A persistent cough, consistent voice hoarseness and a congested feeling in his chest motivated Charles B. to schedule a visit with his family doctor. After two prescription cough suppressants were ineffective, Charles decided to raise his concerns with his cardiologist. “I had a heart attack in 2009, and I stopped smoking that day. My cardiologist had become a trusted source of advice. During a routine appointment, I discussed my cough and voice loss with him. My cardiologist suggested I get a chest x-ray to see if we could find some answers,” Charles recalls.
Following the imaging testing, a spot was detected on Charles’ left lung.;
His family doctor whom Charles has seen for over 30 years referred Charles to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “My doctor said Fox Chase offered many specially-trained doctors who would be skilled to help me. My wife, Dianne, and I went to Fox Chase and more testing followed,” Charles says.
Through a nurse navigator Charles was matched to a specialist at Fox Chase.
Charles’ care was being managed by Ranee Mehra, MD, Chief of Head and Neck Hematology/Oncology at Fox Chase.
“Dr. Mehra suggested chemotherapy and I was very compliant. But, in between my chemotherapy sessions, I raised another issue to her that was on my mind: I wanted to fix my voice. I had no voice; I couldn’t answer the phone, socialize or interact with people. It gets you down not being able to communicate. That’s when Dr. Mehra said ‘We can fix that.’”
Dr. Mehra told Charles that Ahmed M. Soliman, MD of the Temple Head & Neck Institute was a specialist whose practice focused on voice, airway, and swallowing problems. “When Dr. Mehra told me there was a specialist within the Temple Health system, I felt this wave of relief. I didn’t want to keep running around. I was battling lung cancer, in the midst of chemotherapy and I was getting more and more frustrated by losing my speaking voice. The staff at Fox Chase took care of setting up the appointment, and it was both convenient and so comforting,” shares Charles.
During the initial appointment with Dr. Soliman, Charles said he told Dr. Soliman how he had become increasingly frustrated with his voice loss and how it was getting him down, especially his spirits. He confessed it was hard to remain positive through his cancer treatment, when he could not speak to those close to him. “Dr. Soliman said I was a candidate for surgery, he said he knew the source of my problem and he could fix the problem. For the first time in about six months, I was hearing encouraging news,” Charles shares.
Dr. Soliman explained that due to his lung cancer, the mass was putting pressure on the nerve that connected to a vocal cord and was causing it to not move. This was causing Charles’ voice loss.
In September 2015, Dr. Soliman used a vocal fold implant to repair Charles' paralyzed vocal fold. In the operating room, what happened next was nothing short of astounding. “Dr. Soliman gave me a gentle pat, and said ‘Mr. Bachman, you are going to be OK.’ And, I said back ‘Great.’ I couldn’t believe I was able to speak and it sure surprised the medical team who was in that room. They all looked so surprised! I had my voice back and what a feeling that was. To this day it still makes me so happy,” Charles continued.
Charles said that since that moment his speaking voice has been restored to its full diction, tone and strength. “My wife’s friends call on the phone and they almost don’t believe it’s me,” he says.
Charles said he wants to express his gratitude to Dr. Soliman. “I really don’t have the words to tell this doctor how he gave me back part of my life. It’s sad, day to day, to live without a voice. Now, I have that part of my life back. I am glad I brought up the concern to my Fox Chase doctor. I would have never met Dr. Soliman otherwise. Temple Health’s network of specialists is there to help patients,” Charles says.
Charles, 71, is retired from his work as a systems analyst. “I am still on chemotherapy for my lung cancer and I am also being treated at Fox Chase for another tumor in my abdomen. I try and stay positive and listen to what the doctors tell me. I know that I am doing better because I have my voice back. Thank you, Dr. Soliman for allowing me to speak again.”