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Wanda's Story

Wanda M always has a great outlook on life—she has a positive attitude, loves her family, and enjoys several hobbies. “I am married to my wonderful husband for 35 years and we have three children and four grandchildren,” says Wanda, 51, who lives in Philadelphia. “I work as a clerk typist and I also enjoy scrapbooking and reading.” 

Last year, Wanda considered getting bariatric surgery. “I chose Jeanes Hospital, which is part of Temple Health, for my surgery. A family member had bariatric surgery at Jeanes Hospital, and she encouraged me to try it. I finally decided to go for it,” says Wanda. “I went to see Tatyan Clarke, MD, a Temple bariatric surgeon at Jeanes Hospital.” She mentioned to Dr. Clarke that she experiences choking and difficulty swallowing. “Dr. Clarke sent me for testing with Nausheen Jamal, MD, an otolaryngologist with Temple Health.”

Wanda’s arrival to Temple’s Voice, Airway & Swallowing Center was long overdue, she says. “Following a thyroidectomy in 2004, I was choking all the time,” she recalls. Wanda was resigned to eating soft foods as she typically could not finish a meal without choking. She did not think there was much she could do, as she attributed the conditions to her thyroid surgery.

At her visit, she was evaluated collaboratively by Dr. Jamal, Assistant Professor, Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, and speech and swallowing therapist Barbara Ebersole, CCC-SLP, Director of Speech Pathology at Fox Chase Cancer Center and the Temple Head & Neck Institute. “At the appointment, Dr. Jamal put a scope to my throat to find out if I had any problem swallowing foods,” shares Wanda. “Dr. Jamal tested me with different foods with dye in them. When she told me to drink water I started to choke. Dr. Jamal told me I had a small problem—that the water and food were actually going through my airway.”

Wanda was diagnosed with weakness on the right side of her throat that caused foods to get stuck and liquids to sometimes go “down the wrong pipe”. Swallowing therapy with Ms. Ebersole was prescribed to treat her condition. “Barbara taught me different exercises to do three times a day. After only two weeks, it was so much better with much less choking. I am so grateful to Barbara,” Wanda shares.

Before being introduced to Barbara, Wanda thought she would never resolve her choking condition. “I have been to so many doctors for treatment but no one has ever sent me for swallowing therapy. When I was sent to see Dr. Jamal my thought was that she would not find anything, just like in the past. To my surprise, she took her time and found the cause of the problem and Barbara was right there to explain how therapy could help.”

Wanda is very grateful to both Dr. Jamal and Barbara. “By working together they have given me confidence and improved my quality of life,” she adds. “The treatment I received at Temple Head & Neck Institute is awesome. Barbara and Dr. Jamal both take the time and have the experience to help patients.”

Wanda no longer needs to visit Barbara weekly for therapy, but she continues the exercises she learned on her own. “I do exercises that Barbara taught me at least once a day. I am cured of the issue. I can now dine out with friends and family and not worry about the possibility of having a choking episode,” she adds. “That peace of mind is something that I can’t put into words.”

Wanda is sharing her story because she wants others to seek second opinions. “I hope my experience can let people know to never give up,” says Wanda. “There can likely be a solution for any medical problem. Both Barbara and Dr. Jamal made me feel so much better.”