DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - What if you were no longer able to eat or drink because swallowing was too difficult?
Each year, about 10 million Americans need therapy to help overcome problems with their throat muscles. Traditional treatment can take half a year or more before there are results.
Baptist DeSoto Hospital has a new tool reducing that time to weeks. People who suffer from strokes, heart attacks, head trauma, cancer or complications from surgery have to deal with the problems. A new machine can be the difference in whether they can eat or not.
"I really enjoy food. It's probably one of the things I enjoy most in life, food and talking," Bill Kalles told abc24.com.
Stage four throat cancer threatened not only Kalles' health, but his ability to do those things he loves. The back of his tongue was removed, then came the radiation, forcing him to stop eating.
"It was very difficult," said Kalles.
He was fed by a tube for months and lost all the muscle in his throat. He could no longer swallow properly, or eat normally for fear of choking.
"With over half the base of my tongue missing, there's always a danger I'm going to swallow wrong and it's going to go down the wrong tube," Kalles told abc24.com. "This treatment has helped me swallow better."
Kalles is one of the first patients using Baptist DeSoto's new Experia therapy machine.
"It's already shown great results," said Angie Helldorfer, a speech language pathologist. "Mr. Kalles is now on regular diet with no restrictions. He's not choked in the past three weeks."
Once a week, Kalles hooks up to the device to do vocal and swallowing exercises. The machine electronically stimulates his muscles, forcing them to work harder.
'It's like resistance training," Kalles told abc24.com.
"It has really cut down on the amount of time it takes a patient to resolve swallowing problems," said Helldorfer.
It's gone from months to weeks. Kalles noticed a difference immediately after his first treatment. After several more, he was able to start eating again.
"I was no longer having problems swallowing food. This machine has given me a lot more confidence in my ability to control my muscles," said Kalles.