Endowment fund established to train paramedics in treatment of laryngectomie patients

Pablo Belloso Chavez

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Janice Woolsey, coordinator for the language, speech and hearing center (center), Rodina Eliasnik (L), Alison Rice (R), both CSUN grad communication disorders and sciences (speech pathologists) students. Memorial plaque for the Diane Davis Endowment Fund. Photo Credit: Pablo Chavez / Staff Reporter

When Diane Davis had trouble breathing and the ambulance was called, there was a problem that the paramedics were unprepared for.

The oxygenated blood that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) helps provide to the heart and brain did not work on Davis because her larynx had been removed, making standard CPR difficult to aid her breathe.

Another paramedic truck was called with special equipment that provided Davis with oxygen and helped her take in air.

It was because of this incident that a recent endowment to CSUN’s Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences will be used as community service to train campus paramedics when treating laryngectomie patients.

The $10,000 endowment was made by Davis’ husband, Joel Davis, who wanted to keep his wife’s memory and legacy alive, after she died in August 2009 from a 14-year battle with throat and lung cancer.

Diane Davis had done much to bring awareness to people who had undergone laryngectomies, said Janice Woolsey, coordinator and instructor for the Language, Speech and Hearing Center, located in Monterey Hall.

“People with laryngectomies can have very good lives, partly because of people like Diane Davis,” Woolsey said. “She started a club to bring people with laryngectomies and their families together to have happy, healthy and social lives.”

A laryngectomie is a partial or complete removal of the larynx and separation of the airway from the mouth, nose and esophagus when treating throat and neck cancer.

According to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, cancers of the head and neck account for six percent of all malignancies in the United States and there are over 40,000 new cases a year, which includes laryngeal cancer.

The Diane Davis Endowment for Communication Disorders and Sciences Education will not only provide proper equipment and training for campus responders on how to perform CPR with cases such as Davis’, but also education for CSUN graduate clinicians on issues like laryngectomies.

“It will support experiential learning for students in the Language, Speech and Hearing Center,” said Tammy Glenn, director of development for the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “It’s going to help expose students to patients who have speech and language deficits and enhance the school’s program.”

Sylvia A. Alva, dean of the College of Health and Human Development, said students will benefit from the endowment.

“Speech Pathology students will learn the value of community service within the allied health fields thanks to this endowment,” Alva said. “We are grateful to Joel Davis for this gift.”

Grad student Rodina Eliasnik, 27, who works at the clinic said students will be able to help others with proper training.

“I feel that it’s really special when someone goes through a hard time and finds a way to help people,” Eliasnik said. “I think that with this help we will have more resources to have knowledge and a wider resource to help clients. It’s important to see how we’re not only treating the patient but their families.”

Woolsey said a laryngectomee patient present at the endowment ceremony joked “no matter how my wife’s cooking tastes, I can eat all of it.”

People with laryngectomies never recover their sense of taste or smell and have much trouble communicating again, Woolsey said.

The Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHANCAW) is April 12 to 18 and CSUN will be hosting free screenings and education about cancers of the head and neck by specialists and medics, Woosley said.

Woolsey added that it is important students be taken care of when  they have questions, find lumps in their throats or have sore throats that never go away.

“It’s all part of our community service that comes out of this endowment fund,” Woolsey said. “It’s nice to get an endowment but it’s even nicer to pay it forward to the community.  That’s what we’re here for.”