This was a special gathering of some special people. And their distinct rendition of the Indian national anthem made the occasion all the more special. All these individuals were throat cancer survivors who sang Jana Gana Mana after undergoing laryngectomy, a surgical procedure in which the voice box is removed. Their feat has landed them in the India Book of Records.
These patients were suffering from head and neck cancers, and oncologists were required to perform laryngectomy, which made it difficult for them to produce sound, rendering them mute. Doctors advise speech therapy with the help of devices to such patients. It’s a lengthy process but patients are able to eventually regain their voice, though artificially.
In order to help build their confidence and to further create awareness on the benefits of the programme, the survivors showcased their triumph over the speech impairment by performing the national anthem.
At the Basavatarakam Indo-American Cancer Hospital in Hyderabad, these 20-odd people are still rehearsing the national anthem.They will now be performing on Independence Day, 15 August 2019.
All these performers have lost their natural voice after the surgery. Some use an electro-larynx, a hand-held device pressed on to the throat to generate artificial voice, while others squeeze their thumbs to their necks to generate voice through a tracheoesophageal fistula along with an embedded device.
“To try and deliver sound without the larynx is troublesome. The sub-glottal limit in people without larynx is not exactly 50% of an individual with the organ. It implies if an individual can regularly say 10 words before coming up short on breath, one without the larynx may just have the capacity to state five,” says Mr T.M. Rukmangathan, the speech-language pathologist at Basavatarakam Indo-American Cancer Hospital and Research Institute.
Dr Chandra Sekhar Rao, a senior head and neck oncosurgeon at the institute, said the gathering chose to sing to demonstrate that incapacity could be conquered. “The fear of losing voice discourages those influenced by similar diseases to undergo the surgery, similar remarkable feats by the individuals who underwent surgery restores faith in newly diagnosed patients,” he said.
PSSV Prasad Rao, a 48-year-old survivor who works as a common contractual worker in Hyderabad, said: “I have always been very positive about being able to talk, sing and listen to my own voice again. We have practised the song a few times and have received enough training to pull it off. I am highly motivated.”