Fantastic Relationships for the Win

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Luis has done more than his share of physical therapy over the years, but voice physical therapy was a first.

Normally, Luis would seek multiple opinions before a medical procedure. “I’m very diligent as a patient,” he says. “After years of professional football, seeing how experts disagree on the best course of treatment or how long healing should take, I’ve become a skeptical patient.”

But this time, Luis decided just to go with his ENT’s recommendation. “It seemed like standard, straightforward course of treatment and I felt comfortable with him,” says Luis. “As a patient I believe you should do more than just take the first doctor’s opinion, but it is time consuming, and it’s exhausting. I had just had two orthopedic surgeries, and I was tired of the back and forth. So I didn’t do my super due diligence like I usually do. I just scheduled the surgery for a week later and went with it.”

What Happened to My Voice?

The procedure was straightforward—15 minutes, no pain, no recovery time. But then things took an unexpected turn. Within a month, the polyp had come back bigger than the original. Within three months, it was three times bigger and growing rapidly. Luis’s voice became hoarse and raspy. He stopped going out to restaurants because he couldn’t project his voice enough to be heard.

Worst of all, he says, “It changed the quality of my parenting. I wasn’t reading to my kids as much, and I stopped singing to them at night. There are four of them and we usually do multiple songs per kid per night.”

Luis went back to the ENT and asked, “What now?” The doctor suggested they repeat the procedure to remove the polyp again. And, to Luis’s alarm, he said they needed to look into what might be causing such fast growth. “So that sent me down a path of MRIs and ultrasounds and other specialists.”

Second, Third and Fourth Opinions

This rinse-and-repeat approach didn’t sit well with Luis. “I felt like, okay, now I’m going to approach this with same diligence as I normally would.”

Because of his football experiences, Luis has an extensive network. “I’ve navigated that world of second, third and fourth opinions when it comes to orthopedic stuff,” he says. “But when it comes to non-orthopedic stuff, that’s not a familiar world to me.”

In this case, he had another connection he could call on. Luis knew of Healthnetwork Foundation through his friends John and Martha Eggemeyer, who had connected him for help with another medical issue several years earlier. When that resolved successfully, Luis made a donation and maintained his Healthnetwork connection.

A Workout for the Voice

Healthnetwork connected Luis with Dr. Anca Barbu at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The experience this time was completely different. Dr. Barbu explained how the tissue of the vocal cords is unique, how it’s supposed to vibrate at 110 beats per second. She showed Luis where he had scar tissue because of how the first procedure was done—tissue that would never vibrate the way it should. She described how she would create a flap, remove the polyp and lay the flap back down so there would be no scarring and no further loss of voice quality.

Beside recommending a different procedure, Dr. Barbu also had a different approach before and after the surgery. For three months ahead of time, Luis worked with a vocal cord specialist doing drills on how to project air flow, appropriate tones to speak at, how to clear his throat. After the surgery, Dr. Barbu instructed Luis not to speak at all for two weeks, followed by another two weeks of very limited and quiet speaking. And it worked! Within a few months of the surgery, there was no sign of the polyp returning and Luis’s voice was back to its normal quality.

Luis says he still has respect for his local ENT and would go back to him for routine ear, nose and throat issues. But he also says the experience “reinforced my skepticism in the world of medicine” and reminded him how important those second, third, and even fourth opinions can be.

“Healthnetwork has fantastic relationships, and I’m so grateful they got me connected with Dr. Barbu.”