Thursday, March 14, 2013

In Sickness & In Health ~ VCD


names have been omitted from this post 


We had just left the little family owned Italian restaurant we loved to frequent with our children. I had ordered my usual favorite there, Fettucini Alfredo with chicken. As we drove home along the winding dark streets I felt an unsettling in my stomach. Pains in my chest soon ensued and continued the entire drive home. Later that evening I was still in terrible pain and realized I had severe heartburn. Heartburn that was unrelenting and I searched in our medicine cabinet for a bottle of antacids that would give me the relief I needed. Chewing an antacid I thought that evening was an isolated incident and didn't give the heartburn much thought afterward. 

Even though I found eventual relief that night it soon became clear I was having continual problems. Each meal it seemed brought more heart burn and indigestion. Never having had this happen before I couldn't figure out why I was suddenly having problems. I began buying over the counter acid prevention and treatment medications and yet still had symptoms. Nothing seemed to work. It wasn't until I was trying to eat ice cream one day and couldn't seem to breathe I realized something was really wrong. I developed a chronic dry cough and life became more difficult in general. Walking up and down stairs took more effort and left me breathless. Crossing a parking lot on foot to my vehicle seemed comparable to completing a marathon. Trying to limit spicy foods due to the heartburn and deciphering my trigger foods was like attempting to locate a needle in a haystack. Living off bland foods such as plain baked potatoes, steamed vegetables and white rice didn't yield a lessening of symptoms. 

Losing a significant amount of weight over the course of several months I eventually became so weak I had to quit working. I was chronically out of breath. I went to the doctor who suggested I had asthma and proceeded to put me on multiple preventative oral steroid drugs. My gut instinct told me he was wrong because my shortness of breath wasn't coming from my lungs, it appeared to be coming from my throat. I went to another doctor. He listened carefully to my symptoms and adamantly stated it was highly unlikely to be diagnosed with acid reflux and asthma when I was otherwise healthy. He ordered a chest x-ray which came back normal so he then referred me to a Pulmonologist. I was sent for a series of breathing tests called the Methacholine Challenge Test done in a chamber to test my breathing. It turned out I had something called VCD for short or otherwise known as Vocal Chord Dysfunction. 

I was referred to a voice therapist who helps patients with voice issues due to damaged vocal chords. I was so incredibly thankful for my therapist and the doctors who helped me. I had been wrestling with what would happen, where my illness would take me and yet in the end all was okay. It took a year of going to voice therapy each week to get to a place where I could speak without losing my voice or it becoming raspy. We may not completely appreciate our voice or being able to breathe without exertion until we no longer can. I suppose it's like anything...we appreciate it so much more once we have it back and that includes our independence illness can often take from us when sick. 

Acid reflux is something to take very seriously. It can cause significant damage not only to your body but greatly impair your everyday life if not treated correctly. When acid reflux is coming up the esophagus and washes your vocal chords it does damage. Vocal chords and the larynx are highly sensitive to gastric acid and the acid that comes up your esophagus can over time cause esophageal cancer. The acid damages the vocal chords to the point they don't function properly anymore and open when you speak. If they are staying closed or even partially closed you aren't getting enough airflow upon inhalation or exhalation, when eating, and especially when exercising etc. Taking a prescription anti-acid medication or proton pump inhibitor can do wonders along with voice therapy if needed. 

When we go through something like an illness and our life comes to a halt we can even in the midst of it all remind ourselves this isn't forever. God has this. He will see you through it and you will be stronger on the other end. You may believe while suffering in bed he has forgotten you. You may believe he doesn't hear your cries and prayers for help and healing. 

But he does. 

Your circumstances and health may have temporarily changed but God's love for you hasn't. 

You can re-gain weight. 

Your body can heal. 

Your life can go on again. 

The best part is God is always there...

right beside you in sickness and in health. 

And that is never temporary....

Only ever lasting. 

© ~ 2013

To learn more about Vocal Chord Dysfunction (VCD) visit:

Tips for dealing with Acid Reflux:

Raise the head of your bed at least 6 inches with books, etc. 
Chew gum after meals to help with digestion.
Choose meals carefully; avoid rich, spicy foods, processed meats, alcohol or chocolate.
Take your medication regularly.
Sit up straight, use good posture. 
Eat dinner early, don't snack at bedtime. Finish dinner at least 3 hrs before bed. 
See your dentist regularly. Acid can erode your teeth enamel.
If you develop swallowing problems see your doctor.
Get regular scopes done by a Gastroenterologist to check for damage to your esophagus. 
If you develop breathing problems get a chest x-ray and see a pulmonologist. 
Don't wear tight fitting clothing especially around the waist. 
Exercise regularly, it helps with digestion.
Research vcd online and look for ways to relax your facial muscles, neck and shoulders.
Learn proper breathing techniques; your stomach should rise and fall. 
Don't clear your throat; it aggravates your vocal cords, sip water instead.

Thank you for reading!