My Vocal Injury Journey- Part V

After almost 4 months of ALL KINDS of therapy (on and off, due to unforeseen insurance and Work. Comp. circumstances), I was able to be released to start singing with the help of a doctorate in voice, Dr. Michelle Latour.  (Her Website- Latour Voice Studios.) She is a complete GODDESS of a coach.  Back I went to singing lessons, 3-4 times a week- hundreds of dollars a month, and starting from scratch. I felt like I was in pre-k for singers.  And then after about a month and a half, I noticed I can sing a scale without cracking on every note… on certain vowels only, but still.  And then a word. Certain vowels and consonants, but words nonetheless. It was major progress.

My singing instructor still sensed something wrong,  because after that much rest, I shouldn't have been having SO much difficulty.  Something just wasn't right... still.  She suggested, along with countless other doctors recommendations, to go and see Dr. Michael Johns, laryngologist at USC Keck Medical Center.  I had not seen one yet, because the state of Nevada (entertainment capitol of the world?) doesn’t have one that specializes in singers and worker’s comp doesn’t really deal with out-of-state doctors. 

So I went on my own accord- he saw me immediately, thanks to a few recommendation phone calls, and WOW I wish I had done it sooner.  I hadn’t only because Worker’s Comp wouldn’t cover it, so I didn’t think I was allowed. All they had kept saying was, “we will not cover that,” (laws) when a doctor or I would bring it up, so I was worried I would get in a lot of trouble if I went. After a discussion with my W.C nurse and realizing there was no peer-to-peer evaluation available in NV, it was kind of impossible for me to get in trouble.  I went on my own accord, and it showed that I was willing to do whatever I could to heal myself, even if it meant spending my own money. (um… OF COURSE. For the last time I don’t want to be sitting at home for this long at the age of 28.)

So, anyway, I went to USC, and it was EYE OPENING to say the least.  The medical tools they have at a facility like that are world-class for a reason. Dr. Johns is world-class for a reason.  I found out my nodules were almost gone (WITHOUT SURGERY!), but I had hemorrhaged, and I had also developed what was called tongue, laryngeal and vocal chord dystonia. Basically, it’s the step before an atrophy where everything surrounding your vocal chords is desperately trying to protect themselves, and they cease-up a bit. I like to explain them as short-circuiting, which explains why only certain vowels and consonants were working.  My chords don’t move and vibrate properly, they are extremely tense, and it takes a very particular specialist to work it all out.  OH BOY- more doctors. They assured me it wasn't something I had done "wrong", but moreso the fact that I hadn't had a full diagnosis to get the proper care I needed (due to lack of providers in Nevada who do this sort of thing.). We all had been shooting in the dark until this very moment.  Almost 5 months into this journey.

I was put on very specific orders for him, which included another 8 days of complete voice rest along with strong steroids, and seeing a certified laryngeal manipulator in LA. Yep. A massage and manipulation for my vocal chords, my neck, and my laryx.  Her name is Amy Chapman, and worked alongside famous singing doctors (miracle workers) Dr. Gupta and Dr. Johns for years before opening her own practice.  There are… well, I can count on one hand how many of HER there are in the world. Like maybe 2. Maybe.  Her clients are the biggest star vocalists of my generation… and it was an HONOR to be in the same room as her, let along work with her.

I drove/flew back and forth a few times over this last month (that was awesome for my back and bank account but I didn’t care in the slightest), and each time I went, I feel like I was making MAJOR progress. It was jaw-dropping- the difference in my sound. It was crazy how much it hurt, too, which was proof of how bad it had gotten.  I went from being able to sing in my belt 5-10% of the time to 40% of the time in a month.  This kind of rapid growth after MONTHS of almost nothing… what?! It put a lot of encouragement back into my heart.

However, Amy explained, along with Dr. Johns, just how important each step of this process was.  That little baby hemorrhage could have become a career-ending injury. But it's not, because I found the right team.  They, along with my speech pathologist, my ENT, my voice teacher, and my worker’s comp nurse, are now all telling me the exact same thing: keep working hard, and BE PATIENT. You’re getting better.

OKAY OKAY I WILL!!!!!! (I just needed to see a bit more than inklings of results…)

At the same time as all of this, my back was healing, too! I've been going to a very well-known Physical Therapy Office- Tim Soder Physical Therapy, Wellness, and Sports Performance. Being a sports junky, it's pretty cool working out next to professional UFC fighters, MLB pitchers, NHL and NBA players, etc.  I went from not being able to lift a 1-pound weight a month ago, to lifting 5, to doing leg presses, to riding a stationary bike for 3 miles in 15 minutes.  I lost the 15 pounds I had gained over these last 4 months, and working on more. I felt stronger. The procedures I had done were working, and I will be cleared to return to work for my back well before my voice follows suit, which is a complete miracle.

I was finally healing.  I am healing. I will heal.

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” –Robert Collier