Restoring Voices in Costa Rica Medical care is free in Costa Rica, but many laryngectomy patients never speak again because they lack the means to pay for an artificial larynx and have not mastered esophageal speech. During an April 2008 visit to Costa Rica, Jack Henslee, president of the California Association of Laryngectomees, found that ... First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   November 01, 2009
Restoring Voices in Costa Rica
Author Notes
  • Barbara Dabul, PhD, CCC-SLP, has been involved with several California laryngectomee clubs as well as the California Association of Laryngectomees. Contact her at bldabul@yahoo.com.
    Barbara Dabul, PhD, CCC-SLP, has been involved with several California laryngectomee clubs as well as the California Association of Laryngectomees. Contact her at bldabul@yahoo.com.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Voice Disorders / International & Global / Speech, Voice & Prosody / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   November 01, 2009
Restoring Voices in Costa Rica
The ASHA Leader, November 2009, Vol. 14, 47. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.14142009.47
The ASHA Leader, November 2009, Vol. 14, 47. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.14142009.47
Medical care is free in Costa Rica, but many laryngectomy patients never speak again because they lack the means to pay for an artificial larynx and have not mastered esophageal speech. During an April 2008 visit to Costa Rica, Jack Henslee, president of the California Association of Laryngectomees, found that five of nine members of a local laryngectomy club had no means of communication other than writing or self-invented gestures.
The visit left Jack determined to return to Costa Rica with electrolarynges for all members of the club, Association de Laringectomzados de Costa Rica (ALARCORI). His goal was to teach them how to use the artificial larynges effectively and to offer suggestions on funding the purchase of the devices in their own country. I am a bilingual speech-language pathologist with 40 years of experience working with laryngectomees, and he asked me to join him.
The November 2008 project, “Voices Restored—Costa Rica,” was my first international volunteer experience as an SLP. We distributed more than $20,000 worth of donated supplies, including Spanish-language instructional tapes for esophageal speech, DVDs for the use of artificial larynges, foam stoma covers, and written instructions for effective communication. We taught club participants how to use electrolarynges, and provided moral support and financial ideas. Sixteen club members now have new voices! They supported and learned from one another throughout the week. One woman took home a stoma cover, made a pattern from it, and returned the next day with covers for all the club members.
But the international service project, which included a conference at a local hospital, was not without logistical hurdles. Each day’s conference schedule was tentative and under constant revision. Add to this the language barrier and our failure to locate a professional interpreter, and the challenges were many. The medical facility, however, had an excellent audiovisual technician and a staff member who assisted us with typing, copying, and translating.
On the final day of the weeklong conference, the laryngectomee club members wanted to take us to lunch. We chose a restaurant and arranged carpools, and although one car arrived an hour late, everyone finally met up for the farewell luncheon. It was heartwarming to restore voices to people living in Costa Rica. Jack also has shipped numerous devices to Peru, and we have been invited to return to Costa Rica.
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November 2009
Volume 14, Issue 14