About one year after arriving in Korea I began to have some sharp pains in my throat when speaking in class. These pains would cut my words in half when they came, and it became very frustrating. Last spring the condition quickly became worse, and I decided to visit a series of doctors. In the end I went to a university hospital in Daejeon. Here the doctor told me that I had a small bump on one of my vocal cords.
Finally I had found the source of my pain, but how was I to fix it? I went on thrice daily medication for about two months, and as much voice rest as a teacher can manage for a further four months. All the while I was not allowed to drink either caffeine or alcohol. This led to a drastic change in my lifestyle since I was used to beginning my days with coffee. For the first couple months I felt like I was constantly just rolling out of bed all day long. Now I feel fairly normal without caffeine, but I still prefer to drink it than not.
Yesterday I went back to the doctor after three months of rest and he told me that my condition had not improved. He said through an English speaking nurse that surgery was the next option. Actually surgery was what I had expected from the beginning back in March, but medicine was the suggested route. So now, in about one month, I will be going in to have surgery on my vocal cords.
The procedure is not lengthy, but it does require some prep work. I will go in to the hospital a few weeks a head to have some pre-operation tests done. About two weeks before the operation I will need to have a mouthpiece made so that the instruments do not chip my teeth. The day before the surgery I will be admitted and I will spend that night and the night of the operation day in the hospital. After that I will have about two weeks where I will not be able to speak. This means about nine days of paid vacation from school.
The price is not exactly cheap. By US standards it may seem affordable, but it is still a decent dent and may cost me a long anticipated vacation. The surgery itself will cost about 700,000 won. The pre-operation tests will cost about 55,000, and the room is incredibly cheap at about 32,000 for two nights. On top of that I need to make a mouthpiece at a separate dental office which may cost about 100,000 won. When it is all added up it will cost nearly 900,000 won.
I never thought that I was abusing my voice, but during my first year teaching there were no microphones in class. Luckily there are microphones in almost every classroom now; I shouldn’t have problems once this has healed. I always drink plenty of water throughout the day, and I try not to drink very cold or very hot water. I think soon I will be investing in a small humidifier to use while I sleep.
So, for any teachers who are not thinking about voice care, do. It will save you pain, money, and inconvenience.