Monday, May 14, 2007
From the Vocally Challenged
I preached my first "full-length" sermon at a little church in Morvan, GA back in the fall of 1968. Wow, that was a few years ago! Of course, I was only two at the time - not! Once I began full time work in '74, I started having all the usual preacher voice problems that come with the job. Sore throats and occasional laryngitis are just part of the job. In the mid '80's I started raising the pitch of my voice and straining the muscles around it as I would preach, and I knew at the time it was un-natural and damaging. But a Dr. at the time said all looked well and it was just a matter of how much pain I could put up with if I decided to continue to talk that way. However, I noticed that talking in crowds, like the foyer or noisy restaurants would just wear out my voice and that meant something wasn't right. Well, for the last year (okay, I won't say it's been coming to a head) it's been rapidly getting worse - to the point I avoid talking any time I can. An ENT Dr. last September suspected it was spasmodic dysphonia, as well as a speech pathologist I went to, but it seemed to improve a little after some practical therapy sessions. Last week, after finding a Dr. who specializes in SD and is one of the top guys in the country on the disorder, it was confirmed. SD "is a voice disorder caused by involuntary movements of one or more muscles of the larynx or voice box." It's believed to be a neurological problem in that signals from the brain cause the vocal folds to shut or open involuntarily and disrupt the speech pattern. The only treatment that seems to be having any success at the time is botox injections directly into the laryngeal muscles. I'm scheduled to have my first one on the 25th. I'm not excited about having a needle stuck into my throat, but I am very excited about getting my voice back. I don't know which is worse, having people flinch when they hear me talk because it sounds like I'm in pain, or people telling me I sound like Bill Clinton. The nice part is that with lots of air and volume, I can preacher relatively okay, but it still sounds to the listeners like it hurts. It doesn't and the Dr. says I'm not causing any permanent damage. It does take a lot more effort and it does really tire my voice a lot more than normal. Right now I'm thankful that God helped me find this specialist, and what's even more amazing, got me in to see him in two days. God gave me the voice, called me to preach, and has guided me every step of the way. If He wants me to keep on keeping on - either the botox will work or He'll do something else. In the mean time, I'm remembering all those times as a kid and early teen when we used to call each other "spastics" all the time. Now I really IS one! Of course, "spasmodic" sounds almost scientific - or like something Bill & Ted might say - "Man, like I'm really feeling kinda spasmodic today dude." And dysphonia sounds like "talking trash" on the telephone.