In 2017, Ted Power underwent a long surgery during which 25 per cent of his tongue was replaced with tissue from his arm in order to remove the stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma present in his tongue and lymph nodes. For Power — like many head and neck cancer patients who have received radiation therapy or have undergone surgery — eating, speaking and swallowing became a struggle. However, this past December, Power enjoyed tucking into Christmas dinner with his family. He credits the ability to enjoy his meal to Mobile Technology (Mobili-T), a daily head and neck function re-training device.
Mobili-T was developed by a team of clinicians, engineers and industrial designers under the guidance of Dr. Jana Rieger, a professor and clinician in the faculty of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Alberta. The technology was funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation. The pocket-sized tech attaches to the chin and, through its corresponding app, prompts the wearer to perform swallowing exercises, as a targeted way to regain movement and strength.
Power personally saw direct improvements thanks to the six-week clinical trial he participated in using Mobili-T, and he shares that experience here.
as told to Jennifer Dorozio
“I’m the president of a number of different companies [and] have to speak to customers and employees all the time. That’s what I do. It’s a critical part of my abilities overall.
“[After surgery] I had to retrain my muscles how to swallow and how to speak again. Eating became a chore, it took hours to eat a meal. I was unaware of the Mobili-T device that Dr. Rieger had developed at the University of Alberta (U of A).
“A friend of mine [told me to look into Mobili-T], so I met with the U of A and became a member of the [clinical trial]. It was a six-week program where you utilize the Mobili-T device on your chin, and it communicates with a cell phone. You do exercises to improve your swallowing and see the results on your cell phone as you’re doing it.
“There is another device that works the same as the Mobili-T at the clinic at the Cross Cancer Institute, but it’s about the size of a refrigerator, so you can’t take it home with you. I was able to take Mobili-T to my office and literally do my exercises while I was sitting at my desk. It’s amazing.
“After three weeks I started to get better. I was able to have Christmas dinner, I had turkey and mashed potatoes because of Mobili-T. It worked for me and I know it will work for other people.
“I would hope that all of the people who have had head and neck cancer, and have the same problems I had, have an opportunity to use Mobili-T.”
Mobili-T Device Fast Facts
- Mobili-T is 4 cm x 4 cm x 2 cm, about the size of a matchbook
- Mobili-T was developed by researchers at the Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine at the University of Alberta
- Mobili-T weighs 27 grams, equivalent to 5 quarters
- The Alberta Cancer Foundation contributed $1.9 million in funding to Mobili-T