Meet Martin

Martin O’Donnell is an Atos Care laryngectomy patient who has shared his experience of life after a laryngectomy and how Provox Life has helped to improve his quality of life.


“In August 2012 I noticed that I was coughing up small bits of muesli in the morning on my way to work after breakfast and becoming more breathless when playing squash. A small lump appeared on the left side of my neck, and I decided to get it checked out. The GP was reassuring but felt that I should see a consultant which I subsequently did. Cancer was confirmed by CT and MRI and biopsy proved it to be a stage 4a.

With the pathology suggesting aggressive cancer with a poor prognosis, I entered a trial and received the higher dose treatment arm for radiotherapy and chemotherapy over a shorter than normal period of time. I had an episode of severe sepsis requiring hospitalisation before beginning my ‘recovery’. I had Christmas dinner sitting at the table with my family but could only chew to ‘taste ‘ the food before spitting it out and having my liquid feed.


A temporary tracheostomy

Despite this, I slowly recovered but walking was difficult. We live near the sea and there is a flat promenade where I learnt to walk again. Initially from one lamp post to the next and gradually building it up. It took a lot of effort and determination to persevere. Golf was a great rescue as I could use a ‘buggy’ and be outdoors. Over the months and years that followed, I began ‘hillwalking’ with my wife and friends. I was doing quite well until midway through 2015 when I started to become more breathless.

I was having frequent chest infections and severe coughing bouts during eating. Due to recurrent pneumonia and increasing difficulties I had to be admitted to Hospital where despite high dose steroids and nebulised adrenaline the only option was for a temporary Tracheostomy. This was done with hopes of reversal and didn’t present too many problems as speech could be maintained by occluding the stoma. At that time, I used the shorter fenestrated tracheostomy tubes with neckties. It required regular cleaning and good hygiene.


After a total laryngectomy

However, I kept aspirating and making slow progress. It soon became clear that my only option was to consider a permanent Laryngectomy. This was done in March 2016 and after a long stay, waiting on a fistula to close, I slowly returned to walking and golf. At this time, I was using adhesive baseplates and HMEs. Unfortunately, my skin reacted with bad contact dermatitis. The team at Atos suggested several approaches using cleansers and barrier creams with change to the ‘sensitive: adhesive plates. Despite this, I had to use a Laryngectomy tube with ties, periodically in order to let my skin settle. I received a suggestion to try using a button ‘stud’ which after the correct measurement and fitting has totally removed any skin problem.


Using Provox Life for better breathing

I became much more active and returned to golf and hillwalking such as climbing ‘Snowdon’ in June 2016 and starting on regular visits to the Lakes. Despite using the Xtramoist or Xtraflow HMEs I found it difficult to breathe on steep inclines.  I would often have to remove the HME in order to recover. The advent of COVID meant a lot more staying at home but the ‘micron’ HME added reassurance when meeting people.  But, it was too bulky and hard to stay in place with a ‘stud’.

I got contacted about the new ‘Provox Life’ range.  So, I agreed to try them but had to wait for the ‘stud’ to be approved. It’s been amazing. I find my level of activity has increased using the Provox Life Go HME during a routine day. Plus, I sleep great with the Provox Life Night HME. However, the biggest benefit was with the Provox Life Energy HME! I can use it on strenuous activities without the need to remove it.  The Provox Life Protect HME  is also more discrete when using and adds to confidence when socializing. I did a couple of smaller climbs locally before returning to the ‘Lakes’ to tackle Blencathra (Saddleback). I was able to get to the top of its 2,848 feet despite a drop in temperature to minus 2 and strong winds.

Take a look at my photo on top of Blencathra with my new Provox Life Energy HME in place!

Having come from the low of the cancer diagnosis, through the tough treatments, I feel grateful to be able to stand on top of the world and enjoy life!” – Martin

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.