Title/Author Topic Article Type
ATOS Valve Hands Free Equipment
Judy Ramboldt FLA President News & Events
Bob & Lesley Herbst Host Fundraiser News & Events
2003 IAL Annual Meeting Atlanta  Host News & Events
Clean Beds Larys Advice
Stoma Covers Velcro Fasteners Quick Tips
Electronic Devices Shipping Rules-Mail Quick Tips
Lary Laughs Cartoon Humor
Welcome New Members News & Events



Internet Laryngectomee Support
January 2003

New Hands-free Valve in Town - ATOS "Free-Hands"

     TEP prosthesis users who wish to speak without occluding their stomas with thumb or finger now have another option.  The Swedish company, ATOS Medical, obtained FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval this fall for its entry into the hands-free valve market with its "Free-Hands" HME (Heat/Moisture Exchange).  As is the case with the other hands-free valves available from Inhealth and Bivona, the ATOS "Free-Hands" is available by prescription only, and is Medicare reimbursable.

    Also, like the Inhealth "ATVS" (Adjustable Tracheostoma Valve) system and Bivona's, the ATOS "Free-hands" system combines the benefits of using an HME filter with hands-free occlusion of the stoma with the valve part of the system.  As the name implies, the HME conserves both heat and moisture from exhaled air by storing them temporarily in a filter until it is reused the next time the individual inhales.  In addition to conserving heat and moisture, it is a very effective filter for airborne dust and germs.  As is also the case with the other brands, the ATOS filter cassette contains what amounts to salt in them.  This helps to attract and hold more moisture.  Like the competing products, the filter cassette is designed to be changed daily.

    All hands-free valves work in basically the same way, but use different mechanical means to accomplish the same tasks.  There are two ways the hands-free valves are attached to the user.  One is with an airtight glued on housing as shown in the "Free-Hands" photo.  Another way the hands-free valves can be used by some laryngectomees is with the Barton-Mayo Button. * When the user exhales, the air pressure closes a valve.  Just as the thumb does when you cover the stoma manually, air from your lungs is then redirected through your prosthesis and into your esophagus where it vibrates the top section.  This produces the tone you then use to form sounds and words.  When you inhale, the valve opens up again and the air goes down into your lungs for breathing.

     The design of the ATOS Free-Hands is significantly different from the other products available.  One design difference is the location of the filter under the valve assembly.  The models from the other manufacturers have the filters on top of the valve.  Another major difference is the cough relief feature.  The hinged "lid" of the Free-Hands is held in place by a magnet.  If you cough unexpectedly, the pressure from the cough opens the lid.  This does several things, with the most important that it keeps the entire valve from popping out as a result of a forceful cough. 

     Another major design difference is that the air for breathing comes in at the sides of the valve assembly and not the top.  The company thinks this design is less likely to cause any blockage by clothing of incoming air.

     Another significant difference between the ATOS product and others available is they way they are adjusted.  ATOS recommends (based on FDA requirements) that the valve be initially adjusted by a clinician...ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) MD, or SLP (Speech/Language Pathologist).  This allows for differences in the amount of pressure the speaker uses to obtain TEP voice.  There are two adjustments possible.  One is to the magnet, and another to the diaphragm.  A little tool is provided with the kit and it is used to change the distance from the magnet and the little metal attachment plate.

     The Free-Hands also comes with a cleaning kit.  All hands-free valves are designed to be removed at night (FDA requirement), and ATOS also supplies a cleaning kit.  You put water into the cleaner, and then add a denture cleaning tablet and the valve.  It is designed so that the HME is both clean and dry by morning.

    As might be expected from an imported higher tech product, the ATOS Free-Hands is more expensive than the other products available.  The complete kit comes with the valve, 2 base plates, 5 filter cassettes, cleaning kit, adjustment kit, and directions.  The cost is $270.  Replacement glued on housings cost from $2.93 to $6 each in boxes off 20, and the replacement filter cassettes are $2.54 each in boxes of 20.  However, the Free-Hands is designed to fit into the housing made by the other manufacturers, and cost conscious larys may want to seek a less expensive glued-on housing on a trial basis.  ATOS will take Medicare "assignment" based on prior approval.

     ATOS's competition will be announcing an improved product soon, and there are rumors of the entry of another company into the hands-free valve market.   It is always good to know that manufacturers are working on the development of new products for laryngectomees.   All of us benefit from their competition and the resultant choices they provide.

