A Stroke Stole My Voice and The Harris Stroke Center Gave it Back

How a Simple Surgery Stole My Voice

I have always been pretty comfortable talking to anyone. I love to talk and I can find something in common with just about everyone.

For many years, I took advantage of my ability to communicate. I took advantage of my voice. I believed my voice was strong, that it would never let me down or disappoint me. In-fact, not having a voice never crossed my mind. Until it happened.

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When I was 19, I had already been in the hospital nine times for a variety of upper respiratory infections that had gotten out of control. My doctors were unclear what the problem was and thought that I would eventually get better.

At one point, my tonsils were so infected that I had to have them drained in the ER with the largest needles I had ever seen. After the barbaric act was done, I was told that it was time to see a specialist. Most likely I was going to need a tonsillectomy, and the sooner the better.

I had no apprehensions about surgery, even though this was my first. I was ready to not be sick anymore. So I scheduled my surgery for the week before the fall semester, thinking I would have plenty of time to recover before school started. I also scheduled it just in time to audition forChicago, a play I was dying to be a part of. I thought I would be healed and ready for the callback.

At this point in my life, I was a Communications major. I was interested in interpersonal communication, public speaking, and communication in the media. Little did I know that everything was about to change.

A week after my surgery, I was expecting my voice to be back. But when I tried to speak, nothing happened. Silence. Nothing but gasps of air trying to take form. I figured it just wasn't time and that it would come back any day. A few nights later, I still wasn't able to speak but was feeling stir crazy, so I went to a local karaoke night with friends. About an hour in, I began to feel pain and my mouth suddenly filled with blood. My tonsils were bleeding heavily. The next day, I went back to the doctor who repaired a "small tear". He assured me that this happened a lot and there was nothing to worry about. But I was worried. So, I wrote down one question on his notepad: "When will my voice be back?" He replied, "I'm sure it will be back in a few days." I nodded in thanks, and started my first week of the new semester.

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As the days stretched into yet another week, I still couldn't speak. Literally no words, only muffled sounds. It was like when Katniss tried to speak after Peeta strangled her. I was unable to articulate my thoughts, speak in class, or introduce myself to the people around me. I was beyond frustrated.

I also missed the callbacks forChicago,and three of my classes were voice based: two acting classes and an advanced public speaking class. These classes required that I speak but I was currently mute. Luckily, my professors were understanding. But then again, we all thought my voice would be back any day.

As the days stretched into yet another week, I still couldn't speak. Literally no words, only muffled sounds.

Three weeks post-surgery, I still had no voice. I was freaking out. I spent a good portion of my time crying myself to sleep, or in-between classes when I felt embarrassed that I could not interact with anyone. Also, there was a pretty hot guy in my Advanced Acting class that kept trying to talk to me. I could tell he wanted to connect but all I could do was smile, and then walk away. I don't remember a time where I felt more insecure. I felt defeated, humiliated, and ashamed, which was so not like me. The silence of not being able to communicate was deafening.

My mom made an appointment for me with the doctor who performed my surgery. When we went in for the appointment, I began crying on the table, frustrated when I couldn't say the words or make the sounds the doctor was asking of me.

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The doctor finished his exam and told me that he believed he knew what was going on. He wondered if they had actually taken my tonsils out too early, when they were too large and too infected. He said that my palate shifted forward quite a bit, and it looked as though it was not going to shift back. The palate is basically another word for the roof of your mouth. The palate helps produce sounds that form words. The doctor then made an appointment for me with a speech therapist, who he thought could help me speak confidently again.

On my first day, I sat with the speech therapist who had me make various sounds and motions with my mouth. I felt like a toddler learning to talk all over again. I was frustrated and humiliated, unable to do something so simple. The therapist had me try to make "o" or "ahh" sounds, pursing my lips together and apart. She worked with me on trying to find my breath, to snap my tongue against the roof of my mouth and make that clicking sound. I couldn't do it. Instead I just sounded like a character from a scary movie: heavy breathing, moaning, and super muffled words.

During this time, I still attended all my classes with the support of many of my professors. I also learned how to rely on my body language to convey the words I couldn't speak, not to mention to flirt with that cute boy that had been giving me googly eyes.

For three months, I attended speech therapy. The therapist spent a lot of time teaching me how to resonate. How to make "D" and "T" sounds again; how to enunciate words like dog, cat, hat and dad. She helped me try to find the strength to speak again. As frustrating as it was to not be able talk for months, I learned to rely on my eyes, my hands, my body, and written words. I carried around a notebook that helped me relay my thoughts. I used my hands to help motion the things I wanted to say, when I couldn't quite say them right yet. I utilized body language, using my eyes to show interest, my body to show disgust, fear, or happiness.

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Finally, after months of hard work, my voice was back. I could speak again, but unfortunately, I was never able to sing again. And that's OK. I've moved on, and not singing at this point in my life is better than never speaking again. Which for me, was the most important.

I felt like a toddler learning to talk all over again.

But what people don't know is that I still struggle with speech issues. Speaking often requires me to concentrate on clearly enunciating and articulating my words. It may seem as though I am talking too fast or slurring words together. Occasionally, I may even have to repeat myself.

Part of me wishes that I could go back. I want to tell myself to research the procedure more, to get a second opinion. It's not that I don't trust that I was supposed to have that surgery – I was sick and it needed attention. But, I wish I would have looked into other options: natural, homeopathic, or organic remedies. I wish I hadn't jumped in without knowing all the answers.

Losing my voice, although temporary, was a life-changing event for me. I learned that I cannot rely solely on my voice to convey messages. I have learned how to express myself through body language and the written word. All things that are incredibly important but I didn't emphasize enough, until I had too. As much as I wish I could go back, I know that this was a huge lesson for me. I am a better communicator for it, because now I am comfortable with the silence. I spend more time actively listening and engaging in conversations with no words — something, that before this event, I knew nothing about.

I have also learned to be more careful with my body, to not blindly trust the people who are recommended to me, but to research doctors and ask the right questions. I've learned not be afraid to speak up when something doesn't feel right to me.

Say what you want to before you can't.

And most importantly, the biggest thing I have learned from this, is to not take anything for granted, even something as "small" as my voice. Which I will never, ever,everwill do again.


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Date: 29.11.2018, 22:55 / Views: 65454