When I was in college I tore my ACL. I was being unwise and paid for it dearly. Being young and invincible, I ignored the injury. I tried to finish the season playing on our intramural football team. I wore a brace all the time trying to let it heal. Most of the time, it was fine. But if I tried to move side to side, the knee would slide out of place. The pain was always such a surprise. It was a sharp wave that would crash over me. I would often cry out and reach for a handhold to stop myself from falling. But the pain would pass, and I would keep on walking. Two years passed before I finally went to see a doctor. It was there I learned the damage I had added to my initial injury. He very quickly assessed the missing ACL. But in the duration I had ground away the cartilage behind the knee. I had also tore the MCL by making it carry the entire load of holding my knee in place. A bad injury became an awful injury requiring major surgery to correct.
You’d think I would learn.
This month I went to another voice specialist. This time I got to see the inside of my throat in high definition. I could see the trauma there on my vocal cords. There was a bubble/tear thing as clear as day. The doc thinks it came from all my coughing during COVID. That is what made my voice hoarse. This trauma was easy to correct. A 10 minute surgery could remove it and I could have my voice back within a few days. That is the way this story should go.
Alas, we cannot do surgery. For while the camera was down my throat they saw something else. I had to read a script they gave me so they could watch the vocal cords vibrate. In real time I could see the same thing they were seeing. My throat was completely closing in around the vocal cords. It looked like a sandworm gobbling up a desert wanderer. The doctors gathered around the television and were pointing and talking in their half latin gibberish. I asked the obvious question. “Is that normal?”
The main lady was of Polish origin. I don’t she think she has any children, for kindness and gentleness was nowhere to be found. “No.” She explained that my throat was closing in on my vocal cords and I was literally fighting against myself when trying to produce sound. It is why I cannot sing and why my voice becomes a whisper by the time Sunday comes to an end. She then told me her theory on how this happened.
“Your vocal cords were injured during COVID. This injury didn’t allow your vocal cords to vibrate correctly or come fully together. You unconsciously found a way around this problem. You began using the muscles in your throat as a megaphone. Now these muscles are too strong, and they are closing too much.”
My thoughts went back to a conversation between Angie and I.
“You sound good today. Do you think you’re getting better?”
“Babe, I think I figure it out.”
“Yeah. I can feel where it is weak. And if I move where the sound is coming from, it gets better.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s hard to explain. It’s like if you get a blister on the back of your foot, and you start walking on your toes to relieve that pressure. I can move where the voice is coming through and I get more of it.”
It was not an unconscious thing. I wanted my voice back and I found a way around its weakness. I didn’t realize that I was making it worse.
So, now I begin the long road to recovery. The first thing I must do is unlearn what I have learned. I begin vocal therapy at the end of the month. I am going to a very good voice coach to learn how to relieve the tension in my throat muscles. Once my throat stops eating my vocal cords, then we can talk about surgery. It is going to be a long walk, but I am glad to know the path to get there.