The Tracheostomy That Took My Voice After My TBI: Silence (It’s Not Golden)
One year ago today marked the beginning of when I could no longer speak. I had my tracheostomy done. Again, a tracheostomy is a medical procedure where a tube was inserted underneath the stenosis into my trachea. This was done surgically. The tracheostomy served to basically bypass the portion of my throat that was occluded (narrowed to the diameter of a drinking straw) and bypass my voice box and my face all together and allow me to breathe through a tube from the bottom of my neck into my trachea. My tracheostomy bore directly through my stenosis. They had no room to go underneath. The surgeon cut a hole in my throat, through the stenosis, and into my trachea. They inserted a tube through that hole, that I would then be breathing through for the next several months. I still had a tube through my nose, and the tracheostomy meant that I could no longer talk.
After they performed this surgery, they told my mother that the stenosis was far more impressive than they thought, and they may not be able to resection my trachea to allow me to speak again. This would mean that I’d have to breathe through a tube for the rest of my life. My mom didn’t tell me this to keep me from freaking out out the grim possibilities!
Because I couldn’t speak, I would mouth words or write on a notepad that I brought with me everywhere. For the sake of keeping things simple, in the following posts before I had my tracheal resection, I will say what was communicated. But remember that words weren’t spoken by me, but either written or mouthed.
So far, my time at Mount Sinai had been far from pleasant, but the good news was that I had physical and occupational therapy everyday on Monday – Friday, but none on the weekends. Which was maddening for me. I wanted so bad to recover and was determined, and knew that hard work would pay off. I would do therapy as often as possible. I felt as though I was simply wasting away on a hospital bed on the weekends.
In speech and swallow therapy there wasn’t much speech to be done, but I had to relearn how to swallow. I did swallowing exercises. Yes… My friends made dirty jokes about this. Such ladies and gentlemen they are. I also coined a name for my accident: “Kersplatt!!!” My life is now broken into BK and AK… Before Kersplatt and After Kersplatt.
I still felt cloudy, unclear, malnourished, and I still saw double as well. I told one of my occupational therapists about my double vision and she gave me an eyepatch and told me to switch eyes every 20 minutes. This was to keep both of my eyes strong so they woldnt atrophy like so much of my body had. I set an alarm on my phone that would annoy everyone around me, and also tell me to switch my eyepatch.
I was starving, not to mention the psychological effects of not swallowing for a long time. When your hungry and you haven’t eaten anything conventionally in months, primal instincts override rationality. If someone came to me with an amazing meal cooked by some amazing chef and told me that I could eat all I wanted and would be able to eat for the rest of my life, but I’ll never be able to walk again, or I could wait and I’d have a chance to recover from both ailments that prevented these activities… I would have immediately chosen the food and loved every minute of it. I totally would have made a deal with the devil… I was brought to the point where I would have made it for a Kit Kat bar.