Living with Voice Hoarseness
By Leah Muringo
“Excuse me…. I don’t know how to say this but this position requires a person who will be audible enough over the phone and during presentations. Good luck in your future applications.” This is often the case for a person living with voice hoarseness but once in a while, you could get one or two people who think your voice is quite romantic. However, I mostly get the latter. This is often times followed by, “do you normally speak like that?”
Well, this began with constant fevers when I was 3 years old. This was followed by pneumonic infections. The report from the doctor was that a condition that had affected my audibility had developed. This has been the case since then, but lucky for me, I did not have to undergo MLE procedures every year. A Microflap Technique (MLE) is a procedure undergone by every patient who has had to struggle or juggle with respiratory papilloma. A respiratory papilloma is a wart-like growth or tumor on the surface of the larynx (voice box), caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They are usually benign (non-cancerous) and often lead to vocal cord damage and airway problems. Because they are in the tissue, they tend to reoccur, even after they are removed. Most cases occur to children 3-4 years of age and adults at 40 years and beyond. The most common symptoms are progressive hoarseness, rough cough, increased vocal effort, breathing problems if the lesions grow large enough to interfere with the airway, feeling as if there is a lump in the throat and ear pain. They are removed using traditional surgeries for their recurrence or carbon dioxide laser surgery. Severe cases can also be treated with chemotherapy.
Let me break it down for you: hoarseness inhibits literally all telephone conversations. When the COVID19 pandemic began last year, we shifted to online learning in my university and lectures were delivered through Zoom. My voice hoarseness really inhibited my class participation. For example, on many occasions, I have had to sit on that burning point. To overcome this, I would type my contributions on the chat section which often goes unnoticed because the squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the grease.
Increased vocal effort is often accompanied by migraines and shouting could cause an ulcer at the throat area. That feeling of a lump in the throat strains the swallowing of solid and acidic foods. Breathing problems are often accompanied by anxiety and I need not explain how a painful ear can cause you sleepless nights. Luckily for me, since I began my ENT clinics at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), I was assigned a doctor who is always a phone call away.
To make it less of a pity party, this has meant making adjustments. It is not a disability, but an inability of sorts. As I grow older, I speak less and listen more. Eating ice cream and swimming in winter has had to go or else my sinuses are filled with fluid, I prefer messages to phone calls and that date at Java might as well be noisy, so I prefer nature walks in places like Karura Forest instead. You wouldn’t imagine but I ace my class presentations. That moment on a podium when you’re giving your speech or explaining your findings and everyone clocks you can be compared to none other. The society has been quite understanding except from this Covid19 era where most people assume you’ve contracted the virus and that doesn’t augur well. I at one point had someone move to the back seat of a minibus when I sat next to them.
This doesn’t mean that one can’t find happiness, just in the simple things. I enjoy spending loud moments with my family, they understand. In fact, I am the most talkative of the lot. Many would not expect me to participate in debates, but I win even the most notorious “Mashujaa legs”. These debates are between private university students and are occasional; they are known to have intense competition. That’s to say I have a normal life just like everybody else. I have no food restrictions from my doctor. I breath, speak and live fashion, from fabric to design. I have goals and ambitions, just like everybody else, and those have timelines as well. Among many of my ambitions is to revive the textiles industry in Kenya and like in Ghana, we would embrace our own prints down to our school uniforms. It’s simply accepting, adjusting and advancing for life is of greater importance. Now that I am scheduled for another MLE, I have never and will never doubt my ability to bounce back after any bout of catastrophe for if a phoenix can rise from the ashes, what about a human being?
Leah Muringo Muringi is a first born in a family of three. She is not just a fashion enthusiast; she is a fashion designer who designs for weddings and stores. She is a soon to be graduate of international relations at USIU. She is a graduate of Business Administration and a debate enthusiast. She is skilled in monitoring and evaluation, trained by National Industrial Training Authority. She is also a Christian.