctor’s appointments. On-the-go, they rely on travel-friendly enteral nutrition brands that offer pre-packaged blends.

Cardinal Health™ at-Home, a division of Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions, delivers the Kangaroo OMNI and other enteral feeding devices, supplies and nutrition, including pre-packaged blends, directly to patients’ homes on behalf of its customers, who are home medical equipment providers and home health and hospice agencies located around the country. Because the business has warehouses strategically located across the country, in most cases, it can get products to patients in less than two days.

“The speed in which we can deliver packages to patients’ homes matters – these are critical supplies that people need to maintain their health and wellbeing,” Schlissberg said. “That’s why, within Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions, we often say when we touch a package, we’re touching a patient’s life. The role we play in ensuring patients are getting the supplies they need is something we take very seriously.”

“One of the hardest and scariest parts of our life is the dependence on day-to-day medical equipment,” Michael Pizzo said. “Anyone with a prescription that they take daily can relate to the importance of having that prescription come on time. When you consider that in context of a person that can’t drink any water, consume any calories or take medications without medical supplies, the stakes are much higher. Having the supplies we need, showing up as scheduled to our door, it is a huge relief.”

Mikey’s parents say that new innovations that meet evolving patient needs are also integral to living a freer, more normal life.

“We don’t want Mikey’s feeding needs to limit him,” Michael Pizzo said. “We have a lot of exciting adventures planned, and because of what’s available to him now, we’re comfortable bringing him along. I just want to help Mikey be his best, whatever that looks like. We want to give him the same experiences as everyone else.”

Schlissberg added, “Our work is especially meaningful for us when we hear about people like Mikey. We select products for our portfolio that can help patients and caregivers live freer and more comfortable lives, despite their conditions. We are dedicated to finding new solutions that meet patient needs in deeply impactful ways.”

Home health and hospice agencies, HMEs and providers can learn more about Cardinal Health at-Home and its different offerings here.

Editor’s note: To help increase awareness and inclusion of people who have special feeding needs, the couple began a website and Instagram channel that help answer questions they get about how Mikey eats.

1 A.S.P.E.N. Board of Directors and the Clinical Guidelines Task Force. Guidelines for the use of parenteral and enteral nutrition in adult and pediatric patients. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2002;26(Suppl):1SA-138SA. Errata 2002;26:144

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