Throat cramps?

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, General, HealthTags: ,

Batty had x-rays a couple of weeks ago and hip dysplasia was not evident. He's on muscle relaxants until we can work out what his problem really is, but even with muscle relaxants, he still has difficulty sitting or lying down. When the vet comes back from holidays in his homeland Scotland, we'll look at other possibilities. Who knows? Maybe he really does have spline problems. We'll see.

My health is also being investigated. With my voice easily affected by two or three songs and feeling strained most of the day, I decided to get a professional opinion. When attending Kan's 莫鎮賢 official re-debut at Olympic City, I ran into Anders Nelsson (also a little interesting history about Anders here) and he recommended that I see an old school buddy of his; an ear, nose and throat specialist. At the doctor's clinic, I described the tightness around my throat, the raspiness after singing only two or three songs and the severe cramps I've experienced at the top of my throat over the last several months. He was surprised by the cramps and said that he'd never heard of these cramps in his thirty years of practice, and simply recommended that I find myself a good singing teacher. He was a very nice doctor but somehow I think his knowledge might be out of date. He did however say that my vocol chords were fine after looking at them through a mirror in my throat.

That evening, I related the doctor's findings and his surprise at my cramping experience to a good friend, a practising doctor who is a genius in so many ways. As soon as I described my cramps, he responded with one of the medical terms for the condition: Laryngeal Spasms. That night, I researched laryngeal spasms on the internet and came across a condition that nearly perfectly explains my symptons; Spasmodic Laryngeal Dystonia, also known as Spasmodic Dysphonia.

Armed with this revelation, I downloaded a list of Speech Pathologists in Hong Kong to get further help. The question was which one should I visit. Everything is a gamble. Will the doctor understand my condition? Spasmodic Dysphonia wasn't understood until only recently. For many years, people with severe Spasmodic Dysphonia were referred to psychiatrists instead of speech pathologists. From the list, I first chose only those doctors whose title explicitly included Speech Pathology. Then, being an Australian, I chose only those doctors who had studied in Australia. That narrowed the list down to just four or five. Choosing someone with a clinic convenient for me narrowed it down to just two. I chose one of those, someone who by chance has the same name as a famous actress from the early days of Hong Kong theatre.

My first examination appointment is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. With any luck, the doctor will understand the condition and be able to teach me the exercises and precautions necessary to recover fully. The tightness in my laryngeal muscles is affecting my singing, and it's generally uncomfortable for much of the day. It's also causing tension in my jaw and more than a little teeth grinding. Correcting the problem is very important to me, and now is the perfect time while I am relatively free of work obligations. It would also be an excellent opportunity to learn the correct way to speak. I generally begin to lose my voice after chatting for anything more than forty minutes or so.

Update (December 1, 2007)

I didn't have Spasmodic Dysphonia, just severe strain. I'm feeling much much better now. More water, more sleep, less coke, less coffee and some steam. What a difference! Now it's time to begin vocal training again, pretty much from scratch. My chords will require time to build up their strength again.

Thank you all for caring ;-)

The Longest Six Months

Filed in General, Hong Kong

It's been an extraordinary six months since the play finished.

My vocal chords were severely damaged by the over-singing before and during the show. Even with six weeks of minimal speaking to relax the chords, they remained sensitive to exertion of any kind. In August, a friend asked me to sing and my voice was gone and my chords were sore after just two songs. A stressful three to four weeks in September only made matters worse. Things around us have calmed down now and I have begun the slow process of rebuilding my singing voice but it will be at least a month before I can sing anything serious.

London. I couldn't leave Hong Kong to go to the auditions because TVB needed me for a series 「金石良緣」 being filmed between June and August. Fortunately, London agreed to let me do a distance-audition. Unfortunately, damaged vocal chords and other matters that popped up (see below) precluded me from studying in London for the near future.

Like most actors and actresses, we are not well off and we rent the flat we live in. We live in the ground floor unit of a typical Hong Kong-style village house. Village houses by definition have three stories. Each 700 square-foot storey is a single unit. As the rich people have continued to get richer, and as the Mid-Levels district has lost some of its appeal to the expats, our district has become much more popular in recent years. Many village houses are being converted into expensive single-unit homes. For several months, the two units above us were empty. A speculator spotted them and immediately saw lots of dollar signs. By the end of June, my wife and I were frantically searching our district and adjacent districts looking for a new place to live in that would be suitable for us and our family.

We were given just eight weeks to move out. Our landlord was nice to us but the time limits still applied. By the middle of July, my wife and I were resigned to moving to a unit we had found near the ocean in another district, a very inconvenient district. My wife was stressed and depressed but there was nothing we could do. With two or three pets, it can be very difficult to rent a flat. With eleven pets, renting borders on impossible.

Then a miracle happened. While trying to find a home for a roaming puppy from our village's car park, I discovered a flat perfect for us in every way; location, size, room arrangement. The flat was more expensive, was in serious disrepair and came with some extra responsibility but otherwise was exactly what we needed. We believe that the flat was in part a gift from my wife's father who had passed away the previous day.

Time was tight. Between getting access to the new flat and moving out of our old flat, we only had three days in which to clean and renovate the new flat and move all of our belongings. It was tough for everyone; including the kids; but we made it. The kids were not allowed into the new flat until the painting had been completed several days after moving in. That made it hard for them before they've always had free access to us all day every day. When they were finally allowed into the flat, they were ecstatic.

Renovations continued while we lived here. I did most of the renovation work myself. A very good friend helped immensely with the painting and some electrical work. The rest of the family worked their socks off cleaning everything and rearranging our furniture and possessions. Four weeks later, we are living comfortably with only the television and stereo system remaining to set up.

My wife's father passed away in August with some form of lung cancer. It was rather shocking to watch his health decline so rapidly in his last weeks. He still had the strength to complain and argue about home affairs and the night-time noise in the hospital the first time he was admitted. A week later, he didn't have the strength to yell anymore. By August, the doctors believed that his remaining time was short and transferred him to a very nice hospice (a hospital for dying people). We stayed with and watched him every day because we wanted to be there just in case the dying moment came. For a few days, he seemed ok and we were left wondering if he would hang on for many more months. The following Sunday, he saw more family members than he'd seen for a very long time, and he was happy and energetic. Apparently, that's not a good sign. The Chinese have a saying 「回光反照」 which basically means the last glow before sunset (taken from Wenlin). He died a few days later. We had the funeral in mid-August.

So you can see that for the past six months, we have been busy beyond belief, but the activities haven't stopped yet.

One of our kids; Batty; has hip dysplasia. He suffers extreme pain in his back and rear legs after any bouts of sprinting, and he walks with a stilted gait. Over the past three or four years, we've approached several vets hoping to find out exactly what the problem was. Several possibilities were presented to us including dysplasia and 'tying up'. One vet even performed an MRI on Batty's lower spine and was ready to immediately perform surgery to cut out the supposed 'unhealthy bone growths' in his spine. We never went back to that vet again.

We are now almost certain however that Batty does indeed have hip dysplasia. He loves to run but the pain is so bad afterward that he cries out in pain even when the other kids lightly brush past him. We have had some luck financially of late and so we've decided to cure his dysplasia once and for all with hip replacements. Hopefully, the hardest thing for him throughout this ordeal will be the mandatory immobility. He'll be caged for at least four weeks, not even allowed to leave the cage to go to the bathroom. Four weeks of imprisonment in exchange for several years of happy running and living; I think it's a worthwhile trade.

I had decided to keep my articles shorter for the sake of my readers. Whoops! This one has already broken that rule. I'd better say goodbye. See you all again next time.