Woman Gets Back Voice After 30 Years

More than 30 years ago, Betty Lou Trufant lost her voice as a result of a cold. It never came back.

The illness paralyzed one of her vocal cords. Reduced to little more than a whisper for decades, her search for a cure eventually led her to Cleveland Clinic.

Avoiding most social contact with people, she says it became easier to just not go out than to deal with the frustration of not being able to talk to people.

After struggling to raise her daughter and maintain any semblance of normalcy with her family, Betty Lou saw a story about Erin Martin. Martin was a patient who, like Betty Lou, had lost her voice. After seeking voice treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, Martin was able to regain her speech through the power of vocal massaging.

Betty Lou had come to terms with not being able to speak again, but Martin's story gave her newfound hope.

"I am just thrilled to death. I will be forever thankful."

She made the trip from Westbrook, Maine to Cleveland to meet with Michael Benninger, MD, chairman of the Head & Neck Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Benninger made the decision to operate on Trufant in hopes to repair her vocal cords.

Vocal folds, also known as vocal cord paralysis, result from abnormal nerve input to the voice box muscles. Paralysis begins with the total interruption of nerve impulse.

"Probably 25 to 35 percent of the people we see who have a paralyzed vocal fold, have it due to a virus," says Dr. Michael Benniger.

Dr. Benninger inserted an implant in her throat, designed to push the paralyzed vocal cord back into place. This would allow the vocal cords to touch again and create sound.

The difference between Betty Lou's voice was apparent in days. Her daughter, Darcelle Jacbos, couldn't even remember her mother's speaking voice, but could now have full conversations with her. Best of all, Betty Lou finally got to speak to her grandson, Trey.

"I am just thrilled to death," says Betty. "I will be forever thankful."

Related Institutes: Head & Neck Institute
Patient Stories

Patient Stories

Alt text

Virtual Visits Become Lifeline for Patient with Narcolepsy

Feb 20, 2018

“She knows the brain better than anybody else, as far as I’m concerned. She understands how I’m stuck with these medications and continues to help me search every avenue, including endocrinology and functional medicine.”
Read Story
Alt text

Teen from Dubai Travels the Globe to Find Treatment for Blood Disorder

Feb 9, 2018

“The caregivers at Cleveland Clinic didn’t treat me like a patient, but like a son.”
Read Story
Alt text

Chronic Pain Rehab Renews Man After Crippling Car Accidents

Feb 7, 2018

“It helped me get my identity back and improve my life. I still have struggles, but I have the toolset I need to be successful.”
Read Story