My Silent Journey

At 43 years old, I found out I had an aortic aneurysm and needed to have open-heart surgery. Two weeks after the diagnosis, I woke up from surgery and was told that my heart was repaired and would be stronger than it had ever been! I was relieved and grateful, but also concerned when I realized I couldn’t talk! I was reassured that this was normal and temporary, due to a long intubation.

Two days later, however, my voice still hadn’t come back. I grew more concerned and was soon devastated by test results that revealed my left vocal cord was totally paralyzed.

I remember listening to the doctor as he gave me the news and feeling like the walls were closing in around me. My entire life, I’d dreamed of becoming a professional speaker and teacher. But I had put my dreams on hold. I always thought I could pursue them later, once we were more financially stable, after the kids were grown, and when I didn’t feel so tired and stressed out. But year after year went by, and my dreams didn’t seem to be getting any closer.

My recovery from the open-heart surgery was difficult, and without the ability to talk, I felt totally alone and trapped inside my head. Even though my physical heart was healing, my emotional heart was still very broken. I kept trying to rebuild my life, but it was like rebuilding a puzzle with missing pieces and I couldn’t see the big picture. I returned to work, trying to “make it work,” but the stress and lack of human interaction left me physically and emotionally vulnerable. A month after I returned to work, I developed bronchitis and vocal cord ulcers, and had to take leave again. I received an email the next day telling me I had been terminated. It was official; life as I knew it was over.

I remember making my bed one morning shortly after losing my job and having a very loud conversation in my head. “I have no job, no income, and no medical insurance, and I can’t go out and get another job without a voice! I can’t believe this is my life!”

Suddenly, I heard God’s voice say, “I know. I saved you from your old life, and I have something new in store.” I realized then that I had not been truly living for a very long time.

Through this time of searching, I realized how my entire identity and value as a person had been totally dependent on the approval of others—to the point that I had actually postponed the MRI that detected my aneurysm for seven months, worried that I was just too busy, and my work would be unhappy if I missed a day!

The life I was desperately trying to get back to was the one that had nearly destroyed me. I decided to stop trying to restore my old life and start creating a new one. I started journaling and creating art. I practiced gratitude and began focusing on the countless blessing that surrounded me. I forced my mind to take my thoughts captive, continually changing them from negative to positive. I was finally healing, both physically and emotionally.

My friends and family saw the changes in me and were inspired. They asked me to show them how to get creative, too. I began teaching collage art. I started taking pictures of my art collages and turned them into greeting cards, which I began selling. Before I knew it, I had become an artist and a teacher, and started my own little business online! My circumstances hadn’t changed—I had.

One day I received a phone call from a stranger who knew of a doctor he thought could help. One year after my open-heart surgery, I was back in the operating room in hopes of getting a new voice!
I had to be awake during the surgery, so they could “tune” my voice. While I was still lying on the operating table, I heard the voice I thought I’d never hear again. I was thrilled and relieved. We had joked about what I’d do if my voice sounded like Minnie Mouse. But it was familiar, beautiful, and my own. I tingled with excitement and relief. I felt whole again.

In the two years since my vocal surgery, I have continued to grow my art business. I sell my art online and have taught collage art to people all over the country. I have also launched into motivational speaking. I love to share my personal story and journey! My hope is to inspire others to stop waiting for the storm to pass and learn to dance in the rain.

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About the Author | Amy Genzlinger

Amy Genzlinger is a writer, artist, and teacher. After her vocal cord was paralyzed during open-heart surgery, she thought her life was over. Instead, she discovered a new world of peace, joy, and creativity. A year later, she had a miraculous surgery that restored her voice. She now spends her time sharing her story of loss, hope, and restoration.

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9 comments to "My Silent Journey"

  • Augustina Holtz

    An honour to know you and call you my friend!

  • Janet-Lynn Yeomans

    I am so proud of Amy! She is a strong, beautiful and talented woman. God has used her to encourage others around her.

  • Darla Miller

    Amy, you are truly a beautiful person inside and out. I feel so fortunate to have you in
    our extended family. You are a true success story with so much courage. I truly admire you. Thanks for sharing your story. Love and blessings to you and family.

  • Allen and Vicki Walker

    Your an awesome lady Amy and have all the talent and support anyone could ever ask for!

  • Debbie Stone

    Thanks for being a great friend and a giver of HOPE. 😘

  • Sharon Stone (Debbi's Aunt)

    What an inspiring story of your journey. Thank you for sharing as it may encourage others.

  • Carol Stout

    Great article, Amy. I’ve heard you tell your story many times but it never gets old. As a friend who walked alongside your journey, I appreciate how you always “kept it real, “ sharing your heartache along the way. It was a pleasure to pray for you and watch God reveal special truths of encouragement even when you couldn’t see it. You kept the faith and turned your discouragement into a beautiful story of hope and grace.

  • Laura Aponte

    Hi Amy.
    I read an article about your experience and I needed to contact you. I’m so happy for you that you have found a great way to live and work.
    My voice is a whisper too but my experience is different from yours. I had cancer on my left vocal cord which caused me to have multiple laser procedures and finally radiation. The cancer is gone thank God but my voice has been damaged. The Dr tells me now she thinks I have dysphonia but I’m wondering if the currently had done would help me. Could you please take time out of your busy schedule and tell me the kind of surgery you had and the Dr who performed it?. I would be so grateful for that information. Thanks in advance. Laura Aponte