THE first state patient in the Eastern Cape has received a voice generating communication device at the Livingstone Tertiary Hospital after approximately R18 000 was donated by the public. Solomzi Mzamo (53), from Cradock, suffered a stroke in 2017, which left him with severe expressive language difficulties. Although he has regained most of his physical capabilities, he is still unable to fully communicate.Working with Mzamo, the speech therapy department at Livingstone Tertiary Hospital recognised that he was a good candidate for the alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices available on the market.“We have identified that in our department there is a need in terms of patients who, even with speech therapy, are still unable to speak. Solomzi Mzamo is one of these patients. He was assessed and identified to be a candidate for an AAC device,” said chief speech therapist Merryl Weimers. “In terms of his language, he is able to fully understand speech, but just unable to physiologically generate verbal speech,” she added. However, these devices are quite expensive and Mzamo needed to raise close to R18 000 to acquire the tablet and software, which was to become his ‘new voice’. Fortunately for Mzamo, a member of the community started a ‘go fund me’ page to generate funds for a communication device. Through the generous donations from the public, the page has raised enough funds to buy the necessary device and software for Mzamo. “The hospital got into contact with Emma (Emmerich) from Inclusive Solutions who has been assisting us with the assessment for the device most suitable for the patient,” Weimers added.The device is in the form of a tablet with graphics relating to everyday life - with just a touch of Mzamo’s finger he is now able to communicate. “There are frequently used phrases and words stored in each of the graphic folders so that when the user needs to communicate – say, for instance, to ask for something to eat, he simply touches the ‘meals’ button to find the phrase. “The device then speaks the words for the patient,” said Emmerich.Mzamo has quickly become accustomed to using the device. In fact, with PE Express’svisit to the hospital, Mzamo showed off his new device with phrases, such as “My computer speaks for me”, and “My name is Solomzi Mzamo and I like to joke”.Although the device brings relief to the livelihood of Mzamo, as head of his family tribe, he is still unable to make important decisions in his culture. “We are really grateful for the device and it will definitely help to make things easier, but as an elder in our culture, my brother remains unable to make important decisions. However, we are hopeful that he will regain his speech again and that the device will make all our lives easier,” said Mzamo’s brother, Thembisile. Mzamo is yet to receive training sessions to effectively use the device and to add additional pre-programmed phrases.