Greenwich singer-songwriter Vicky Harris was thrilled when her composition titled Pieces was selected as the producer’s choice in a New England song writing competition. But joy turned to dismay when Harris performed at an award ceremony with the winners in the other song genres.
“A frog came out of my mouth. My voice has cracked before, but nothing like this. It was an awful sound. I was mortified,” said Harris, who also works as a Greenwich realtor.
That began a two-year journey to find answers. One ear, nose and throat specialist said Harris had silent reflux, inflamed vocal cords, nasal drip and other issues. She tried medication and lifestyle changes, such as sleeping with her head elevated and fasting after 7 pm.
“It didn’t get better,” said Harris, 70. “I was depressed. Being a singer is part of my identity. I figured that third album I wanted to do was never going to happen.”
Things finally began turning around when Harris was referred to the experts at the Yale Voice Center at Greenwich Hospital, including Michael Lerner, MD, the center’s medical director and a laryngologist specializing in voice, along with Andrew Keltz, CCC-SLP, a speech language pathologist who specializes in singing voice rehabilitation.
At her initial visit, Harris had a comprehensive multidisciplinary voice evaluation, including an interview to better understand how her symptoms impacted her singing. A videostroboscopy exam of her larynx showed the vocal folds in high-definition and slow-motion to accurately diagnose the cause and guide a targeted treatment.
They also obtained voice recordings of her speaking and singing for further acoustic voice analysis.
Last, a customized plan was developed that included six sessions of voice therapy over a couple of months to rehabilitate her voice.
“They gave me the tools that helped me build my vocal strength and vocal cords back again,” said Harris, who has begun recording her third album. “I’ve learned that if I do my vocal exercises, that little frog behaves.”