I LOST MY VOICE FOR MORE THAN THREE YEARS
(P1) In 2007, just after Halloween, I’d visited the home of a CLIENT in my job as a financial adviser and picked up a VIRUS. I wasn’t especially concerned when I started to experience cold-like SYMPTOMS. My voice became HUSKY, but my doctor assured me it would soon return to normal.
(P2) Instead, it got worse. I could no longer make phone calls and started carrying a little whiteboard to write everything down. I tried to work mostly with people I already knew, who were likely to be more patient with me; but explaining financial details to potential investors with marker pen was a big challenge.
(P3) By May of the following year, it was clear this might be a long-term problem. An ear, nose and throat specialist called my condition “functional dysphonia”. The muscles controlling my vocal chords had SEIZED and locked. Weeks of SPEECH THERAPY made no difference.
(P4) At home, my wife and teenage sons adjusted as best they could. New technologies helped with my day-to-day life. Soon I was using a computer that read out phrases typed into it – a slow process at first, and not enough to save my job.
(P5) My career had been a big part of my life, and losing it was a blow to my confidence. Friendships FOUNDERED as I TURNED DOWN invitations, UNWILLING to sit in silence as conversations carried on around me. My relationship with my wife, Joanna, DETERIORATED and eventually we divorced.
(P6) My situation BRIGHTENED when I was offered a place at Iowa State University. I studied for a degree in finance.
(P7) In the summer of 2010, I received a text message from my ex-wife telling me her dad had seen a news story about a waitress who’d had her voice restored by a doctor in Cleveland. It had to be WORTH A SHOT.
(P8) At the appointment, I felt some DISMAY as Dr Milstein performed tests I’d long since become familiar with. But then he said, “I might be able to help you.” It was the first time anyone had said that to me. We did some vocal exercises to stretch the muscles in my neck, and to my ASTONISHMENT I started to make sounds. It was the first time I’d heard my voice in three and a half years.
(P9) Before long, I was able to make a very quiet “m” sound, then an “e”, so I could say “me”. Then I did more exercises, my voice becoming more confident.
(P10) Before I left his office, he said, “Keep talking for the next two days.” I didn’t need any ENCOURAGEMENT. Friends at university heard my voice for the first time and even when I was alone, I talked to myself.
(P11) I don’t regret those years of silence. I spent more time with my boys and had time to think about where I’d gone wrong as a husband and parent. That time smoothed my ROUGH EDGES. I prefer who I am now.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- Have you ever had to have speech therapy or physical therapy? What was that experience like?
- Can you imagine not being able to speak for three years? How do you think you would adjust?
- Do you think this man’s marriage ended because of his speech problem?
- How have you learned and grown as a person from difficult experiences?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Speech therapy
- Turn down
- Worth a shot
- Rough edges