“Go over the schedule again, will you?” Dad asked as we walked toward the M. D. Anderson Skybridge, which links the parking garage to Clark Clinic.
I read from my notes: “Laryngeal videostoboscopy with Dr. Jan Lewin on the 10th floor, down to Diagnostic Imaging on the 3rd floor for a dysphagia survey, followed by a videofloroscopy in the same area, and then back to the 10th floor to the Head and Neck Center to meet the speech pathologist to learn results of a modified barium swallow, which seems to be the same as a videofloroscopy.”
“And this takes how long?” asked Dad.
I knew the answer to that question without consulting my notes. “All day,” I replied.
In preparation for the videostoboscopy, Dr. Lewin warned Dad that the topical anesthetic spray used to numb the throat was “extremely nasty, like Chloraseptic Spray followed by a jalapeno juice chaser.” She sprayed, and expressed surprise that Dad’s expression remained pleasant. “Isn’t it really awful?” she asked. Dad smiled, and said evenly, “Sure.”
Next, she held on to Dad’s tongue with a piece of gauze and inserted a rigid tube down his throat to evaluate his laryngeal functioning. Seconds later, we were watching the movements of Dad’s larynx on three computer screens. The vocal fold paralysis on the left side was apparent, but the huge gap between the two cords is what attracted Dr. Lewin’s attention. She exclaimed, “Aren’t you exhausted at the end of the day? You must be using all your energy to communicate! Can you even cough? This gap is remarkable!”
Dad admitted that talking was exhausting, and, no, he hadn’t been able to cough for months, nor gargle mouthwash, or swallow anything but liquids and soft foods.
“I can’t imagine how you’ve been communicating with a vocal cord gap like that. How do you manage to communicate with people?” inquired Dr. Levin.
“Oh,” Dad responded, “I use a blog!”
Dr. Lewin assured Dad that the laryngeal injection augmentation was going to help him gain physical strength, breathe better, improve his swallowing, and give him a good deal of his voice back. She added that the injection is a temporary fix that lasts four to six months, and that once he became stronger, surgery providing a permanent fix would be an option.
Later in the day, at Diagnostic Imaging, Dad successfully swallowed six kinds of barium-coated foods. In fact, he swallowed so well that it wasn’t necessary to meet with the speech pathologist.
On the way home, Dad and I agreed that our favorite part of the day had been viewing the video of his larynx. “To think that God made it . . . my larynx is beautiful, don’t you think?”
I nodded in agreement, making a mental note to bring a camera next Thursday so that I can take a picture of Dad’s beautiful larynx.