It is someone who, has had the larynx or voice box surgically removed thus permanently losing the ability to make speech in the normal way.
Cancer of the larynx is one of the most curable of all cancers, being about 90% curable if discovered in time.
The larynx, at the top of the trachea (windpipe) is removed. An opening in the lower front part of the neck called a stoma is then joined to the lower trachea. They then breathe, cough, sneeze and 'blow the nose' through the opening in the neck.
However, they still eat and drink through the mouth as usual.
About 30 years ago, a means of using lung air was introduced. Surgically placing a valved prosthesis between trachea and esophagus (stomach pipe). By blocking the stoma with a finger, lung air is diverted to the upper trachea, it causes a vibration that is used to make a sound source. The voice is better sustained and speech phrasing is very similar to normal speech. This method is commonly called TEP speech.
For those that have had extensive surgery and other complications, the esophagus may be restricted or scarred and not able to vibrate. There are various Electro Larynxes available a compact hand held device that transfers the vibration.
Whilst this is usually a 'robotic' sound it is quite reliable form of communication.
As losing one's voice comes as a SEVERE SHOCK to the patient and their family. Even a person who is well prepared in advance with instruction and advice may feel despair. Only someone who has had the experience can fully appreciate and understand these feelings.
In response to this need, laryngectomees, with help of speech pathologists, formed clubs.
We are one of the clubs in Australia that can assist in overcoming obstacles and return to a normal life.
Founded in 1954 in response to a need, we became larger and smaller and larger but we never gave up on helping the Laryngectomee.
In time it became an Incorporated Association, it also showed another need as well, that members required help to obtain items that make life easier. A connection with overseas suppliers was made, bringing those supplies into Australia at a more reasonable price.
Some items are made by volunteers.
All items are available to patients in hospitals all over Australia, members and any that may require them.
Laryngectomees have lost the normal way of Speech. It has not changed the person they are. The Association is here to talk about their experiences and their solutions to make life better for patient, their family and friends.
More importantly we will listen and hear you.
Please remember we are all volunteers, so all advice is based on the members personal experience and not meant to replace your speech pathologist.