A couple of months ago, I got a cold. No big deal for many folks, but with my emphysema a cold escalates quickly and within a week I had a full blown Upper Respiratory infection and within a week of that I was upgraded Bronchitis. Had the chest X-ray to check for Pneumonia and Tuberculosis ( was unfortunate enough to test positive for TB a couple of years ago, so always a chest X-ray). Clear for both so they stuck with the Bronchitis.
Now one of the interesting things that happened this go around is that I steadily got hoarser and hoarser and eventually lost my voice. I could only whisper. The Doc did a good look around and declared my voice box (larynx in technical terms) completely swollen and irritated. The cure? Well, I was told to shut up. No talking. Rest the voice box and give the meds, the antibiotics and the steroids, time to work. Whisper only if I had to. For almost a week I couldn’t even whisper. I would open mouth and only squeaks came out.
Do you have any idea how much one talks during the day? A lot. I could not answer the phone. I could not make appointments over the phone. I had to drive, feeling yucky mind you, to the CPA’s so I could make an appointment to come see him. My favorite though had to be when I called the Advice Nurse in order to get an appointment to see a doctor that day. She had to get another headset so she could hear me whispering and it took awhile but got finally go through the “Are you going to die any minute” questions, she then said she would make an appointment. Her next question was “would you like a phone appointment.” Really? Um no. I did go see a Doc whom I did not like and was a rude bitch, but she made sure I wasn’t worse then I was. Telephone appointment indeed.
I learned that the world is a different place when you can not communicate. People treat you a bit different as well. I learned what it was like for those who can never talk. It is amazing how people react. Some things I learned are:
1. I can not talk, I hear just fine. Many folks when they found out I could only whisper or not talk at all, talked louder. For some reason no sound coming out of my mouth obviously means there is something wrong with my ears. Even those who talked to me just fine in a normal tone. I would write on my pad and walla, like magic, I become deaf, they even used the sign for thank you. I hear every word they spoke previously. I have no idea what is up with that.
2. I did not get stupid. My IQ level did not drop because I could not communicate without a pad of paper. You would be amazed at how many people decide that you must also be dumb as doornail because you asked a question by writing it on a pad of paper.
3. If you have decided that I am not stupid nor deaf and we have gotten through the whole I can’t talk right now routine, why do you continue to ask questions about my condition. I totally understand your concern that perhaps I am contagious. but once you learn I am not, why? I can not talk. You know this. It sucks trying to answer all these questions. Takes a lot of writing and whispering.
4. People get incredibly offended when you don’t answer them right away. I have had clerks say Hi how are you, I am busy putting my stuff on the belt to purchase, so I smile. I really do not want to stop, walk over to you and whisper “Fine, thanks.” So I smile. Smile mind you. And I get attitude. Literally, their smile goes away, the face closes down, they say nothing to you. Then when they ask a question that requires an answer, I go ahead and try to whisper squeak the answer, they get all nice. Me, not being able to talk and all, got to be nice to the slow ones.
5. One of the good things is that when you whisper to people many of them whisper back. Thank goodness my hearing isn’t totally bad yet or I would not hear either. Things get very calm with everyone whispering. I heard once that if you want a child’s attention, especially one that is being rambunctious, to whisper. The child will eventually stop to hear what you are saying. Thus the child calms itself. Well, it seem to work for grownups as well. I whisper, you whisper, we get a Zen moment of peace
I am lucky that my condition is not suppose to be permanent. I completely feel for those who are mute. I mean goodness sakes the silliness you are subjected to. I know if for some reason my condition does become permanent (a very real threat according to the doctor if I don’t give my larynx time to heal) I will definitely get cards made up that addresses the above points. Just hand them out and learn to be patient.