I have unilateral vocal cord paralysis on the right side. The paralysis was a result of a PDA ligation (heart surgery to close a valve) when I was 7 days old. I have had this voice since I was a baby. I was "officially" diagnosed by an ENT (Otolaryngologist) a couple years after high school. Up until then, I knew my voice was different, but didn't really know why.
So, what are the symptoms and what is life life with a paralyzed vocal cord? According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology symptoms include:
So, how do these typical symptoms translate into real life?
Both paresis and paralysis of voice box muscles result in voice changes and may also result in airway problems and swallowing difficulties.(More fun facts can be found at http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/vocalChordParalysis.cfm)
Voice changes: Hoarseness; breathy voice; extra effort on speaking; excessive air pressure required to produce usual conversational voice; and diplophonia (voice sounds like a gargle).
Airway problems: Shortness of breath with exertion, noisy breathing, and ineffective cough.
Swallowing problems: Choking or coughing when swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and food sticking in throat.
My personal experience may be differnt from others with VCP, but here is a very brief look at what I experience on a daily basis:
- Hoarseness - often asked if I am sick or have laryngitis
- Breathy - soft, not clear/crisp, you can hear the extra air passing through
- Extra effort on speaking - Often when talking to more than one person, especially in social settings (ie restaurant, on the street, mall, etc.) Voice will feel strained.
- "Gargled voice" - I often get excess mucus accumulation in my throat. I take guafinesen on a daily basis to combat this. (Drinking water helps too)
- Laryngospams - Or vocal cord spasms - no fun what-so-ever. This happens randomly and when I don't take the guafinesen daily.
- Shortness of breath with exertion - this what makes running a challenge
- Noisy breathing - will sound wheezy at times
- Ineffective cough - really only have a problem with this when I am ill
- Choking or coughing when swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and food sticking in throat - luckily I have only had limited problems with this. The only problems I have had were mostly related to a medialization implant that extruded into my airway. (Another story for another day!) Had the implant removed and not has as much trouble with it since.
I have tried pretty much every to "fix" medically available at the present time. I am at the end of the line. I am to a point in my life where I am working to not only accept but to EMBRACE who I am and how I sound. I believe God gave me this voice for a reason.
I am determined to acheive great things. Things I never thought possible before!