Hospitals and doctors’ offices are all too familiar for me. I’ve had more than 15 surgeries during my life, from an appendectomy and tonsillectomy as a child to orthopedic surgeries on my knees and wrists as an adult. After a frightening open heart surgery in 2003, I hoped that my days of medical procedures would be behind me. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
In 2012, I started to develop a raspy voice that didn’t go away. It wasn’t a painful feeling; I was just always hoarse. The symptom continued for about a year and a half. Since I’m a lawyer who negotiates union contracts for a living, it’s important for me to be able to speak clearly and effectively. I finally went to see a doctor, looking for answers. The first doctor told me that I simply needed to rest my voice and the problem would resolve itself. So, for a while, I tried to do most of my work by email instead of speaking.
When the hoarseness didn’t go away, the doctor examined my throat more closely, diagnosed me with vocal cord disease and recommended surgical procedures to remove several lesions that had developed. But the symptoms persisted and the lesions kept coming back. My doctor sent me to see Lee Akst, MD, an otolaryngologist at the Johns Hopkins Voice Center located at GBMC, for more specialized treatment.
When I walked into the Voice Center, I was filled with uncertainty, wondering if I might have cancer or if I would need to have my vocal cords removed. When I met Dr. Akst, he had a calming effect on me. It was apparent that he had cared for patients like me before. He was very knowledgeable and took his time explaining everything to me.
With vocal cord disease, repeated surgeries can cause scarring in the throat, which affects the long-term quality of a person’s voice. I did not recover quickly from the first surgeries and had to whisper for weeks at a time afterward instead of speaking normally. I was concerned about what my voice might sound like in the future as a result of the procedures. Dr. Akst and the Voice Center team established a way to manage my vocal cord disease while keeping my voice quality intact using a technique called microlaryngoscopy. The treatment was much less invasive than what I had previously experienced. For example, when he looked at my throat, Dr. Akst used a device that went through my mouth instead of my nose. This method was easier and also put my anxiety to rest.
During my most recent appointment with Dr. Akst, he said my throat looks better than ever! I have never liked looking at the screen showing images of my vocal cords, but during this last appointment, Dr. Akst strongly encouraged me to look at the remarkable “before and after” photos. It was truly amazing to see the difference that I can already feel and hear. Today, everyday life is enjoyable. It’s much easier now to communicate with my clients! I’m married to a wonderful woman and a typical weekend finds us relaxing at the pool in our backyard with any of our nine grandchildren. In my free time, I help to rehabilitate birds of prey and tend to my freshwater stingray tank. There’s never a dull moment at our house! I’m so grateful to Dr. Akst and the Voice Center for allowing me to continue living the life I love.
An Inside Look at the Voice Center
Fender Voice & Music Studio—Voice therapy for performing artists is provided in the fully equipped music studio offering guitars, a digital baby grand piano, amplifiers, microphones and recording capabilities to meet the needs of performers.
Laryngeal Procedure Room—Laryngeal Stroboscopy, vocal fold augmentation/injections and vocal fold laser treatments are performed in the laryngeal procedure room. These procedures are performed for a variety of vocal fold impairments.
Stroboscopy Room—In the stroboscopy room, a physician or speech pathologist uses an endoscope, which provides telescopic video recordings of a patient’s larynx, to help diagnose underlying causes of a patient’s voice issues. During the procedure, the physician and the speech pathologist instruct the patient to perform various vocal tasks in order to observe vocal cord movement and to identify any vocal pathologies.
Body & Movement Room—The movement education studio is designed for body-centered therapy to enhance body awareness, release chronic muscular tensions and promote the physical freedom necessary for vocal flexibility
For additional information about the Johns Hopkins Voice Center located at GBMC, visit www.gbmc.org/voice or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).