Shhhhh, Fffffff, Ssssss, Zzzzzz – With a Watford Accent

I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that I had forgotten how silly speech therapy makes you feel. Speech therapy makes you feel really really really silly. I was guided through various relaxation and phonetic exercises, however found it extremely difficult keeping a straight face.

Wednesday I had a day of hospital visits. It started off by trekking to my medical home base in London – Charing Cross Hospital – again. So it was the usual waiting game though I have to say I was extremely impressed that I was called in a mere 10 minutes after arriving. I was called in by a registrar that looked too young to be playing doctor. But he was very nice and I have to say very gentle when sliding the flexible endoscope through my nasal sinuses.

With my existing vocal issues he was unsure on what exactly to recommend so he called upon the Guru himself who made a personal appearance. He even took the time to stick the scope down my nose again, being not quite as gentle as his predecessor, but still careful enough for me to not mentally punch him. His summary of my airway were these words exactly:

The airway looks brilliant actually

Sufficed to say I did a little mental happy dance around the clinic. Ok, so maybe it was a H U G E mental happy dance though considering the verdict it was fully reasonable. Were I not abstaining from alcohol for the next 4 months I would have cracked a bottle of bubbly to toast the news (one would think I had won millions in the lottery – though I guess in a way it is like winning the lottery, even if it is “only” medically, though absolutely priceless).

The only thing that made me give him an evil eye was the fact that he suggested an Isshiki Thyroplasty (type 1). For those who are particularly interested:

More surgery… yay – not! The good thing is that there is no real rush to do this and compared to what I have already been through, ‘a walk in the park’ to use his words. Being a surgeon ready to slice and dice it seemed as though he would have loved getting me back almost next week to carry it out, his reason being he was thinking of my working situation in particular. Thankfully we could agree on postponing until May, when I will have put my body through a torturous 42 km run through London. This will also give speech therapy a chance to hopefully improve things without having to take a scalpel to hand.

On to speech therapy. Thanks to a power cut half of it was carried out in darkness. But necessity is indeed the mother of invention, in this case creativity, so the only illumination came from the flashlight of my phone. The session started off with listening to a recording of my original voice, kindly sent to me by my ex-boyfriend. Apparently something like that is a bit of luxury as it is rare to have an original recording of a voice prior to issues that have been going on as long as mine.

I was moved on to some relaxation techniques of the neck and upper spine. Sitting there I thought I could quite happily carry on doing this without even feeling silly about it. But of course this state of not making an idiot of oneself was not to last. During the first phonic exercise, the Ssshhh-sound I found it rather difficult to contain myself and ended up in fits of giggles. I had exactly one thought running through my mind: ‘How on earth am I supposed to do this properly at home?‘ You honestly feel like a complete prat sitting there, going ssshhh, ffffff, sssss, zzzzz, moon and so forth. I think I need to hide somewhere when I do these. But as the saying goes ‘No pain (in my case embarrassment), no gain.’ And if I want my voice back up to scratch I will have to bite the bullet and just get on with it.

The Watford accent comes in with exercises interrupting the normal flow of breath. It basically means omitting the ‘t’ when saying things like ‘butter‘. Oh joy, just the thing I am desperately trying to get my son not to do as he has picked it up at school and now I am the one actually having to do it. It will be a tricky one explaining that to him, why mummy has to do it but he shouldn’t. I can already see the discussions coming.

One rather depressing thing I noticed very quickly is that I have totally unlearned how to speak. By that I mean properly. My voice is currently supraglottic – above the vocal cords – which is causing the strained sound in my voice. And I have more than likely trained myself to do that back in 2004 when I had my first tracheostomy. So 10 years of incorrect speaking. It is going to be a long journey re-training my actual cords. And yes, I will very probably need the final procedure, but I am positive that, along with regular speech therapy sessions will help create a fairly normal if husky voice again.

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