A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne
K. Young, Associate Editor.
Imagine my surprise—no, my shock and disbelief—when I learned
that my hoarseness was attributable to unilateral vocal cord paralysis. In
anticipation of my partial thyroidectomy, I'd been worried about cancer, not a damaged vocal cord. I'm a verbal person, likely too
loud at times, and gregarious among those I know and those I don't. My voice
also is essential to who I am in my profession as a medical social worker
and academic. My surgeon was known for his technical competence and compassionate
bedside manner. Why did he not warn me of this risk? He explained many other
possibilities, including temporary hoarseness, but never said my ability to
speak might be affected. Only after I could barely speak above a whisper did
I learn that vocal cord paralysis is a primary complication of thyroidectomy.
I'm convinced my surgeon's intentions were good; low statistical risk and
the fact that none of his patients had experienced this complication may have
led him to believe there was no reason to cause me needless anxiety.
Munch S, deKryger L. Moral Wounds: Complicated Complications. JAMA. 2001;285(9):1131-1132. doi:10.1001/jama.285.9.1131