Mass. Man Speaks Again After Groundbreaking Larynx Transplant

Following the rare, 21-hour surgery, Marty Kedian fulfilled his dream of reading his new granddaughter stories in his own voice

<p>Mayo Clinic</p> Marty Kedian with Dr. David Lott

Mayo Clinic

Marty Kedian with Dr. David Lott

A Massachusetts man is getting his voice back.

After receiving the third-ever larynx transplant — and the first on a patient with active cancer — performed in the U.S. in February, Marty Kedian can speak again, according to Mayo Clinic.

The 21-hour procedure, performed by a six-person surgical team at Mayo Clinic's Larynx and Trachea Transplant Program in Arizona and part of a clinical trial, allowed Kedian, 59, to fulfill his dream of speaking with his granddaughter in his own voice.

Before the pioneering procedure — which has been performed “only a handful of times” globally, per Mayo Clinic — Kedian said he “was alive, but I wasn't living.”

<p>Mayo Clinic</p> Dr. Girish Mour and Dr. David Lott

Mayo Clinic

Dr. Girish Mour and Dr. David Lott

As a result of his cancer — a rare form of laryngeal cancer called chondrosarcoma — he received a tracheostomy several years ago, which allowed him to breathe through a hole in his neck. Coupled with the loss of his voice, the procedure led to an isolated existence, he told Mayo Clinic.

“I love to talk to people everywhere I go, and I just couldn't,” he said. “I felt strange, and I wouldn't go out anywhere.”

Kedian was also told by doctors that, with the persistence of his disease, his only option for recovery was to have his voice box removed entirely — but he refused. “I didn't want a laryngectomy. I wanted to find a way to get my quality of life back," he told Mayo Clinic.

"I wanted this so I could talk and breathe normally with my new granddaughter,” he added of the clinical trial. “I want to read her bedtime stories with my own voice.”

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The Massachusetts native’s search led him thousands of miles from home, to the Larynx and Trachea Transplant Program on Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, where Dr. David Lott was heading a clinical trial on laryngeal transplantation.

The team operated, removing Kedian’s cancerous larynx and replacing it with a donated one, on Feb. 29, per Mayo Clinic. He has since regained about 60 percent of his voice — a feat Dr. Lott thought would take “at least a year.”

Plus, Kedian “still speaks with the same voice and Boston accent he had prior to the cancer," the doctor added.

As soon as he could, Kedian used his newly restored voice to speak with his 82-year-old mom, an experience he recalled to the Associated Press. “That was important to me, to talk to my mother,” he said.

It’s been four months since the procedure, and Kedian’s breathing is also steadily improving, per Dr. Lott. When he regains full ability to breathe on his own, his tracheostomy tube will be removed — and he can’t wait.

"Every day it's getting better," Kedian said, adding that he is “pushing myself to make it go faster because I want these tubes out of me, to go back to a normal life.”

The team of surgeons behind the operation, Kedian told Mayo Clinic, have “given me my life back.”

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“I'm so grateful,” he said. “I have the deepest gratitude for Dr. Lott's team and especially the generosity of my organ donor and donor family. I hope one day I get the chance to tell them, 'Thank you.'“

Kedian’s experience also offers hope to others who have lost their ability to speak, swallow and breathe on their own because of laryngeal cancer, as the program has been approved to perform more transplants in the coming years.

"People need to keep their voice,” Kedian told the AP. “I want people to know this can be done.”

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