For 10 months Mal Harcourt could not swallow his own saliva let alone eat his favourite foods.
Following intensive treatment for a tumour on his throat he developed severe scar tissue which totally closed his foodpipe.
Mal, 51, of Hartlepool had to be fed through a tube in his stomach but thanks to a pioneering procedure developed at The James Cook University Hospital called a Rendezvous Dilatation, he is now able to eat and drink almost normally again.
Consultant head and neck surgeon Shane Lester said: “It’s called a Rendezvous Dilatation as the general surgeon, Mr Samuel Dresner, and I enter the foodpipe at opposite ends – I go via the mouth, he goes via the PEG tube in to the stomach and we literally meet in the middle.
“It’s a procedure used for the small number of patients that have a total scarring over of their oesophagus following chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“As a result of this people who couldn’t even swallow their own saliva, get back to almost normal eating and drinking.”
Mal was diagnosed with throat cancer in January 2015. He underwent a series of major surgical procedures as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy but scar tissue left him unable to swallow anything.
“For 10 months I could not even swallow my own saliva,” he said. “I could not have anything at all before they opened up my throat again!
“That’s especially hard when you are cooking Christmas dinner for the rest of the family!” said Mal who has four children and five grandchildren.
The distribution depot manager is now back at work and recently had his PEG tube removed.
“I feel fine now, you just have to get on with it don’t you!” he said.
Shane and the team at James Cook were there to support him when he took his first mouthful of water but he says his first proper drink was a Ribena juice drink which just tasted really strong!
“I felt like I needed to water it down!” he said.
Mal has nothing but praise for the whole head and neck surgery team at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust including the surgeons, speech therapists and Macmillan nurses.
“The care I have received has been brilliant,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done without all their help and support.”
Mr Lester added: “We’ve done this for six patients with this condition and all were fully successful.
“The technique has been described before but we’ve modified it a little and have long term data to prove it works in chemoradiotherapy patients.
“I’m so pleased that my team can help patients such as Mal get back to eating and drinking after cancer treatment.”