Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Disabled veteran has chance to talk again...but VA won't pay for it


February 12, 2019

GARDEN VALLEY — When William “Bud” Paine descended to the lower levels of the Naval Destroyer Escort to stand by on fire watch as welders took to maintenance of the ship, he was handed a canteen and a bandanna.

“'Just keep the bandanna wet,' they said. 'This stuff won’t hurt you,'” Paine, now 63, recalled.

"This stuff" was the 96,000 pounds of asbestos sharing living quarters on board with the Navy sailors.

His exposure to insulation material during his service led to a throat cancer diagnosis in 2001, a year of failed radiation treatment and the final option of removing his voice box in 2002.

Paine has communicated for over 15 years by forcing air through a prosthesis that acts as his vocal chords and must be changed every three months. Relearning how to talk took him six months after the procedure.

Hope to regain his voice again came by an ad for a new clinical trial on his Facebook feed last spring. The Mayo Clinic campus in Arizona is attempting to give individuals who have had their larynx removed — about 60,000 Americans — the chance to get it back by organ transplant or rebuilding their own with stem cells.

Though Paine's disability resulted from his military service, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs' strict policy against funding clinical trials has left him in a desperate search for the funds.

Clash for funds

Paine loved being at sea. Now, he can’t even step foot in a boat.

“If something happened,” he said, “I’d drown immediately.”

He doesn’t know if any other members of his Navy crew from 1972 to 1974 suffered cancer or other radiation-related illnesses, but he can’t imagine they didn’t.
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