Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Emirati cancer patient speaks for first time in 15 years

Saeed Al Jaeedi, 59, lost his voice following surgery

Saeed Al Jaeedi was able to speak for the first time in 13 years. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Saeed Al Jaeedi was able to speak for the first time in 13 years. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The son of an Emirati cancer patient has described the moment he heard his father’s voice for the first time in more than a decade.

Mubarak Al Jaeedi was just 13 when his father Saeed lost the ability to speak after being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening throat cancer.

In 2004, surgeons in Abu Dhabi took the decision to remove his larynx, which left him unable to communicate other than through hand gestures.

But following a relatively simple procedure in September this year, the 59-year-old has now regained his voice and can finally talk to his family again.

Saeed Al Jaeedi (second from left) with surgeons Hilal Omar (far left), Colin Maciver (third from left) and son Mubarak. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Saeed Al Jaeedi (second from left) with surgeons Hilal Omar (far left), Colin Maciver (third from left) and son Mubarak. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“I have always wanted to simply have a conversation with my father like every other child,” said Mubarak, now 28.

“Growing up I needed his advice and had many questions which he could never answer.”

“I didn't even remember what his voice sounded like and at times all I wanted was to hear him call my name.”

Mubarak, who lives in the capital, described how his father’s condition had at times made life extremely difficult for his family.

The decision to remove his larynx had beaten the cancer but had made some everyday tasks very stressful.

Earlier this year, however, a consultation with medics at the new Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) in Abu Dhabi lead to a promising development.

Doctors said they could perform a relatively straightforward procedure that could restore his voice.

The surgery was not new, the family was told, but the expertise to conduct it was only recently available in the UAE.

Specialist ENT surgeon Hilal Omar and consultant head and neck surgeon Colin Maciver, of SSMC, performed the operation.

The procedure involved inserting a miniature valve into Mr Al Jaeedi’s neck. When he breathes in, the valve opens allowing air to reach his lungs. When he breathes out, the valve closes and air flows around a tracheostomy tube and up through the vocal cords, allowing sounds to be made.

“The procedure takes half an hour," Mr Maciver said. "It is simple but life changing.

Saeed Al Jaeedi with surgeon Colin Maciver. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Saeed Al Jaeedi with surgeon Colin Maciver. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“It means that the patient for the first time can speak clearly and in a normal voice that does not sound robotic.”

Mr Al Jaeedi’s first words was a verse from the holy Quran. He told The National: “I can’t describe to you in words how I feel.

“The feelings I am feeling now are indescribable. There are so many things I want to tell my son and now I can finally speak.”

Updated: November 17, 2019 09:09 PM

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