When you return home from the hospital after total laryngectomy, taking care of your stoma may seem daunting. But the fact is, it gets easier with time. Soon, you may find that life is enjoyable again.
Coming home after a total laryngectomy is not easy. We understand that. But in time you will find that life is enjoyable again.
Did you know?
- You can reduce your coughing
- You can learn to use your voice again
- You can still enjoy scents and flavour
- You can enjoy life after a total laryngectomy
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Caring for your stoma gets easier by the day
When you come home from the hospital, taking care of your stoma may seem daunting. But the fact is, it gets easier with time. Soon, you may find that life is enjoyable again.
Your stoma leads directly to your lungs, so it is important to keep it covered. Use a heat and moisture exchanger (HME) all day and all night. It gives the air that you breathe heat and moisture. In this way, it does the job that your nose normally would.
Keep your stoma clean and free of mucus. Please ask your clinician for specific instructions on how to do this. Do not clean with anything that is small enough to fall in. Your little finger is a good guide to compare against the size of your stoma. As you are healing, your stoma may shrink. This is normal, but it should not become too small, because that could make you short of breath. If you think your stoma is becoming too small, please contact your clinician promptly. You may need a Provox LaryTube (a soft silicone tube) to keep your stoma open. Just like an adhesive, this holds your Provox HME so that you can use it around the clock.
Reduce coughing and mucus
When you cough after having a laryngectomy, mucus will come from your stoma instead of your mouth. We know this is frustrating but it will get easier with time. If you keep your Provox HME on at all times, mucus will be reduced.
The HME holds the heat and moisture when you breathe out, and adds it again as you breathe in. Because the laryngectomy disconnected your airways from your nose and mouth, this is no longer done automatically by your nose. That is why your lungs will produce more mucus if you don’t protect them.
If you do feel like coughing, remove your HME and cover your stoma with a tissue. Just like covering when coughing from the mouth, this protects both you and those around you. Sometimes, of course, there is no time. In that case, remove your HME and wipe it clean with a tissue. If the mucus gets inside the HME, you can just put on a new one. However, do not wash it, or it will stop working. After coughing, you should always wipe off mucus carefully, to make sure the adhesive does not loosen and so that your skin does not become irritated.
Learning to Use Your Voice
Our voices are what make us unique since they are our way of communicating thoughts and feelings.
The quickest and most natural way to regain your voice is speaking with a voice prosthesis. The prosthesis is placed in a new opening between your windpipe and your food tube. Your surgeon can perform this operation during your laryngectomy or later, once you are healed. Here is how it works: when you block your stoma, the air moves from your lungs through the prosthesis into your throat. The air makes the tissue at the back of your throat vibrate and produces sound.
There are more ways of learning to speak again, such as using an electrolarynx or esophageal speech.
Learning to smell and taste again
Enjoying flavors is an important part of having a meal. Your food will taste different without the air coming through your nose with the added scents. Tasting your food and smelling other fragrances is something you can learn again, it is just a matter of technique. Basically, it is like yawning with your mouth closed. The technique is called a ‘polite yawn’ and if you would like to learn more about it, please contact us.
If you use a voice prosthesis, you will probably soon be ready for speaking hands-free. We are happy to take that exciting step with you. When you are used to your Provox HMEs and your skin has healed enough to handle the best attachment, you should be able to speak well. Together with your clinician, you can decide when you want to try Provox FreeHands FlexiVoice, which allows you to speak hands-free with an HME.