A number of people have asked lately, “how’s your voice doing?” So I went back and realized that my post of April 23rd, So This Is 2018, was something of a cliff hanger. That being the case, I guess it’s time for me to post an update.
When we last left our hero (that’s me, in this case), he had no voice, whatsoever, and was desperately trying to get an operation date for the surgery which stood a chance — just a chance, mind you — of allowing him (me) to talk again.
After a week or more of wrangling a surgical date, my darling wife, Tanya, finally got my ENT’s office (for the uninitiated, ENT stands for an Ears, Nose, Throat doctor) to set a surgical date. The date chosen was May 3rd, which has to mean something, as that’s also my late mother’s birthday. I guess I figured she’d really be looking down on me, sending support. The surgery was to take place at Georgetown University Hospital, in Washington, DC. For those of you unfamiliar with navigating D.C. by car, let me just say this — I would rather be driving in fucking Times Square on New Year’s Eve, than dealing with traffic and directions in this godforsaken city! At one point, finding the place was going so badly, I’d swear I heard my GPS actually say, “really?”
Fortunately, knowing how much fun it is to get anywhere in D.C. by car, Tanya and I had allotted enough time, and were actually on time for check-in. I went through the usual hospital crap, got my little wristband so they wouldn’t mistake me for a colonoscopy patient, and was put in a little room to await my surgery. My doctor came by, to reassure me, and the chief of the team that would be administering anesthesia, also dropped by. I was incredibly impressed that, unlike the surgery which got me into this mess in the first place, I was going to have a “team” of anesthesiologists.
At this point, I should probably do a quick recap of what happened to create the need for this surgery (for those who have not yet read my April 28th blog). On February 12th, I had surgery to repair a double hernia — such a bargain! Two for the price of one! I was chatting with people & talking as they wheeled me into operating room, asking what kind of music I liked. As I was saying the words, “classic rock, of course,” the anesthesia took hold, and I went to la la land (not the one in that crappy, overrated movie).
I woke up an hour or so later, tried to say something, and nothing came out. No voice. Nada. No one could figure out what happened until I was sent to the ENT, who explained how the anesthesiologist in surgery #1, must have put the bulb which was inserted down my throat in order to pump the anesthesia in, more than likely either hit my vocal cord itself, or hit something that hit my vocal cord. In any event, I had a paralyzed left vocal cord.
Given my principle source of income is acting, not having a voice was kind of a problem. It kinda makes submitting myself for roles, let alone auditioning, pointless. The ENT had originally suggested we wait six weeks, to see if the vocal cord could heal on it’s own. The fact it hadn’t, meant the next step was a not too invasive surgery on my throat, to see if that could work. This brings us up-to-date.
So there I was, being wheeled into an operating theatre (the only theatre I’d be seeing for a while) for my second surgery this year. The team of anesthesiologists went to work, and I went out, quickly. The concept was simple. The surgeon would fill the place where my vocal cord would normally rest, with a gel compound that lasts three to six months. During this time, the hope is, the vocal cord will miraculously start working on its own. The kicker is, you have to wait a full year, if necessary, to see if it works. If it doesn’t, then we get invasive (out of kindness to you, dear readers, I will refrain from describing the gory details of that surgery, as it was described to me).
In any event, when I came to in the recovery room, Tanya was waiting for me with post-surgical instructions from the doctor. These included the need for me to remain totally silent for the next 24-48 hours. That may not seem like a lot, but for those of you who know me, trying to speak for that period of time, especially since I wanted to take my “repaired” vocal cord out for a test spin, was…Well, let’s just call it, torturous!
While I was sleeping, Tanya had also spoken to the doctor and chief anesthesiologist. She was told I had the smallest larynx they’d ever seen on an adult male (I suppose if something on me had to be small, I’d prefer that to…). Anyway, my larynx was so small, the anesthesiologist had to use the smallest tube they had, and even then my surgeon had to use something akin to a dentist’s mirror, to be able to see down my throat, to the vocal cord. Further, they told Tanya their assumption was, the first anesthesiologist must have paralyzed the vocal cord when putting the tube in, because he couldn’t see he was hitting it.
This is just the kind of information someone who’s semi-comatose, wants to hear upon awakening.
I somehow made it through the 48 hours before first testing my voice. When I did, what came out was an incredibly raspy version of my voice. I continued testing it over the next few days, only to discover two things. 1) My voice will start the day raspy and hoarse, but if I continue speaking throughout the day, will fade to nothing by nightfall. 2) I have a projection range of anywhere from three to, at best, eight feet, or so. Beyond that, I can’t be heard. And if, g_d forbid, there’s ambient sound, as in a supermarket, or Starbucks, I have to be right in the persons ear to make myself audible.
And while I had to admit it was better than it had been before surgery #2 (I was no longer choking on beverages and food), it was still — how shall I phrase this delicately — completely fucked up!
My ENT’s next suggestion was, I should start vocal therapy. He thought it might be a helpful thing. However, when I went to the therapist (which I’m still doing), she treated me and my situation, as if it was going to be permanent. She gave me a frighteningly long list of foods she strongly urged me to avoid, practically all of which were the mainstays of my diet. She also suggested I avoid air-conditioning, as it would dry out my throat.
We’ve been having something of a heat wave here in MD. Last week we had four days where the heat index was more than 110 degrees. Was I supposed to turn off the central air during that? Because I would like to keep some small semblance of my sanity, we came to a few compromises on the “Do/Do Not” list, which continue to this day.
Two months later, this is where we remain. Although I technically do have one, my voice still sucks. I certainly can’t act, sing or even direct a play or film. I avoid talking to people on the phone, because a) they usually can’t understand what I’m saying; or b) If I do talk, it hurts like hell, and I have to usually breathe steam, after. On the pus side, I can still write! As this is pretty much the only form of communication left to me at present, I don’t consider it a small thing. And, lo and behold, I can now eat and drink, without choking. I don’t recommend this as a fun way to lose weight.
I have also sent my records to a medical malpractice attorney who, I’m hoping, will see a case here. As of this coming Thursday, July 12th, I will have been in this condition for exactly six months. I really don’t know how to describe the pain, anger, frustration, rage, and general feelings of insanity the past six months have engendered in me.
Also, although I’m not really the praying type, in this case I’ve been making an exception. I hope, pray, meditate on reaching that miraculous moment, when my vocal cord starts working normally again. I’ve got 10 months to see if it happens, and also retain what little sanity I have left.
Oh! I also forgot one of the most important things I’ve been missing out on. Every time the current resident of the Oval Office (Agolf Twitler, Cheetolini, BLOTUS, He Who Must Not Be Named — take your pick) comes on the television screen, I don’t have the wherewithal to scream back at that motherfucking, son of a bitch, spouting bullshit through my television!
Was that an uncivil way to end this post?