Imagine opening your mouth to speak and your voice can’t get louder than a whisper. You can’t talk on the phone. It’s difficult to order food in a restaurant or even carry on a simple conversation. In an emergency, you can’t cry out for help. This is the world Patsy Blackburn lived in for seven years.
After undergoing a left thoracotomy and excision of a small lung cancer in 1999, Patsy had experienced intermittent hoarseness and suffered with the progression of vocal cord weakness. While she was always a quiet, soft-spoken woman by nature, the vocal cord paralysis worsened and continued to affect her ability to speak. To make matters worse, singing in the choir, a part of her life that brought so much joy, was no longer possible.
Her family physician referred Patsy to CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat. An evaluation by William McClelland, M.D., confirmed left true vocal cord paralysis.
Although there are several treatment options available for vocal cord paralysis, based on Patsy’s history and physical exam a left medialization thyroplasty was recommended. Feeling hopeful that her embarrassing symptoms could finally be alleviated, Patsy decided to proceed with the procedure.
Our ENT surgeon successfully performed a medialization thyroplasty, which restored Patsy’s voice. During the outpatient procedure, a small piece of thyroid cartilage was removed and the Montgomery® Thyroplasty Implant was used to improve vocal cord closure by forcing the vocal fold back to midline. Because the procedure was completed under mild sedation, it was possible for Patsy to communicate during the procedure to determine optimal voice clarity and loudness.
According to Patsy, “Although the doctor told me to rest my voice right after surgery, I was so excited to hear my own voice, that I couldn’t help myself!” Her recovery went very well, with only a mild sore throat for a few days following the procedure.
After seven years of only being able to whisper, Patsy Blackburn has her voice back. She is grateful to once again be able to have normal conversations and to talk on the phone – things most people take for granted. “And” she said, “I’m gradually working toward my goal of singing with my choir again.”