* Unfortunately, not all sizes of the Barton-Mayo Button have the exact same outer opening diameter.  According to reports from users, the ATOS (and other valves) are often loose in these Barton-Mayo Button sizes: 10 regular, 11 long, 12 short, and 14 long.  An airtight fit is needed for use with any hands-free valve.

WW Member Judy Ramboldt Becomes FLA President

     Congratulations are in order to WebWhispers member Judy ("Hear me roar") Ramboldt upon her election this fall as President of the Florida Association of Laryngectomees.  The FLA is among the biggest, oldest, and most solid of the State clubs.  Elected along with Judy were, (in order in the photograph) Amy Joe Kiger (Secretary), Judy Ramboldt (President), James Sullivan (First Vice President), Carl Kilmer (Second Vice President), Earl Mogk (Treasurer), and Charlie Nail, Bill Ramboldt, and Jerry Hough (all Members-at-large).  (All italicized names are WW members.)

     The fall FLA Annual Meeting featured sessions on basics for beginning and advanced esophageal speech, using and fitting the TEP, use and maintenance of the artificial larynx, pulmonary function after laryngectomy, Florida's program for the hearing impaired, and effective use the AL on the telephone.  A number of nationally known speakers attended and addressed the attendees.   Individual speech evaluations by certified speech-language pathologists were also available for laryngectomees, and the Annual Meeting ran concurrently with the FLA’s first Head and Neck Cancer Rehabilitation Seminar for professionals headed by Dr. Ed Stone.  This seminar replaces the FLA Voice Institute and included topics beyond larynx cancer on the rehabilitation of other head and neck cancers.

     Congratulations to Judy and all of the other FLA officers.

WW Members Bob and Lesley Herbst Host Fundraiser
          An inaugural benefit dinner and party was held this past November in Wallingford, Connecticut.  More than 100 guests gathered at a restaurant to raise money for a scholarship fund for deserving graduate students in speech language/pathology at a nearby university.  The scholarship fund was established by WebWhispers members Bob and Lesley Herbst at Southern Connecticut State University in April of 2000.  Bob and Lesley had raised over $10,000 in the succeeding year and a half, and family, friends and co-workers added over $3,500 to that amount at the November fund-raiser.

     The State of Connecticut has a program where any individual or group who puts at least $10,000 into a scholarship fund will have anything above that amount matched 50% by the State.  So the total raised with their benefit was actually $5,250.  All of these efforts have the fund approaching a total of $20,000, and the interest from the fund pays the scholarship.

     One way the Herbst's have added to the fund themselves is by donating money to the fund instead of giving birthday and Christmas presents to each other.  But Bob reports that Lesley insists on keeping Valentine's Day and their anniversary to themselves.  Congratulations Bob, Lesley and friends.

     Bob and Lesley can be reached at bobh@i2sworld.com

Atlanta to Host 2003 IAL Annual Meeting and Voice Institute

     The Greater Atlanta Voice Masters club is hard at work along with IAL Vice President Bob Mehrman in putting together an outstanding program for the 52nd International Association of Laryngectomees Annual Meeting set for June 26-28, 2003, and 43rd Voice Institute, which begins two days earlier on the 24th.

     David Kilgo is the new president of the Atlanta club and he has put together a planning committee including Vice President Janice Hayes, Treasurer Judy Naglit, Shirley Olson, and Mark Crowe.  The Atlanta club, founded by former IAL President and IAL News editor, the late Jane Del Vecchio, was the host club for memorable Annual Meetings in both 1979 and 1985. (See "Legendary Laryngectomee" - Jane Del Vecchio in http://www.webwhispers.org/news/jun2000.htm ).

     The headquarters hotel is the Sheraton Colony Square in the heart of downtown Atlanta and it is close to shopping and transportation.  A hotel rate of $100 per night single/double has been obtained.  See the January issue of the IAL News for registration and reservation information, and see http://www.larynxlink.com/Atlanta/Atlanta_1.htm.   And as always, WebWhispers will have a great reception and dinner in Atlanta.  Great airline fares are available to Atlanta since it is an airline hub city, and a great turn-out is expected this year.

