Left to right: Villa Jones, speech therapist; Balbeno Bonds; and Andrew Flynn, director of rehab

Laryngeal cancer patient Balbeno Bonds came to Life Care Center of St. Louis, Missouri, on March 31, 2017, with the goal of being able to eat again.


The cancer and surgery that partially removed his larynx had left Bonds deconditioned and on a feeding tube. He was mouthing his words to communicate his needs and wants.


Physical, occupational and speech therapists met with Bonds five days a week to help him recover. PT and OT focused on building up his strength and restoring his ability to take care of his activities of daily living.


Speech therapists made the biggest impact on Bonds’ quality of life. They fitted him with a Passy-Muir® valve, which helped him vocalize up to a breathy whisper. They did swallowing exercises with him and swallowing trials to make sure he was ready to progress to each type of food and liquid safely.


“Mr. Bonds was highly motivated and, after accomplishing a task, would always be like, ‘OK, what’s next?’” said Villa Jones, speech therapist. “His swallow study was completed here by a mobile company, and his swallow was so different that the speech therapist who runs the company was impressed by how far he had come in a short amount of time.”


“I just wanted to be able to eat food,” Bonds said. “Everybody wanted to help me get better.”


Bonds was able to go home on May 8 and had achieved a diet of mechanical soft foods and thick liquids. He attended a family barbecue the next weekend, and his family was able to understand his speech.