Yesterday, I went to see my good doctor again at Barnes hospital here in downtown St. Louis. He is the one I hope will heal my voice. I wrote not long ago of him after I was first diagnosed with a paralyzed vocal cord in a post entitled, “Sounds.” This good doctor of mine looked at me yesterday, asking me questions suspiciously. As I sat high in his vinyl blue examining chair I felt like I might be in Court of Law, on a witness stand. “Have you done your exercises?” he asked, in a very low, serous tone. “Yes,” faithfully,” I replied, to the best of my ability.
This man, this doctor of mine wearing a crisp white lab coat takes his job very seriously, it is obvious. Anyone can tell. He lives and breathes it. He is organized, passionate, prepared to work upon my arrival. Together, we practice the sounds he has given me. It was my “homework” of the past. With white papers in hand there they are: the sounds and letters, the pitch, up and down, low to high, high to low, and nasal. He’s always reminding me to breathe deeply from my diaphragm. P.U.S. H! It is so hard. My doctor brings in a laptop with a colorful decibel meter that looks like a child’s thermometer. From “O” to “100” it goes. You’ve guessed right. I must try to shoot for the top! This time with vowels I’ve just learned to shout. Did I just “say” that…..”Shout?”
In spite of it all, I feel lucky to be working with this doctor dressed in the white coat. I know he wants for me a voice in my throat. As much or more than I do. To give a silent one the gift of their speech again can not be taken for granted. He stands tall with a belief in himself, a sense of confidence that I’ve not seen often before. Never have I detected a sense of arrogance from him. He has worked for this: hours of study, time and sacrifice to learn a skill set that is so much his passion. How wonderful for him.
Before practicing my future homework he studies my mouth and the way I shape my vowels. Then he listens to the sound and tones of my taped voice on a machine. Playing it back, he is so proud, like a father of a newborn bird learning to sing. Hearing it tells him I’ve done my exercises of the past, his ‘prescription’ if you will.
Leaving his office room, he hands me loose papers of newly added ‘homework,’ like a drill sergeant with a smile. I am exhausted feeling as though I’ve just worked out at the gym. I turn to go, smiling back. We are a team. Next time I’ll speak even louder. I’ll surprise him!