Stroke, cancer, dementia are all conditions that can cause dysphagia. Fifteen million Americans experience dysphagia or have trouble swallowing. One of those people is June Hubert from Emporia, who was traveling abroad in March this year, when she was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection that then led to Bell’s Palsy.
“(One eye) still doesn’t blink very well. And my smile was crooked,” explains Hubert.
Bell’s Palsy is a temporary form of facial paralysis.
“I talk a lot, and people couldn’t understand me, and actually people thought I was having a stroke,” says Hubert.
The paralysis affected everyday functions many of us take for granted.
“Being able to blow out of the right side of my nose is a gift. Being able to spit is a gift. Being able to swallow without wearing most of my drink is a gift. But being able to smile is the biggest one. That was my big goal,” explains Hubert.
To regain facial function, June sought help from Veronica DeSelms, a speech language pathologist at Newman Regional Health in Emporia, KS.
“(June’s) facial nerve was damaged. Once she got movement back, we started with VitalStim, and she went from being completely flaccid to almost regaining all of her function back,” explains DeSelms.
VitalStim Therapy is a type of treatment approved by the FDA in 2001, that applies electrical stimulation to your face and throat muscles.
“The VitalStim is used as kind of a way to help encourage those muscles to gain strength,” DeSelms explains.
Hubert says, “It works. I can feel the nerves and muscles beginning to respond. She can turn the electrodes up, because I get used to it. We can really stimulate a lot of activity. I can feel my mouth getting better. Speech is coming better over here a lot, and I am not breathing out of this side of my mouth.”
“The use of therapy is not necessarily to cure or fix it. It’s to improve your quality of life,” explains DeSelms.
For over almost two decades, VitalStim Therapy is improving the quality of life for many people, including giving June her smile back!