Larys and Clean Beds

     An article in an issue of the Headlines newsletter some years back addressed one aspect of keeping the air reaching our lungs as clean as possible by discussing keeping our beds clean.  In addition to changing the bed sheets and covers more often than we might have before becoming laryngectomees, there are some other things which might be considered.

     We have learned that by becoming a laryngectomee  the top half of our respiratory system has been cut off from the lower half.  We lost the heating, humidifying and filtering effects of the nose, mouth and throat.  Prior to the laryngectomy, the part of our respiratory system below the throat was considered to be medically "sterile" (germ-free under normal circumstances).  This is no longer the case after becoming laryngectomees, so we are at greater risk for lung infections than before.  Another interesting fact is that in non-laryngectomees their respiratory systems filtered and removed 90% of contaminants entering it within an hour.  Now, the only thing between our lungs and the outside world is the short length of our tracheas and the mucus in it and in our lungs.  That is the case unless we put something else in between them such as an HME (Heat/Moisture Exchange) filter, foam or cloth cover. 

     Another interesting fact which impacts many laryngectomees is that tobacco smoke kills respiratory cilia...the tiny microscopic hairs which propel mucus, and any contaminants trapped in it, upwards so we can cough it out.  Without many respiratory cilia the conveyor-belt motion of the cilia is lost, and the only way we can get rid of the mucus is by forcefully coughing it out.  This is why some laryngectomees need to use the irrigation (lavage) technique of using saline bullets or saline spray to introduce moisture into the trachea and lungs.  This initiates the coughing necessary for them to clear their lungs.  One way you can tell if you have adequately working cilia is if mucus "wicks" its way to the stoma, or there is always watery mucus just below the lip of the stoma.

     At the insistence of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), producers of HME filters advise laryngectomees to remove them during sleep.  So if that advice is followed, laryngectomees only have foam and cloth filters to wear overnight. 
Wearing a stoma cover of some sort 24 hours per day is highly recommended by respiratory specialists who understand how the anatomy of laryngectomees has made us more vulnerable.

Although we are not aware of it, we human beings constantly shed skin.  The outer layer dies and flakes off, to be replaced by new skin cells.  Human skin (dandruff) is a major component of what we call household dust.  And this dandruff accumulates in our bed sheets and blankets, and into mattresses.  And the accumulation of dandruff attracts microscopic animals which feed on it - dust mites.  Both human dandruff and dust mites are a source of allergic reactions for many.  And if this material is breathed in, our systems must get rid of it.  So reducing it, particularly around our beds, is a good idea.

    As mentioned, a way to help the situation is to change the bed sheets and blankets weekly.  Another suggestion is that while the bed sheets are off the bed it is a good idea to vacuum the top of the mattress, paying particular attention to the seams.  Doing what we can to keep our stomas covered and reducing the contaminant load our respiratory systems must remove should make us all breath a little easier.

Quick Tips

If you wear cloth stoma covers with Velcro fasteners, you can make the Velcro last longer if you stick the two parts together when you are getting ready to wash them.  Doing so protects them during both washing and drying from mechanical wear and accumulation of fibers in the Velcro hooks.

     Shipping an AL or other electronics device through the mail?  The Post Office now requires that the batteries be removed from the device.  They can be along with the device, but just not installed.

Lary Laughs

by Marti Fellhauer-Sampson
Marti can be reached at


Welcome New Members 

     We welcome the 20 new members who joined us during December 2002:


Dowell Barnes
Key Largo, FL
Beverly Brown
Spring Valley, CA
David Carr
London, UK
Patricia Clark
Boxted, Essex, UK
Ed DeBaugh
Arlington, WA
  Michael Eaton - Kapitex Healthcare   
Wetherby, UK
Douglas Edwards
West Allis, WI
Deb Holton
Tallahassee, FL
Larry Ingmire
Sparks, NV
Victor Irby
Greenville, SC
Joseph McCord
Eatonton, GA
Janet Mary Mooney
Mersyside, UK
William Peak
Evansville, IL
  Jodi Pierskalla - Caregiver   
Maynard, MN
Mary Russell - Caregiver
Glasgow, KY
Louise Simm
New Port Richey, FL
Winston & Kathy Slay
Tallassee, AL
Jim Stringer
Houston, TX
Gary Wallesen
Vancouver, WA
Earl Williams
Paget, Bermuda


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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