- By Dana Sparks
Helping Others Heal: Giving them their voice
Today, about 60,000 Americans have had their larynx removed due to disease or trauma. These people are missing out on many of life's little pleasures because the procedure's resultant hole left them without a voice and created an opening directly into their lungs. A simple shower is dangerous as even the slightest amount of water in the lungs can be deadly. Bad weather can be lethal. Things that used to be a mere annoyance — such as a housefly — are now life-threatening.
It's not overstating it to say that danger lurks everywhere after a laryngectomy. And just at the time you need extra support, your ability to communicate is greatly impaired. A simple interaction with a store clerk is frustrating and can deliver looks of horror and pity.
As an ear, nose and throat specialist at Mayo Clinic, Dr. David Lott, has seen laryngectomies impair too many lives.
"I'm tired of seeing patients over and over and knowing there's nothing to do," he says. Some patients become so hopeless in the face of a laryngectomy that they forgo the procedure, opting for certain death over such deeply impaired living.
Dr. Lott wants to restore hope for these people. And with the latest breakthroughs in transplant and regenerative medicine, he knows how.
The first strategy
Dr. Lott and his team at Mayo Clinic are a step ahead of the rest of the nation in giving people without a larynx new options.
Their first strategy is larynx transplant.
The procedure has only been performed three times in countries with advanced medicine.