My vocal cords kept me awake last night – gasp.

Useful things vocal cords.

As someone who likes to talk, I would like to describe it as communicate rather than chat. I used to sing a lot too but not so much now.

The trouble is that one of my vocal cords is paralysed, poor thing, and no one knows when or why this happened but it was discovered during those very thorough tests that followed my brain haemorrhage in late 2008. So, looking at the picture above of some normal vocal cords, when those two lip -like sections come together to enable us to speak and to stop us choking, only one of mine moves. I have been practicing some vocal cord exercises that make me seem odd if overheard  – especially the one where I have to imitate a creaky barn door closing. Gradually though my good chord has got strong enough to cover for his injured twin.

This mostly works these days. My singing voice has lost most of its creakiness, I don’t sound so breathy when I talk –  so things are pretty well sorted out.

There’s just one thing though and it doesn’t happen very often but it did last night. At 3.30 in the morning to be exact. At moments like this, usually when I am happily asleep, my vocal cords forget their job and, without warning, suddenly, I awake to find that can’t breath anymore. It is not good this because we often forget how important those regular breaths are in staying alive.

So there I was, one moment in the land of nod and moments later struggling for life and probably waking the whole of Lewes with my desperate gasps.

Luckily, a doctor once told me that I shouldn’t worry about this and that the body does actually sort itself out in these situations and the worst thing that can happen is that I would pass out from lack of oxygen and, when unconscious, my breathing would return to normal. It doesn’t sound much like fun that but, when you are suddenly awoken feeling that you are choking to death, it is a friendly thought knowing that you are really not going to die like this.

It wasn’t so easy to think that the first time it happened and, for a moment or two each time, you don’t believe that you will ever get your breath. You do luckily and I did last night, at around 3.34 in the morning and then over a period of about half an hour my breathing gradually eased again.

My thoughts at that time in the morning, if I’m awake, are usually on the bleak side, not for nothing is it called the witching hour, but when I was fighting for life, my gloom had an added twist. I was starring in my own horror movie.

After one of those attacks in the middle of the night, it is difficult to jump out of bed in the morning feeling a million dollars but, after an encouraging cup of coffee and a look out into my sunny but still snowy garden, I thought, well done  my body for your usually thankless task of just going through the monotonous and ignored motions of keeping me alive. I like it that way.


  1. Happy to learn you survived the Fuseli demon sitting on your vocal chords last night.

    This aging business is not something about which we received much forewarning. I'm awfully annoyed with the old men in my youth for not sharing some of the things I could look forward to. I know I would have made myself the exception back then but when they happened anyway I would not have been as surprised or dismayed.

    Oh the aortic aneurysm couldn't have been predicted but there's plenty else that suffers dysfunction and presents unwelcome side-effects that might have.

    Nevertheless, like you, I always appreciate the nightmarish symptoms that wind-up being benign in their overall effects. Some Cold Comfort there.

  2. Colin, my close call was heart-related. Stroke, however, is big in my family and the heart valve requires rat poison to prevent it.

    We're the lucky ones, my friend. We're still here against the odds and what might have been. Sobering indeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.