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Health Team

New device helps patients communicate

Posted May 8, 2015

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— Many people wake up in a hospital and find out they cannot breathe on their own, but a new FDA-approved device helps to restore a person's ability to communicate.

August Stoke, 54, has spent the last 45 days in the hospital. He came to Duke Raleigh with throat cancer but developed a rare bacterial lung infection called necrotizing pneumonia.

"This led to global lung failure, which then required him to be on a ventilator," said Dr. Eric Reyer, a critical care physician with Duke Hospital.

Reyer said the ventilator works through an opening in the neck, helping Stoke to breathe. However, the tracheostomy tube bypasses the vocal folds and the patient cannot speak.

"I count my blessings every day, but it is rough," Stoke said.

Because of a new trach tube, Stoke can speak. Just like the standard tubes, the balloon cuff regulates the flow of oxygen in and out of the lungs.

According to Reyer, the difference is a small opening above the cuff.

"It allows us to both suction the patient as well as put that air in that goes up and over the vocal chords to have them vibrate," he said.

When Stoke wants to speak, he holds his thumb over a small port hole.

Meanwhile, speech pathologist, Gena Farris is helping him practice his speech.

"He is getting stronger every day, and that is what he needs to do to practice to get the coordination down," Farris said.

Reyer said Stock's recovery and rehabilitation will take a while.

Duke Raleigh is currently the only hospital in the state to offer the new FDA-approved device.

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