Woman loses voice for eight months after catching common cold

·News Reporter

A woman has shared how she was left with no voice for eight months after falling sick with the common cold and developing a nasty case of laryngitis.

Kaitlyn Grace’s horror ordeal began in May 2016 when she caught a cold, and not thinking too much of it, continued showing up for her job as a manager at a pub.

But months later when the now 28-year-old, from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, didn’t seem to be recovering, her lack of voice swiftly went from being funny to upsetting and scary.

“Initially it was like this big joke, that I was the perfect girlfriend because I couldn’t speak, and the perfect sibling because I couldn’t whinge about anything,” Ms Grace told Yahoo News Australia.

Sunshine Coast woman Kaitlyn Grace lost her voice for eight months after contracting the common cold.
The 28-year-old used whispering and hand gestures to communicate for the eight-month period. Source: Kaitlyn Grace

“Then after the first two months, there was no more joking. People were like, ‘This is weird, why hasn’t your voice come back?’”

Her only means of communicating was hand gestures and soft whispering – a frustrating reality given her job in a noisy Irish bar.

“I was trying so hard to get out what I wanted to say and I knew that people couldn’t hear it so it wasn’t their fault, but I was just getting frustrated over the whole thing,” Ms Grace said.

While she had initially been in high spirits about her predicament, the pub manager later became distraught at the thought she might never get her voice back or be able to sing again.

“I remember crying to my mum, saying that I was never going to have my voice back, and never going to be the way I was before. It was kind of hard.”

Doctor ‘saves’ Sunshine Coast woman’s voice

Ms Grace saw two doctors in the first two months of having no voice who refused to refer her to a specialist – one even told her she had reflux laryngitis.

Finally three months later, she received the referral she had been waiting for and was put on the waiting list to see an emergency ear, nose and throat specialist.

It took an additional two months before she could get an appointment, but Ms Grace said it was the promising news she had so desperately needed.

“I met this really great doctor and he literally saved my voice,” she said.

The doctor treated Ms Grace for left vocal nerve paralysis – an uncommon complication of her severe case of laryngitis.

Before and after photos of Kaitlyn Grace's swollen vocal cords after her injections from a Queensland specialist doctor.
Photos from inside Ms Grace's throat showing her vocal cords before (left) and after (right) her injections. Source: Kaitlyn Grace
 Kaitlyn Grace at a bar posing with two bottles of GH Mumm. She lost her voice due paralysis of her left vocal nerve.
The assistant bar manager now wishes she had of taken some time off work when she first became ill. Source: Kaitlyn Grace

The procedure involved collagen-like substance being injected into one of her vocal cords to plump it up so it could rub up against the other and vibrate sound.

Ms Grace was completely conscious for the entire thing, with just her throat being under anaesthetic while her doctor got to work.

She said despite the experience being “super daunting”, it gave her and her doctor the ability to test the effectiveness of the injections straight away.

“As soon as he injected three or four of the collagen-like substance, he immediately got me to try and make an ‘ahhh’ sound,” Ms Grace said.

Severe damage to nerves

After the first round of injections, the young woman heard her voice for the first time in eight months.

“I just burst out crying. It was so instant. Then every time he did another injection, my voice was getting clearer and clearer. It was really cool.”

Ms Grace went back a month later for another round of injections, but since then miraculously her voice had not wavered.

Kaitlyn Grace pictured with a yellow top on, a flower in her hair and a garland of red flowers around her neck.
The young woman lost her ability to talk for eight months after catching the common cold. Source: Kaitlyn Grace

Due to the severity of nerve damage in her throat, the injections only provided a temporary fix and eventually she would require reconstructive surgery.

Having just splurged more than $6000 on getting her voice back, Ms Grace said she was hoping she would not require the bigger procedure for years to come.

In the meantime, she is holding onto hope her nerve may have healed on its own.

Since living voiceless for the extended period, Ms Grace said she learnt how important it was to listen to her body.

“I know now I need to listen to my body really early, because I caught the common cold and continued working the whole time, so I don’t know if I did more damage by doing that,” she said.

“In hindsight I wish I took four or five days off and didn’t keep going back to work.”

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