September 21, 2023

A Voice for Good: Local Family Organizes Charitable Slo-Pitch Tournament in Memory of Cliff Lynk

Cliff Lynk was a devoted husband and a loving father and grandfather. He adored music, fishing, playing cards and was a long-time slo-pitch player – but more than any of these, Cliff loved spending time with his family and friends. He had a huge heart and would help anyone in need.

Cliff drove transport for TST Overland for 18 years, delivering goods to businesses throughout the Golden Horseshoe area. He took pride in his job, always having a smile on his face and a quick joke for his customers. Cliff retired in January 2019.

One month later, he was admitted to a local hospital when he developed an infection and lump in his neck that was blocking his airway. He was soon transferred to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and placed under the care of the Head and Neck Unit. He spent a total of 9 weeks at our Hospital. Cliff spent the first 4 weeks in the ICU on a ventilator, while the Head and Neck team determined the cause of the infection. The care team protected his airway until they could find a safe way to perform a tracheostomy without disturbing the tumor.

Once they were able to safely put in a trach, Cliff was taken off sedation and required extensive physiotherapy to regain his strength and the ability to walk again on his own. He worked hard to build his strength back up before the major surgery. On April 9, Dr. Michael Gupta performed a complete laryngectomy –removal of the larynx or voice box – and removed a 7cm tumor along with his thyroid gland.

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Cliff and his wife Debbie spent the next 10 days learning how to care for his new airway, and the life changes and adaptations he would encounter, while he continued to build his strength back. He was able to start drinking and eating again on his own on April 16 and returned home April 19.

Cliff fought to rebuild his life with courage and determination as a laryngectomee. He played baseball again, found hobbies in woodworking, and even taught himself esophageal speech. Through the support of Dr. Gupta, Cliff was looking forward to joining the New Voice Club at St. Joe’s to share his lived experience in hopes of helping those struggling to find their voice. He was also looking forward to receiving therapy and support from the group’s Speech-Language Pathologists.

In November 2022, Cliff contracted influenza A, which can cause a COPD flair up. He was admitted to a local hospital on December 4 to help clear up his breathing. His new airway and the extra precautions and care required made his care very challenging. Following complications related to his condition and the contraction of Influenza A, Cliff passed away on December 9 surrounded by his loved ones.

Cliff worked hard to regain his voice. The Lynk family was determined to keep his voice and caring spirit alive by raising awareness and helping to support other laryngectomees on their healing journey. Because of his love for baseball, his family decided to begin their awareness campaign by hosting a slo-pitch tournament. The first annual Cliff “Linko” Lynk Memorial Slo-Pitch Tournament was held on July 8 and raised an incredible $4,215! $1,000 was donated to the St. Catharines Special Olympics Softball Program in Cliff’s memory and $3,215 was donated to St. Joe’s to assist Laryngectomy patients in the Head and Neck Unit at St. Joe’s. Cliff was a voice for good, and we’re so very honoured that his family selected St. Joe’s as a beneficiary of the slo-pitch tournament hosted in his memory.

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