Woman Able to Speak After Rare Voice-Box Transplant

Brenda Charett Jensen's surgery marks second successful attempt ever
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 21, 2011 10:32 AM CST
Brenda Jensen smiles as she talks with Dr. Gregory Farwell, associate professor of otolaryngology, who led a surgical team that performed larynx transplant surgery, Jan. 20, 2011.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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(Newser) – For only the second time in known history, doctors have performed a successful voice-box transplant. Brenda Charett Jensen was unable to speak for more than a decade without using a device that produced robotic-sounding speech. Less than 2 weeks after her October surgery at UC Davis, she was able to talk again—and in her own voice, since the voice box, or larynx, doesn’t determine vocal timbre.

“After 12 years of putting up with a lot of humiliation and teasing for sounding like a robot, when this opportunity came up I felt it was very much worth it,” Jensen said. Larynx transplants are especially challenging because the organ is connected to the body via minuscule blood vessels and nerves—and it’s used in complicated bodily functions like swallowing and breathing, reports the Wall Street Journal. One doctor on the transplant team noted that it's easier to transplant a heart than a larynx.

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