Internet Laryngectomee Support
January 2001

Surgeon in a Hurry

    In India, they are called the "unlucky ones."  These are individuals who are disfigured by cleft lips and palates, severe facial blemishes, scars, droopy eyelids and squints, or other deformities.  They are considered  unsuitable for marriage except to one another.  And two million more babies are born each year in India with facial abnormalities.

    A remarkable plastic surgeon, who happens to be a laryngectomee, has stepped forward to offer help to as many of the "unlucky ones" as he can in the time he has left.  He is Dr. Sharadkumar Dicksheet of Brooklyn, New York.  Born in India, 70 year old Dr. Dicksheet completed his surgical residency in the United States and went on to practice medicine as an ophthalmologist and plastic surgeon.

    In 1978, while practicing medicine in Alaska, he was involved in an automobile accident.  It paralyzed his right side, and he must rely on a wheelchair and cane.  In 1982, he was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. Radiation failed to stop it, and he had to have his larynx removed.  Despite two subsequent heart attacks and triple bypass surgery, he continues his work at an incredible pace.

    The number constantly changes, but he has performed more than 46,000 free operations in India in the last 30 years.  He spends five to six months there each year conducting what are called "surgical camps."  In a good year there will be 30 or more of these camps which are held in various locations in India.  They are set up in isolated regions of India to serve the poor. 

    "If a poor man is born with a deformity, he is scarred for life," says Dicksheet.  Since such an individual cannot afford the cost of the surgery, ". . . he can't get a job, he can't get married, and he loses his confidence."  Dr. Dicksheet has also persuaded a number of other American surgeons and medical personnel to join him in the surgical camps to change this circumstance for as many of these individuals as possible.

    He performs surgical procedures so fast that he is videotaped so that other surgeons can watch his technique in slow motion.  He no longer practices in the U.S. because he is considered to be too disabled.  You would never know that to watch him work in India.  Because of his heart attacks, his heart only functions at less than 20% of normal.  But he is driven to continue his work.  He often performs 40 surgeries in less than 6 hours in an operating room which resembles an assembly line.

    Dr. Dicksheet won the "Man of the Year" award in 1999 from The Week magazine in India.  He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Raoul Wallenberg Prize, and many others.

    When asked on a recent trip to India why he was there, he replied, "I am, you could say, pushing my luck.  But that is exactly why I am here.  To push my luck and the frontiers of endurance and do what I see as my duty, my job."  "I work because I consider work as worship of God."

(Information came from The Economic Times of India, The Week, Rediff Roundup.  Photographs from The Week)

Laryngectomee Anti-Tobacco Speaker Receives Grant

    Laryngectomee and anti-tobacco speaker Nancy Davis-Walker recently received a $50,000 grant to bring her message to 15,000 school children in 25 locations throughout her home state of Montana next year, according to an article in the December 3, 2000, Helena Independent Record.

    The money comes from the tobacco company settlement to the state via a fund administered by the Montana Department of Public Health and Safety.  The fund recently distributed seven grants ranging from $20,000 to $50,000.  It was established as a result of a state constitutional amendment passed by the voters in November which requires that 40% of the state’s share of money from the tobacco companies go towards tobacco education and health programs.

    Montana’s program is in stark contrast to other states in the U.S. which are using tobacco money for road construction and other uses unrelated to preventing tobacco use, or assisting those who are were injured as a consequence of tobacco.

    If you live in the U.S., do you know how your state is spending its millions from the tobacco companies?

    Nancy can be reached at  

Some Like It (Too) Hot

    Drinking very hot coffee or tea with milk appears to raise the danger of esophageal cancer according to research findings reported in the November issue of The International Journal of Cancer. Drinking these beverages warm or just moderately hot did not show the same link, nor did the research show increased risk of esophageal cancer with hot coffee and tea drunk without milk.

    Repeating the findings of other research, the report also stated that diets containing a high percentage of meat, animal fat and salt were also associated with an increased esophageal cancer risk; while eating cereals, fruits and vegetables, and drinking green tea were found to be protective.  Regular fruit consumption, for example, appeared to lower the risk of cancer by 63%, the investigators found.

    However, 90% of esophageal cancers continue to be linked to smoking and alcohol consumption.

IAL Leadership Changes

    Howard Moore was nominated and elected to fill the vice presidential vacancy which was created when WebWhispers member Jack Henslee assumed the duties of Executive Director of the International Association of Laryngectomees.  Howard had previously been appointed to the Board of Directors by WW member and IAL President George Ackerman to fill that vacancy created by Jack's selection as E.D.

