I am a singer, actress and storyteller. My voice is the most important tool that I use for my work. Without my voice ... well I am not sure I would have much of a career.
On the morning of Sunday Sept.29, 1996 I woke up and began my day as if it were all other days. While I was doing the breakfast dishes I noticed my voice seemed a little odd but assumed it was a momentary thing, or a cold coming on. A little while later my 5 year old daughter began to sing a very simple song. I joined in with her and discovered that I could not sing. On the piano I saw that I could sing only about as high as the C above Middle C. (under normal conditions I am a High Soprano) Above that, it felt as if my vocal chords lust became paralyzed. It felt as if nothing was moving. No sound came out. I also realized I had no ability to project my voice at all. All I could do was talk within a few notes. I could not even raise the pitch of my speaking voice very much at all. Like I said, nothing above about a C.
I went to my internist. She in turn sent me to an Ear, Nose & Throat doctor who said: "It appears to be a weakness in your vocal chord. See a neurologist."
I went to a neurologist. He found nothing that could lead him to believe it was neurologically induced.
I went to see ANOTHER ENT doctor for a second opinion. He took videos of my vocal chords. He also said see a neurologist. I told him I had already. He and the neurologist spoke. Same story. So now this ENT decided it must be something called REFLUX. That is, gastric juices coming back up and harming my vocal chords.
Yes I did have reflux. I knew this. Ever since the birth of my 2nd child I'd had it. But how come this loss of voice came on so suddenly! Why had there not been any other signs of it... if it was reflux?
Well I was put onto medication for Reflux. I did all the suggested remedies for reflux. Amazingly.... The reflux got WORSE! And my voice still was non-existent.
About 3 weeks after I lost my voice I decided to try something I had only heard of - acupuncture. What did I have to lose, was my feeling.
A close friend recommended Dr. DaRen Chen. She was a storyteller herself and had been seeing him for a variety of things.
The first thing that I became aware of was that only 2 days after my first treatment my energy level suddenly increased amazingly. I had been fairly depressed I realized. And although the depression did not completely vanish ... suddenly people I knew were making comments to me about how much happier I suddenly seemed. And I was.
A week after my first treatment I returned to my piano and checked my voice again as I did every week or so. I was able to now get to A! I was very pleased even with this small amount of progress.
I was doing treatment now 2-3 times a week. Each week I checked my voice and found another 1 or 2 notes had returned. During the first few weeks of this I was still on the reflux medication and feeling worse on it than I had felt without it. Dr. Chen mentioned that he could help my reflux condition. So I decided to take myself off the medication. I started to feel better, but I still had bouts with reflux.
By the end of November a great deal of my voice had returned. I felt so good that I decided to perform a short 10 minute storysong for my daughter's class. I had a great time... but by the end of the story my voice felt horrible and by the next day I had lost almost all that I had gained.
I called my ENT and told him. He said 'Maybe you're getting a cold.'
I told Dr. Chen. He looked at me, shook his head and said: "A 10 minute story? You are not ready to do something like that yet."
I thought to myself. Obviously Dr. Chen is right ... why didn't my University trained, AMA doctor see that?!
Despite my desire to perform ... I held myself back and continued to give it a rest. I vocalized gently every few days.
By the end of December most of my voice had returned, and my reflux was almost non-existent! I was as pleased and startled as anyone. I must admit I still was not certain if the acupuncture REALLY had had anything to do with it at all though.
So in January I went to see a 'famous' Otolaryngologist in San Francisco. He is known for treating President Clinton, Luciano Pavarotti among others. I decided I needed to see the best as well. I spent an hour and half with him.
He reviewed the video that had been done in October, and he did his own as well. What we saw was that my right vocal chord did indeed appear to be very weak. I describe it as looking like a 'couch potato'. It's not all pulled up and taut like it ought to be. The weakness that was present in October was in fact still present in January.
So how did my voice come back?
This doctor explained to me that he thinks it is in fact a neurological problem between my brain and my right vocal chord. But it is so minor that a neurologist could not pick up on it through the routine office check. The reason my voice had come back, he felt, was because I was a professionally trained singer. My body and my brain know what it needs to do to produce sounds and therefore my brain has been REWIRING itself to accomplish this task. He felt that all my recovery had been done by me, myself and I. And as for the idea that reflux could have been a cause, he said 'Absolutely not.'
Upon hearing that my brain had been 'rewiring' itself I suddenly remembered that a week after beginning acupuncture my voice had begun to return. I also remembered that acupuncture is based on meridians that run through your body. I personally am convinced that the acupuncture treatments opened up blocked pathways that then allowed my body to heal itself in the best possible way that it could.
As I write this it is the end of April, 1997, exactly 7 months since I lost my voice. I would say that I have 97% of my voice back. All the notes to my range have returned, and I have full projection again. I can call across a noisy room and be heard. I began performing about three months ago. Very slowly at first ... but I have just finished 4 days of performances and do not even feel a weariness in my voice as I had been feeling in January.
I am very grateful for my open-mindedness to seek acupuncture. I am very grateful to Dr. Chen for not pooh-poohing my problem and giving me some bogus education, but rather really trying to find the cause.
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