“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”– Desmond Tutu
Dr. Vishal Rao, a Bangalore-based oncologist, a head and neck surgeon is very much like a knight in the shining armor for all the throat cancer patients who lost their voice due to this cruel disease. Dr. Rao invented an Aum Voice Prosthesis for the throat cancer patients which helps in getting them their voice back, especially who are in the 4th Stage and end up losing their voice box to prevent the disease from further spreading.
The best part about Dr. Rao’s voice box is that it costs NOTHING as compared to similar replacement prosthetic voice boxes.
A patient suffering from throat cancer describes “Losing my voice was losing my life, I wanted to kill myself. I couldn’t do anything that I enjoyed.”
A wise man believes in the welfare of the others before himself and Dr. Rao shares his wise words of wisdom as –
“We believe that speech and communication are not a privilege but a right. We cannot hold them back from a patient only because he/she is poor”.
Being an oncologist and neck surgeon at the HealthCare Global (HCG) Cancer Center in Bangalore, Dr. Rao would come across hundreds of patients who were struggling with throat cancer and could not afford proper treatments. He was concerned for the well-being of these impoverished, so he began to look for an alternative that can be both harmless and affordable.
Initially, he consulted a few fellow surgeons and doctors but could not find any luck as they were not willing to accompany him. Dr. Rao being optimistic decided to take matters into his own hands reached for an industrial engineer, Shashank Mahes who was also a friend. He discussed all his ideas with Shashank, who liked his proposal and they both started with a plan to carry out the whole process.
Designing and developing something that is going to be a revolution in the medical world, can be very strenuous as it leaves NO MARGIN FOR ERROR. There was also a significant challenge that the device and the process needed to be economical or else it is just a wasted effort.
Earlier the voice box was manufactured abroad, and it had to be imported to India which increases its original price manifolds. There was also the unavailability of doctors who specialized in these throat operations, so it costs a lot.
Dr. Rao and Shashank gathered a trustworthy team and started with the research work, the first of the many steps towards success. Months of extensive research and hard work led towards the completion of entire planning of his noble cause. They came up with the plan of making the voice prosthesis device out of silicone. The plan was to remove the entire larynx and separate the windpipe from the food pipe then the device would be placed between the openings created. Earlier noble metal alloys were used in the voice box, which made it heavy and that would be very troublesome for the patients. The idea was to make the whole process effortless, painless and cheap.
Finally, the time has arrived to get all the plans into actions, after successful completion of the planning phase. Here, the experience of Shashank along with his team came very handily and became one of the significant factors in the conversion of this dream into reality as his expertise turn the road towards the accomplishment. It took about two years, but patience paid off for Dr. Rao as his voice box got successfully manufactured. The device weighs 25 grams and is 2.5 cm long. It was a boon for every throat cancer patient, using which they are just 5-minute surgery away from regaining their voice. And it costs nothing as compared to other alternatives ranging from 70 to 80 thousand rupees; moreover, this procedure ends up in giving them the opportunity to start second innings of life.
Dr. Rao named the device “Aum” after the ancient Hindu sound “OM” and, this word also signifies the sound produced.
The device designed was effective for just one year thus, had to be replaced every year. Dr. Rao was adamant about removing all the flaws from his design and was concerned that yearly operation might affect the breathing ability of the patient and may also lead to some respiratory problems in the future. So, he came up with an invention to insert Aum into the patient’s throat without having to go into the operating room again. He did it by using the skills of a wooden toy maker from a village in Karnataka.
To add further to this kind deed, Shashank Mahes assured that he would try and arrange the required funds for the mass production of Dr. Rao’s voice box.
“I never want to donate torn old clothes to the poor because they deserve more dignified donations. That’s why I didn’t want to create a medical product of cheaper quality only because my patients are poor. Don’t they deserve the best? So we brought in the best materials,” says Dr. Rao.
Dr. Vishal Rao has successfully diagnosed and cured thousands of throat cancer patients with his magical voice box AUM and is making regular efforts in improving the design as much as possible. In today’s selfish and self-centered world there is an angel sent from heaven named Dr. Vishal Rao who is eradicating malady and making this world a better place to live in.
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