Meet Martin O’Donnell, an Atos Care patient, and read about his journey with a laryngectomy and how using Provox Life HMEs have 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. Cancer was confirmed by CT and MRI and biopsy proved it to be a stage 4a. 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.
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, and 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 and 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 pneumonias 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.
Living his life after a laryngectomy
However, I kept aspirating and making slow progress and it 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 Atos team 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.”
I became much more active and returned to golf and hillwalking , climbing ‘Snowdon’ in June 2016 and starting on regular visits to the Lakes. Despite using the Xtramoist or Xtraflow HMEs I found it difficult on steep inclines and 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 and agreed to try them but had to wait for the ‘stud’ to be approved. It’s been amazing as I find my level of activity has increased using the Provox Life Go HME during a routine day and sleep is great with the Provox Life Night HME. However, the biggest benefit was with the Provox Life Energy HME as I can use it on strenuous activity without the need to remove it. I also use the Provox Life Protect HME as it is more discrete 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 it’s 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!”