When you have vocal cord surgery, the weeks following the procedure require a SLOW, steady, and silent process of healing. But then you already know all about that if you’ve been reading this blog throughout the last few weeks. During this healing process, it’s critical to avoid any activity that will cause my vocal cords to bang together. At first, that meant avoiding making any noise whatsoever. That was the Grand Silence of Days #1-11. Then, as healing started, I could make some noise. I could let my vocal cords come together gently; by creating sound through a straw in a glass of water, in essence, by blowing bubbles. (As it stated in my instructions “the rationale for this exercise is to create a cycle of back pressure that assists with opening and relaxing the muscles of the larynx.) In layman’s terms, doing this lets you make a sound without your vocal cords slamming together.
Now that I’m well into in week #3 of recovery, avoiding activity that makes my vocal cords bang together means talking softly for very short periods of time (like a couple minutes per hour!), being mindful of background noise, not talking on the telephone, etc. During each of these stages, I’ve been instructed to avoid coughing at all costs.
Why avoid coughing? Well, I’ve learned that when you cough, your vocal cords bang together with pretty significant (and usually uncontrolled) force. Same thing happens when you clear your throat. It’s extreme collision of cords that can cause an injury. During my first visit with the speech pathologist, I was given a great new way to clear my throat that I’ll share with you. When you feel like something’s in your throat, breathe in very deeply through your nose (imagine smelling a rose). At the end of the inhale, swallow hard. Then, through pursed lips, exhale. Sounds weird, but it really works. Another tip I was given was to avoid any foods that could cause choking…foods like like popcorn or almonds. There was no mention of salad, however.
Today, I shoved a fork full of Greek-salad-dressing-drenched salad into my mouth, and a drop of the vinegar-based salad dressing made its way to my trachia. Tilt!
I have become really mindful of when it feels like there’s something in my throat, and I’ve learned to stop when I get that sensation before doing something crazy like clear my throat or cough. Today, in that split second moment, when I felt like something was in my throat…like I was choking…I paused. I paused just long enough to fight my natural instinct to draw in a quick breath which would either have started a coughing jag or ended with a throat clearing. By some miracle, I was able to just hold my breath for a moment and swallow hard. Then I breathed in slowly through my nose and swallowed hard once again. It worked! I avoided a coughing fit and a possible injury. Thankfully, I’ve always got a water bottle within an arm’s length of me, so I could take a sip of water to finish the clearing. I had a close call with a cough but dodged the bullet and went on with my day.
Day #23 is coming to a close for the nearly Silent Extrovert. If you would have asked me back in January what I’d be doing in May, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have said, “I’ll be sharing instructions on how to clear your throat in a healthy way with my friends.”
Once again, my plan and God’s….