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USF Health Voice Center gives patient a better life ahead

James Peach was a correctional officer for Hardee Correctional Institute and was a victim of a near-fatal assault by inmates. On the day of the incident, Peach was lining up the inmates and carrying out his duties. The aftermath left him with four brain bleeds, two fractures in his neck, and a ruptured eardrum, and he was given a 1% chance of survival. Peach was left unable to talk, breathe on his own, or eat, facing an incredibly complex and dire medical situation. 

After the assault, Peach was airlifted to a hospital where he died in the intensive care unit (ICU) three times and then was finally resuscitated. Peach then received a tracheostomy because he was unable to breathe or eat on his own and was bed-bound in a hospital for eight months until he was finally referred to Dr. Yaël Bensoussan, MD, MSC, director of the USF Health Voice Center at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

  • James Peach in hospital.

  • James Peach in hospital.

  • James Peach in hospital.

Dr. Bensoussan was unsure she was going to be able to help Peach yet, once she took Peach into the operating room and assessed the status of his condition, she discovered a small passage in Peach’s airway, sparking a glimmer of hope. From that point onward, Dr. Bensoussan performed a series of surgeries, which gradually restored Peach’s ability to speak, eat, and breathe independently.

“I remember the moment I realized that there was a little passage,” Dr. Bensoussan said. “Although it was, small, I was so happy and starting from there, we just did surgery by surgery, and he got better and better to get him where he is today.”

Peach reflected on the pivotal role Dr. Bensoussan played in his recovery, stating, “She did what nobody else would do, and did what everyone said couldn’t be done.” “Everything she tried and suggested worked perfectly,” Peach said. “I was just about to give up, I couldn’t see going that extra mile until Dr. Bensoussan got that trach out and started me on a path that took all my doubt away.”

Throughout Peach’s recovery, his wife, Cynthia, stood by his bedside. She offered him support, love, and encouragement during every moment of his remarkable comeback.

  • James and his wife Cynthia at the hospital together. 

  • James and his wife Cynthia. 

  • James and his wife Cynthia before the incident. 

“My wife was there every second of every minute of every day for those eight months,” Peach said. “I felt so much better once the trach was gone and once I heard myself tell my wife I love you.”

Peach remains grateful for the second chance at life that Dr. Bensoussan provided to him. With immense appreciation he said:

“I may never get back to the man I was, but if 50% is all I get, fine. I did not stop at that 1% that they gave me... Dr. Bensoussan, thank you for saving my life, and giving me the desire to live, and to fight for another day.”

Story and video by Ryan Rossy, USF Health Communications and Marketing.

Personal photos of James Peach are courtesy of the Peach family. 

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About Health News

USF Health News highlights the great work of the faculty, staff and students across the four health colleges – Morsani College of Medicine, College of Public Health, College of Nursing and Taneja College of Pharmacy – and the multispecialty physicians group. USF Health, an integral part of the University of South Florida, integrates research, education and health care to reach our shared value - making life better.