Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mystery solved

I've been experiencing some hoarseness and vocal problems for about two months and was finally able to see an doctor (Dr. King at Boulder Valley ENT) for an endoscopy on Friday. We discovered that I have a polyp on one of my vocal cords. It's small, but is unfortunately not something that will disappear with vocal rest. I will have to undergo outpatient surgery to have it removed. At this point, I'm waiting for the doctor's office to schedule the surgery. It's supposed to take place as soon as possible, but I don't know what that means in hospital terms.

Essentially, a vocal polyp is a blood-filled blister. Untreated, it would eventually cause irritation and quite probably a nodule (callous) to form on the opposite cord. It could also enlarge and cause further problems. The surgery involves opening a flap of skin on the polyp, draining it, and closing the flap. Sounds simple, right? It would be if it was on my toe, or just about anywhere else on my body.

Polyps are usually caused by overuse or trauma to the vocal cords (too much talking, singing, or screaming, or singing while sick). While I have certainly abused my voice in the past (singing for 4 hours straight in smokey bars, screaming at concerts, talking over music at parties with friends all night, etc.), I haven't done anything even remotely strenuous in the last few months (or year, for that matter). There is a good chance the polyp may have occurred due to acid reflux, so I'm being treated for that as well. I haven't really had symptoms of it, but apparently, it can often occur without the typical signs of heartburn.

The prognosis for a full recovery is very good. After the surgery, I will have 3-4 days of complete vocal rest and then weeks of voice therapy, gradually speaking a little each day (and I would imagine involving some exercises). I'm unclear at this point exactly how long it will be before I can perform again. Now that I'm over the initial shock, I have more detailed questions to ask Dr. King.

Perhaps more shocking than the diagnoses was the news that I may not have health insurance coverage anymore. Tom is still trying to determine if I'm covered or not. His employer sold the company to another company about the time Tom went to Illinois to help his dad recover from quadruple bypass surgery (he is still there, by the way). His start date at the new company was moved to January and he was told that he would have insurance in the interim, but when he investigated it last week to be sure he discovered that we may have been dropped. When it rains, it pours...

I'll post more information as I get it. In the meantime, I welcome all the crossed fingers, warm thoughts, and prayers you'd care to send my way.

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