Meet Colin Baines, an engineer, pilot and gardener with a laryngectomy. He has shared his story of how using Atos products has helped him to live a better life after his surgery.
Life before his surgery
“My father said that I was a chatterbox. On reflection, I would claim that I was simply very curious. His riposte to my persistent questioning was to feign tiredness and doze in a chair, which gave me time to read ‘how it works’ books and experiment in our shed. I had success in investigating pressure at a depth in a fluid, but making a jet turbine out of a toilet paper tube proved beyond my resources. And on reflection, my impromptu flame thrower, whilst effective, should not have been tested inside the shed.
And so it was determined that I should become an engineer and eventually a lecturer in the discipline. As soon as I could afford it I learned to fly gliders and discovered the joy of remaining airborne for hours, buoyed up by thermal air currents, following soaring birds from one cloud to another.
Losing his voice
Following my retirement from education, I began to progressively lose my voice. I suppose, having relied on it for a living for so long, it just got worn out. A biopsy revealed a small growth on a vocal cord which eventually proved to be aggressively carcenomic. Following unsuccessful invasive and non-invasive therapies over a period of several years, my consultant finally advised that it would need to be surgically removed, along with my larynx. My only consolation was that, having been virtually silent for a long time, I could expect to emerge from the ordeal with some kind of voice (and hopefully, live a little longer).
True to form, I researched as much as I could about procedures and outcomes and one simple piece of advice, I suppose really relevant to any major surgical procedure, stays with me. That was to keep oneself in as good physical condition as possible. Fortunately, my otherwise good health permitted me to stay airborne and healthy exercise helped lift me from the anxiety of things to come.
If unavoidable, cold water is best entered as quickly as possible. The surgeon telephoned me one evening to inform me that he would be on leave for a couple of weeks and could undertake the procedure the next day, else I would have to wait at least another month. So, keen to minimise the risk of further complications, I jumped straight in.
I cannot express sufficient praise for my surgeon and the staff at Royal Surrey NHS Trust who patiently, firmly and professionally brought my traumatic experience to its successful conclusion. And of course, my wonderful wife Farah who has been my rock throughout.
After a total laryngectomy
Following the procedure, I was informed that for a couple of days I would feel as though I had been run over by a bus, but that subsequently, things would become progressively better – which thankfully they did. Further trauma was avoided as a tracheo-oesophagal puncture, performed during the procedure doubled at first to insert a feeding tube and later to fit a valve to facilitate speaking. The healing went well, so very soon I was able to speak clearly by occluding my stoma. Success!
That was in the autumn of 2016 and by the time things had settled down winter was upon us. I was alarmed that despite wearing layers of neck covering, my trachea became badly inflamed in cold dry air, but was consoled in that it could be remedied by regular use of a humidifier. That was to recur for several years, but thankfully it bothers me little now. Another problem to be overcome was my stubbornly shrinking stoma, which I was reassured would eventually be corrected through the persistent use of incrementally larger Lary Buttons.
A change in pace
Eating has become less of a challenge, but inevitably it precludes spontaneous conversation. On reflection I think maybe in my other life I had tended toward the garrulous, and in my enforced silences I have become aware that dinner table chatter is sometimes opinionated, or uninformed, or both. So I have learned to summarise what I have gleaned from the conversation at the end of each course. Which, if expressed diplomatically, sometimes provides a little entertainment, or alternatively invites a drubbing for my own crass remarks!
As for flight instruction, I soon found that my new voice, which although novel, presented few difficulties in communication, as Atos ‘ hands-free’ products permitted me to both fly an aeroplane and communicate simultaneously.
I recently met a man who had tested some prototype Atos equipment and was now singing in a choir. How about that?”
Disclaimer: This testimonial relates to how one individual has experienced the use of Provox Life™ products and not every person will get the same results. Atos Medical AB does not suggest, imply or make any claims other than those detailed in the product manual.