When Carmell Nesbitt first heard the City of Victoria is considering banning disposable straws, she immediately bought more from the store.
Nesbitt’s 37-year-old son Scott has cerebral palsy and a swallowing condition, so he can’t drink without plastic, bendable straws. His dysplasia can also make him aspirate fluid into his lungs. Without access to straws, Scott could become dehydrated.
“It’s kind of like when you have freezing done for dental work and you try to swallow but it drools all down your face. It’s like that all the time for him,” Nesbitt said. “Even with the straws, he still needs other people to hold his cup.”
They’ve tried everything.
“Because he doesn’t have the motor control, when he drinks out of a paper straw it squeezes too tight and it collapses, then the straw doesn’t work anymore. If he uses a hard straw, he can’t get a good suction on it and can’t get the fluid up,” she said.
At the suggestion of a friend, she bought reusable silicone straws, but Scott found they were still too thick to get proper suction. Other reusable straws, such as those made of metal, are too hard. The ones that don’t bend can’t stay in his mouth at all.
“It’s just disastrous,” Nesbitt said.
Scott lives in a group home, and goes out often to restaurants, especially to Tim Hortons for hot chocolate. He works twice a week, where he’ll eat lunch while at his job. He goes through six to eight straws a day, one with every meal and then every time he drinks between that.
“We always try to make sure we have straws with us and he brings them with him, but sometimes the supply runs out. He gets frustrated because it’s too hard to drink. He says no because he knows it’s going to make a mess and it’s embarrassing,” she said, adding that it also impacts his independence.
“I understand the issue of why they want to ban the straws for the environment,” she said. “However, before they do something like that, they really need to come up with another option that’s going to work for people like my son. I know there are some options, but there are still not enough good options available.”