Damien Parry,71, is pushing the need for HME device funding for Queensland laryngectomees.Damien is pictured with his grandchildren Riley, 4, and Bryce, 10 months, and his wife Caroline.
Damien Parry,71, is pushing the need for HME device funding for Queensland laryngectomees.Damien is pictured with his grandchildren Riley, 4, and Bryce, 10 months, and his wife Caroline. Warren Lynam

The man speaking up for those without a voice

WHEN Damien Parry was just 42 years old he faced the prospect of spending the rest of his life without a voice.

After being diagnosed with throat cancer Mr Parry was told he would have to have his larynx removed or he would not survive.

It was news he was not prepared for and he said wasn't sure how he could cope without the ability to communicate with his wife, children and friends.

However 10 days after the laryngectomy was performed, Mr Parry defied the odds and with the help of a small device he was able to speak again.

Almost 30 years later, the Coast man's story has become an inspiration for others who have undergone the same procedure.

Now he is using his voice to speak up for those who can't.

"It's important that I talk about the struggles and battles that we face. Most of the struggles for people who have had laryngectomy are emotional and not physical," he said.

"It's the life after and having to cope with the huge changes that you face."

While Mr Parry does his part to help people struggling with the emotional side of the procedure, he said there was a financial burden that could be eased by the State Government.

"I have to use a heat moisture exchanger or HME, which is a bit of plastic that has been treated and it warms the air that goes through my tracheotomy and straight to my lungs," Mr Parry said.

"If I don't wear one of those it's really uncomfortable and I wouldn't be able to walk outside."

Mr Parry said the filters cost $5.50 each, which was something he and the 300-plus other laryngectomy patients in Queensland had to fund themselves.

The NSW and Victoria state governments are funding it for people and now there was a push for the Queensland Government to do the same.

"It's $50 a week or over $2000 a year. That's expensive," he said.

"There are only about 15-20 per cent of the 300 laryngectomy patients in Queensland that use them. Whether that's because of the price I don't know.

"So there's only really a small portion that do use them and out of a health budget of over $80 billion in the state, it's not a lot of dollars."

Mr Parry said as he had delved into his superannuation, and he already spends a significant amount on other supporting treatment, he had to cut costs to make ends meet.

This meant that he did not change the HME device as often as he should.

"For most people it's exorbitant ... for people on a pension or relying on super, most people can't afford it," he said.

"So, a lot of us change them every few days. And the only problem is, you're doing your lungs a disservice breathing in particles going straight to the lungs."

Mr Parry said while the costs were one side to it, it was also about the freedom the device provided, which he said was vital in the recovery process.

The father of three and grandfather to five lives at Alexandra Headland with his wife, where he continues to provide counselling to other laryngectomees battling depression.

"They use my expertise and a good attitude to life," he said.

"I do a lot of counselling to talk to these people and encourage them. Because they could barely even say a word.

"At the end of the day I'm not speaking out for myself but to help all the others who are living with this."

A spokesman from Queensland Health said they were examining a proposal for the department to fund heat and moisture exchange (HME) devices for people who have had laryngectomies.



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