Under the Knife

For a slight change of pace, I’m going to make a more personal entry today regarding what I’ve been up to for the past few months and specifically, the past few days.
Today, I am recovering from minor surgery on my vocal cords.
Yesterday, I underwent minor surgery on my vocal cords at NYU.Fourteen months ago, I had a normal, boring speaking voice.
Over the past year or so (following my return from Beijing) my voice has suffered progressive deterioration, and I have been chronically and consistently hoarse. Despite assurances from my male friends and relatives that my gravelly voice was “really sexy”, I was tired of sounding like I was sick all of the time, and of not having full use of my body. Since symptoms persisted for several consecutive months, I decided it was time to see a doctor. My MD referred me to an ENT in Princeton. After a laryngoscopy determined that I had “stuff” growing on my vocal cords, I tried a few prescription treatments to reduce or eliminate the growths, with no success. When my local ENT was out of ideas, he referred me to Milan Amin, the Director of the Voice Center at NYU. After a short visit with Dr. Amin and another scope, he suggested that I undergo surgery to remove the growths. Surgery would provide me with clean cords and relief from my hoarseness, and also an opportunity for the doctors to biopsy the removed tissue in order to check for any malignant cell growth.

The only other surgery experience I’ve had was my wisdom teeth back in 2001, which is a fairly benign operation. This procedure, while also minor, occurred in a real live OR, with tons of activity happening all around me, and was a completely different experience altogether.
One of my favorite moments of the morning was signing my life away with the anesthetist, who handed me a waiver that proposed I could possibly suffer: numbness, dental damage, blindness, deafness, full or partial paralysis, or death–but that was only a partial list (what else would you really want to include?).
Ellen was my chaperone for the day, and did a great job. She endured meeting all of my doctors and nurses, held on to my stuff for me when I was in the OR, met with the doctor afterward, kept my mother informed, and then drove me home with a side stop at Stop & Shop for a “soft food” menu.
I had a nasty headache yesterday from the anesthesia, my throat felt pretty ripped up and I had a bruise from the IV site, but other than that, I’m no worse for the wear. The hardest part of all of this was removing all of my body piercings that I’ve accumulated over the past several years. My earrings, nose and tongue were all easy enough to remove, but the lip ring was really a bother. I left it in until the last minute, so in the process of getting admitted and checked in got asked by three different nurses, “Ok…so do you have piercings anywhere… ELSE?” Yikes.

So, nearly 15 months after symptoms first started, I’m done with my surgery and am excited at the prospect of having my “normal” speaking voice back after a very long time without it. There are a number of people in my life (including many of my coworkers and teammates) who have never known me except with my scratchy voice–it will be fun and interesting to reacquaint myself with them with my “real” voice.

In the meantime, I am spending today relaxing, and the next four days on full voice rest. So far, it has been an interesting challenge to go without speaking, since I am normally a very chatty person. Ellen has been gracious enough to make necessary phone calls for me; I had my first challenge interacting with the greater public today when I went up to New Brunswick to get new jewelry for my lip and tragus. The employees at Revolution Tattoo were very kind and understanding of my slightly odd situation…and just laughed at how badly mangled my old jewelry was from Ellen and myself trying to bend and wrestle it back in to my body for a half hour last night. Whoops. It’s ok Ellen, not everyone is meant to be a body modification artist.

The good news is that this surgery was minor enough that I will be back to training very soon. I will be cross training tomorrow, and through the weekend, and back to rowing and full training next week. I am grateful that all this was was a procedure to clear up a minor inconvenience and not something more serious–but at the same time, the experience was good in making more aware of how precious my health and body really are. Looking around the hospital yesterday, I was one of the only young “healthy” people around–except for the doctors–and I got the feeling that many of the other patients weren’t just there for a laryngeal tune up.

Thanks to my friends and family for all their support during my little adventure, I am looking forward to speaking with you soon!

Long Live the Dream,

–MK

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