DURHAM, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Tucker Sastamoine would go as long as a month without eating food, not because he didn't want to, but because of problems with his gastrointestinal system and an energy deficiency.
The 9-year-old, who is also on the autism spectrum, has had a long list of medical conditions thrown his way since he was 16-months-old that are far beyond his ability to understand. What he does understand is that his lack of energy made eating difficult and often resulted in vomiting, which gave food a bad association.
"A couple times a year he would go about 30 days without food. It would be consecutive, his guts would shut down," said his mother, Kelly Martineau.
Tucker had to have a feeding tube put in through a port in his stomach to get the nutrients and medication he needed. He also had several iron infusions to help with his energy deficiency. Once that improved, doctors were able to brain storm ways to get him to eat food without the assistance of his feeding tube. They decided that the feeding clinic at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia was the best option.
"For Tucker, part of the experience was learning how to accept and process and manage different types and textures of foods," said Feeding Disorders Program Director at Marcus, Dr. William Sharp.
After two months at the program, Tucker was able to eat 16 different foods from each food group. What worked was giving him food individually and rewarding Tucker for every successful bite and swallow according to his mother. A timed dinner that they've continued at home, eliminating the use of his feeding tube since they've left Atlanta.
Doctors say that if Tucker is able to go without using his feeding tube for a one year, he'll be able to have it taken out.