Health Care Staff: Jennifer Eggert

Health Care Heroes

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Jennifer Eggert
Speech pathologist
Milwaukee Center for Independence- Children’s Center

Jennifer Eggert
Jennifer Eggert

Doctors told seven-year-old Joshua Turner that he would never be able to eat on his own. He was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis when he was just four. The disease manifests when food allergies and acid reflux cause a buildup of white blood cells in the esophagus, making it difficult to eat or even swallow.

With the help of Jennifer Eggert, a children’s speech-language therapist at Milwaukee Center for Independence, Turner has made great progress and is now attending MCFI’s School for Early Development and Achievement, where he learns, socializes and even drinks chocolate milk with other children.

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“When we started with him, he could barely tolerate being in the same room with food,” she said. “He developed negative feelings about eating.”

Turner started receiving services through MCFI’s Pediatric Skilled Nursing program, a service for children with profound medical conditions.

Thanks to Eggert’s work, Turner can now attend the School for Early Development and Achievement, a public charter school through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that welcomes students with and without special needs in a fully inclusive environment.

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Eggert worked with Turner and a medical team to first determine which foods he could tolerate and then gradually conditioned him to first touch and then taste the foods.

They introduced new foods by having Turner talk about food, identify the smell of certain foods, and paint with foods like applesauce or pudding.

Now he touches and tastes food on his own and is learning how to bite and chew as Eggert works with him on strengthening his jaw and tongue.

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They are on track to add more foods back into his diet.

Eggert is one of only five speech pathologists in the Milwaukee area certified to use VitalStim therapy. The process uses electrical currents to stimulate muscles that facilitate swallowing.

Turner is just one of many children with speech impairments and swallowing disorders whom Eggert has helped throughout her career at MCFI.

In 2013, the Wisconsin Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Association named her the Speech-Language Pathologist of the year.

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