Voice Lift Review: Or, Laryngology Phenomenology (not really, but it rhymes)

Well, I don’t really recommend the operation for a good time (graphic details below the line for the curious) but it certainly has had an effect on my voice. It sounds different and it’s easier to talk. I would definitely do it again. My friend Derek says that before my voice sounded like my old voice but with a cold, now my voice sounds like I have a different kind of cold. It’s still a little gravelly–possibly because I’m sore–since the laryngologist had to poke my vocal cord several times. But I can raise it a little and it takes a lot less effort to talk. I don’t feel light headed as easily. I still needed the speech amp at the Dirty Beaches show last night, but I didn’t have to work as hard. If I strained, it tickled, rather than felt like my breath was rushing out of me. This should be good for about three months. they’re hoping to get new goo from the US to inject next time that will last for six. I don’t think either the doctor or I would relish doing the operation more than once.

Oh, and on the speech amp: I still haven’t totally adjusted to it socially. I mean, I just use it but I do feel somewhat self conscious. Though it’s kind of ridiculous. Take last night. I’m in a room full of painfully decked out hipsters with all their little fashion details worked out just so; that perfect mix of conformity and sanctioned eccentricity. From a viewpoint above the room, one guy with a transistor radio around his neck and wearing a mic is just another hipster with a lame quirk.

Or not. Gory stuff below the line. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Okay, so this is what happens when you get an injection medialization laryngoplasty, or at least when I did. This all happened in the ENT wing of Montreal general in a normal doctor-meets-patient ENT room.

I sit in the patient chair. The doctor makes it recline and has me stretch out my neck (with a towel behind me for support). Some of the usual stuff happens. They spray anaesthetic up my nose (this always happens) and then follow it up with a fiber optic camera (called “scoping”) which goes up my nose and down my throat so my vocal cords are on a big screen. Before the camera goes in, they spray stuff down my throat to numb it. This is especially difficult because I have a serious gag reflex, it turns out. It takes a few tries, and to everyone’s surprise at one point I puke a little bit. Don’t worry, that never happens, except to me! If you’re worried, have them put a towel over you or bring a change of shirt (I was able to cover up so nobody knew afterward). Anyway, there’s lots of injecting and freezing.

Once everything is numb, they insert the scope (the resident handled that part) and the doctor goes in with the needle through the front of my neck. There a tiny needle hole but I can’t get a good picture to show you (I tried) and it’s going to heal quickly. Anyway, at this point there is a lot of poking around, as the doctor watches what he’s doing on the screen and tries to hit the right parts of my vocal cord. it’s hard. The shit hurts. It also just doesn’t feel right. But I’m committed. I’m trying just to breathe through my nose and not think about what’s going on, and especially not to swallow, which is difficult because apart from the poking it also tickles. The needle gets bent. He gets some in and we take a break. Then everyone goes in again. I need some extra “freezing” as one part of my nose is getting more sensitive. The second time seems easier for all involved.

I can immediately feel it is easier to talk, though my voice sounds silly and hoarse. I rest for 15 minutes (I brought a tenure file to read through–don’t worry, it wasn’t yours!) and then head to the bathroom, clean up and walk to the metro. I have been instructed to talk a lot, and so I change my plans for the day to do stuff that involves talking with people.

I wish I’d started the pain killers while I was still numb, but it’s just a general soreness. Nothing too serious.

So now I understand a little bit of what some women go through for their idea of beauty (not mine, but whatever). All I can say is that if you’re really committed, it seems 100% worth it.