Specialist helps Palestinian talk after 8 month silence

Rehovot speech expert aids 21-year-old who allegedly lost ability to speak from emotional trauma caused by encounter with security forces.

January 11, 2011 04:25
2 minute read.
PNINA ERENTHAL successfully treats Muhammad Devaba

Speech Therapy 311. (photo credit: Kaplan Medical Center)


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The ability to speak – lost eight months ago by a 21- year-old Palestinian allegedly from the emotional trauma of an encounter with security forces – has been restored by a clinical communications specialist at Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center.

The humanitarian gesture was that of Pnina Erenthal, who has much experience in treating psychogenic aphonia.

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The patient was Muhammad Devabassa, a resident of Tarkomia near Hebron and a construction worker inside Israel. After the encounter with the security forces, he was taken to a different hospital and tried to speak, but found to his horror that he couldn’t say a word. Erenthal, who heard about the case, recently tried to locate him through Doctors Without Borders and his family physician.

“I was sure I could restore his speech,” she said, “on the basis of my extensive experience in treating psychogenic aphonia.”

She finally found him and volunteered to treat his condition at Kaplan; approval for his entrance was granted by the authorities.

All the three symptoms for the condition were present, she said. There was a lack of coordination between the voice and the vocal cords, which were not diseased; a difficult traumatic condition; and relatively quick disappearance of the problem. She tried to help him make nonverbal throat sounds such as a cough or gargling sound and reduce the muscle tension in his voice box. She also helped him feel safe and provided a friendly environment.

Erenthal said she “took the weak voice and helped him build it into sentences and texts. The first thing he said was about the trauma he had suffered,” but she did not provide details.

“I immediately called his family doctor to tell her the treatment had succeeded.

Erenthal was told by the doctor that she had already been informed by the Betzelem organization, which deals with humanitarian cases.

Devabassa said he was very excited by Erenthal’s initiative to restore his voice.

“I want to study industrial engineering and management in university, and now I hope I will be accepted. Thanks so much to Pnina – she is a dear woman – and to Kaplan Medical Center which arranged all the authorizations.”

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