Saturday, November 13, 2021

 I lost my voice this past week.  Jack, or somebody, was kind enough to give me some kind of bug that settled in my sinuses and produced copious amounts of phelgm which then dripped down the back of my throat, only to land on my vocal cords and inflame them.  On Tuesday my voice started sounding awful.  By Wednesday it was worse.  I went for a covid test which came back negative.  Thursday was a stat holiday and then back to work on Friday by which time I had lost my voice.  I could only whisper.

I spend all day talking to people.  I have to ask questions.  I tease, joke and distract my patients while starting IVs.  When I work in the interventional suite, I teach my patients all about their new central line.  I stand at the reception desk and call out patient's names to take them back for CT prep.  I talk a lot at work, except this past Friday.

I realized on Thursday night that I was going to have a problem so I decided to make up flash cards with the most common and important questions I needed to ask patients.  I opted out of the interventional suite and started IVs only on Friday.  I had other people call out patient's names for me and I used gestures a lot.  I got my point across with very little talking and today my voice is feeling much better, not back to normal but not a whisper anymore either.

Miss Katie can't talk.  She doesn't have the neurological ability to get everything working together to make speech.  That doesn't mean she's quiet, quite the opposite.  She's very noisy and uses sounds, gestures and sign language to get her point across.  Most people think she's deaf until I explain that she can hear just fine but she can't talk.  Some people assume she's stupid because she can't talk, those people are wrong.  Other people try to ignore Katie and talk to me but she doesn't usually let that happen.  She intervenes.  She should be the focus of all conversations, or so she believes.

On Friday, most people didn't talk to me.  One patient seemed to think I was deaf and wouldn't be able to hear her and used gestures to communicate with me.  A few patients chatted with me, I could nod my head or shake my head.  If I had to, I could get close up to patients and whisper but I tried to avoid that, being in the time of covid and all.  Mostly I found it to be a lonely day.  I missed joking around with my coworkers and my patients.  Every interaction took a lot more of my energy.  I couldn't use my flash cards on people who didn't read english which limited me, although I did find that patients for whom english was a second language seemed to be much more at ease with my gestures.  I was worn out by the end of the day, not just from work but from the work of trying to communicate without a voice. 

And then I thought about Katie and how hard every day must be for her, trying to get her point across, trying to communicate with others, trying to make a connection, and I realized how little credit I give her.  She is tenacious, she has to be.  Katie sails through life and she makes it look easy most of the time, but it's got to be hard work, trying to make yourself understood, trying to understand what is going on around you, every day.  I wonder if she gets lonely.  God, I hope not.  


  1. It is sobering to realize how much we depend on talking and on our ability to be understood. It would feel incredibly powerless to be hampered in that. It sounds like Katie advocates for herself and has found ways to make herself heard. But how exhausting and frustrating that must be for her, as you discovered. (and I have too when I've lost my voice)

  2. Something good came out of your lost voice episode - a better understanding of what it is like to be Katie. Sounds like you'll be ready to jabber away as normal in the week ahead.

  3. I have a heck of a time understanding the meaning behind gestures a couple of the deaf/mute residents of Emil's group home use, but love it that they want to communicate as much as they do -- they make one feel welcome and important each time one stops in -- and that they make the effort. Scott is way better at grasping what they're saying. I was better at comprehending the words spoken by a lady for whom English is a second language than Scott was, though, which was surprising. I guess I have a better ear for what's spoken, while he is more observant of gestures. Apparently we have very different communication styles, which could be -- hmm -- another reason we hear things quite differently than intended, sometimes, when talking to each other.
    Emil can talk, and does -- a mile a minute. He started quite early in his life. The past couple years he talks so fast that his words run together and it's hard to understand him. Don't even get me started on the repetitiveness of his sentences. For gawd's sake never interrupt with a question for he will start over again at the very beginning of his story.
    Your wondering about Katie being lonely echoes a thought that came into my head last night as Emil went to bed in the room at the other end of the hallway, while Scott and I held hands in our king-size bed before falling asleep. I wondered if Emil felt lonely, going to bed alone -- ever, last night, and probably for the rest of his life. It made me sad, although he has no way of knowing different, really, except for when he was a child and he and his brother sometimes shared a bed.
    The experiences our children will never know -- the realization of that is something that doesn't hit me often, but when it does, it hits hard. As you will know. -Kate

  4. It does take a lot of extra effort to communicate with no speech -- or in an environment where you don't speak the language, which I imagine is similar. (Though at least there you can use sounds.)

  5. I've hard people have different personalities in different languages. I imagine speech and no speech might be definitive of how people share themselves, too.

  6. Thank you for visiting my blog; I hope you will return.
    We don't think of speech as a 'sense' in its own right - but I have always felt it to be at least one half of what I guess we call 'sound' - for to hear without the ability to respond in kind must be, as you discovered, so limiting.
    For all that, there are one two people I know who I rather wish would shut the *** up!
    On a related note, here in the UK there is a popular dance programme on TV (we call it Strictly Come Dancing I think the US version is Dancing with the Stars) and currently there is young actress participating who is entirely deaf. She is brilliant - I do so hope she wins.

  7. I hate the sinus infections! All of my colds head directly to my sinuses and ears, they're like heat seeking missiles. Hope you're recovered. Not being able to speak in your job must have been a trial.

  8. We humans are the talking animals, aren't we?

  9. Oh poor you. I don't think we realize how much we take our faculties for granted until we lose one of them, do we. I know at my large supermarket in Annecy they have quite a few deaf cashiers and they wear a badge stating that they are deaf and would you please look at them when talking. Works for me, but you're right, it must be quite isolating too! Hope you feel better soon!

  10. Think of you often and send wishes for energy and peace. Now for feeling better too.

  11. My job is 100% based on my ability to talk. If I lose my voice, I'm down for the count.

    Hope you heal up quickly!