Five-Star Speech Therapy

When a scratchy throat just persisted to the point where it was affecting his voice, Tom Castagneri went looking for answers. After all, his Italian heritage practically commanded that he talk – a lot!

He saw his primary care provider, Dr. Jeff Eichten, at Essentia Health-Spooner Clinic and was referred to Dr. Glickstein, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) at Essentia Health in Duluth. A biopsy was done and the news nobody wants to hear was confirmed – early stage cancer on the vocal cords. To say Tom was shocked is an understatement – it stopped him in his tracks. His life as he knew it was about to change.

Tom was raised in Buhl, MN but lived his adult life in Minneapolis and worked in a supply chain business for a medical facility. After retiring in 2013, he and his wife of 21 years, Robyn, wanted a slower pace of life. There are a variety of reasons why people choose to move to the Northwoods and the reason why Tom chose to shouldn’t surprise anyone – it was the savory taste and smell of Louie’s Finer Meats in Cumberland. Tom was first introduced to the award-winning meat shop when he helped a friend build a cabin in Cumberland. As retirement drew near, he knew where he wanted to enjoy the rest of his life, abundant with brats and sausages; right here in the great Northwoods. He and his wife are active members of Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary and they enjoy the many activities the area has to offer.

After he received his cancer diagnosis, he was referred to Marshfield Clinic in Rice Lake for radiation therapy. The radiation therapy severely affected his speech. He could make sounds, but not words. His swallowing was impaired, and he was put on a liquid diet. For Tom, this was devastating. He was referred to Betsy Salquist, CCC-SLP for speech therapy at Spooner Health. At the time, Tom wasn’t sure what speech therapy could conceivably do for him. But Betsy created a level of understanding and comfort to Tom’s appointments that just clicked right away. Together they worked on exercises to improve the quality of his voice and his swallowing function. She helped him feel comfortable and gain his confidence back.

“We connected as people. The care that Betsy provided at Spooner Health was personal. I wasn’t a number. I was me.”

The speech therapy program at Spooner Health helps patients with a wide range of needs, including:

  • Infants and pediatrics with feeding or swallowing issues.
  • Pediatrics with difficulties producing sounds, voice disorders or language delays.
  • Adults and geriatrics with swallowing or communication difficulties.
  • Alternative communication.
  • Attention and memory problems. 

Our speech therapist collaborates with parents, families, caregivers and other professionals to develop and carry out specific care plans to meet the needs of every patient. After his experience with speech therapy, Tom feels fortunate that the level of care Spooner Health provided is even available to the community he is proud to call home. 

Quality of life is so much more than a physical diagnosis. Tom walked away from every appointment at speech therapy feeling happier and better. He says of the work Betsy does, “She is a shining star at Spooner Health. Her calling is to improve lives.”

His cancer is currently gone, and he continues to do regular checkups. And although the anxiety of the cancer may still linger, there is a peace of mind knowing that at Spooner Health, he is going to receive high-quality care – always.

Through speech therapy at Spooner Health, patients are able to connect better to the things and people that matter most to them. To learn more about speech therapy, visit