Giving people back their voice

Freudenberg Medical supports humanitarian work in Kenya

Freudenberg has been supporting US head and neck surgeons with their humanitarian work in Kenya for some years now. Nine days Jennifer Starkweather, Clinical Specialist at InHealth Technologies, spent with some of them in Malindi, where the patients treated by the physicians include people who have lost the ability to speak as a result of disease.

The team from Vanderbilt University and the Kenyan physicians and their team at Tawfiq Hospital, Malindi, Kenya.

“My time with the medical team was a truly enriching experience. The patients are incredibly grateful for the help they receive,” Jennifer Starkweather said. Head and neck surgeons from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, spend about a fortnight in Kenya twice a year. While they are there they train surgeons locally and give underserved people a new quality of life by providing free surgery. Thanks to the commitment of the medical team, four patients were given back the ability to speak within the nine days that Jennifer Starkweather was in Malindi and a further two got their voice back just a week later. Their treatment included being fitted with voice prostheses. InHealth Technologies donates these devices along with many other items of medical equipment and materials to Vanderbilt University for its humanitarian work.

Jennifer Craig Starkweather (center) helping train Kenyan surgeons.

“The assistance I provided in Malindi was just a tiny contribution toward the tremendous work done by the medical team from Vanderbilt University,” Jennifer Starkweather underscored. “Four head and neck surgeons, two anesthesia teams, nurses and local Kenyan doctors treated more than 75 patients who came to Tawfiq Hospital in Malindi from all over Kenya.”

Jennifer Starkweather completed her masters degree at Vanderbilt University and worked as a speech therapist there before starting with the Inhealth Technologies team in August of 2016. In Malindi she was involved in training Kenyan physicians by showing them how to implant and replace the voice prostheses. She also provided preoperative counseling for the patients and explained to them how to use the Blom-Singer device. Thanks to this voice prosthesis, patients whose larynx has been removed as a result of disease can regain the ability to speak with their own voice.

“The personal contact with the patients showed me just how urgently people in Kenya need medical help,” Jennifer Starkweather said. That is why she particularly appreciates the long-standing social engagement of InHealth Technologies.

(Matthias Weyrauther)