    In December, IAL treasurer Dan Roberts resigned citing health problems unrelated to his laryngectomy.  Howard Moore was appointed to chair the Financial Committee in his place.  The day-to-day responsibilities of the treasurer will be filled by Jack Henslee until a new treasurer is elected at the IAL Annual Meeting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in August.

    Jack and the IAL can be contacted at International Association of Laryngectomees

TLA to Meet in San Antonio

    The 11th annual meeting of the Texas Laryngectomee Association is set for April 5-7, 2001 in beautiful San Antonio, Texas.  Sessions on Thursday are planned for speech/language pathologists and students.  Registration and programs for laryngectomees are set for Friday, and the Dinner Banquet follows that evening.  The program continues all day Saturday.

Hawaii Site of Pacific Rim Meeting
by Wayne Baker, President, California Association of Laryngectomees

    The dream of spending some quality time on an exotic Pacific island is being made a reality by laryngectomee clubs from the U.S. West Coast.  California is joining Hawaii and possibly Washington and Oregon to present a laryngectomee conference and Voice Institute at Honolulu’s Ilikai Hotel.

    The Ilikai Hotel, the “Gateway to Waikiki,” will be the site for “2001 - a Speech Odyssey” to be held October 9-12.  The IAL has had their conferences and Voice Institutes at some beautiful and exciting places, but none as exotic as this bit of paradise.

    Dr. Carla Gress, Voice Institute Director, promises a program and faculty to live up to the beautiful locale.  It is a great opportunity to share social and rehabilitation interactions with a diverse group of laryngectomees and SLPs from countries surrounding the Pacific Rim.

    Whether it is a delayed or second honeymoon or a long held fantasy, attendees can take advantage of special hotel rates for three days before and three days after the conference.  If you would like more information, please contact Wayne Baker, 19 Tilden Circle, San Rafael, CA 94901, or 

The Frugal Lary

    Those laryngectomees who wear the type of TEP (TracheoEsophageal Puncture) prosthesis they change themselves typically use a small piece of tape across the strap.  This not only keeps the safety strap out of the way, it also stabilizes the prosthesis and helps keep it from pistoning back and forth within the tract.  Pistoning of the prosthesis contributes to leaks around it.

    Those who use the tape can save themselves some money by buying the two inch wide tape and cutting across the width with scissors.  Cutting in one half or even one quarter inch strips will save money and still do the job.  Some like the 3M Durapore type, while others favor the Micropore porous tape with the hypoallergenic adhesive for sensitive skin.  The tape is manufactured by Johnson and Johnson, among others.  But if you do not require the special adhesive, check the generic brand for a lower price.  Used in this way, one roll will last almost indefinitely.

    WW member Maureen Williams suggests using a length of monofilament fishing line to provide an extra measure of safety when attached to the TEP prosthesis.  She threads a foot or so of the fishing line through the safety tab of the prosthesis and makes a few knots in it.

    Fishing line would also make a very inexpensive, easily cleaned, and almost invisible safety strap for those who wear a laryngectomy tube (vent).  Replacement straps can cost over $4, and need replacing because they get dirty since many are not readily washable because they contain foam content.  Thinner and more easily broken line (lower "pound test") would be safer in case it became caught on something.

    Maureen Williams can be reached at 

Host a Future IAL Annual Meeting

    Would your local laryngectomee support group like to host a future International Association of Laryngectomees Annual Meeting and Voice Institute?  No site has yet been chosen for the 2002 convention, and the organization would also like to be planning ahead even beyond 2002.

    There is lots of work to do for the local sponsoring group, but it is a way to build your club treasury since a fee is paid to the hosting group.  As you can imagine, the city needs to have larger hotel accommodations and access to an airport.

    Talk it over with your local support group, and, if you would like further information, contact the IAL Executive Director, Jack Henslee, at:
or .

Lary Laughs

(With a hand to M. C. Escher)

Welcome New Members 

    We welcome the new members who joined us in December:
Sam Beights
Quapaw, OK 
Michael Csapo
Escondido, CA 
Diane Gaskins
Cockeysville, MD
Susan Granger
Wilmington, DE
Wayne Holmes
Rumford, RI
Wade Jones
West Columbia, SC
Philip LeGrande
Forestville, MD
Anna O'Kelley
Shreveport, LA
Charles Ruppe
Duluth, GA
Andy Scott
Moneta, VA
Pauline Thomas
McMinnville, OR
Harold Wander
Cheyenne, WY 

As a charitable organization, as described in IRS § 501(c)(3), the
WebWhispers Nu-Voice Club
is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions
 in accordance with IRS § 170.

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