Sunday, April 29, 2012

Phone Calls and Speaking

The other day I was making a doctor's appointment. This is how the conversation ended:

Receptionist: "Is everything okay?"
Me: "Yes, why?"
Receptionist: "Oh, because you sound a little out of breath!"
Me: "I'm on a vent…"
Receptionist: "That explains it then! Anything else I can do for you?"
Me: "No that will be all. Thanks."
I couldn't stop laughing when I hung up. It actually doesn't bother me too much. I've always thought about if other people can tell I'm on a vent when we're on the phone. I make all my own phone calls to doctors' offices, transportation services, supply companies, medical equipment suppliers etc. I guess unless they've met me or are provided detailed info on me, they probably don't know that I'm a quadriplegic paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator. One of the things with talking to people on the phone is that they can't judge based on appearance because it's just my voice.
Unlike some people in my situation, my voice is very clear and loud as opposed to soft spoken and broken up. Occasionally I may pause for a breath but most of the time I can hold enough air in to talk between them. The sound of my voice does get a little softer at that point and then louder when I receive a breath, but overall you can still hear me. I tend to say uh or um a lot when talking because if I'm waiting for breath I don't want the other person to think that I'm not on the phone anymore. It's also the same when I'm in conversation with someone or public speaking. The story must go on, so I guess that's my way of keeping it going with pauses. I was always told to avoid those two words when talking, especially giving speeches. I try not to say anything and just let the break in my sentence happen but it's hard when I've been doing it for so long. That's something I plan to work on.
In the meantime, I'm still going to continue to speak because that's my means of communication. Whether it's on the phone, to someone specific or a group of people, talking is what I love to do. My voice is especially important for giving directions. As many of you may know, I have 24/7 nursing in which they help me with my every need. I direct all my own cares and tell whoever is helping me my preferences on how I like things done.
So anyway, now that I've created this blog post by voice using speech recognition software I will say "that's all folks" into the microphone.



Anonymous said...

Hi Jenni,
Other than the need for the vent, do you have any other respiratory disease or complications from your accident? Do you do regular breathing treatments, etc.? I have a long-standing neuromuscular/autoimmune disease causing chronic respiratory failure so am also vented 24/7, and was just curious. Thanks!

Jenni said...

No, I don't have any other complications besides what my spinal cord injury has limited me to do as far as breathing. I am able to neck breathe a little bit for a few minutes but that's all. What types of limitations you have with your respiratory problems? You can e-mail me at or just leave a comment.

Brenda said...

Hi Jenni,

I have been a long time reader of your blog and I enjoy your posts very much. Thanks for sharing.

Do you use or have you tried the Passy-Muir speaking valve? A few years back I was part of a presentation that was done by the Passy-Muir people at a local respiratory conference. I have used their speaking valve since being trached and vented 13 years ago with great success. There was another man that presented with me who was a quad and had tried using the speaking valve but found it difficult so he wasn't using it. I have MS and it has affected my respiratory system. I am vent dependent 24/7 and have been for 13 years. I have used a power wheelchair for 17 years because I am unable to walk.

I, like you, am a very positive person and not much slows me down! I love sharing my story and educating others about living life to the fullest despite the limitations that are imposed and the challenges that come with having a disability.


Jenni said...

Thank you for reading my blog! Yes, I have tried a speaking valve. Do you mind if I turn your question into a post? It will give people insight about the weeks following my accident and learning to speak again.

I'm glad you like to teach others and share your story as well. It takes a lot of courage to be comfortable speaking to others about ourselves, especially in different situations. Congrats to you for living your life and educating people!

Brenda said...

Thanks so much, Jenni, for your kind and thoughtful comments.

You are more than welcome to turn my question into a blog post. Another great opportunity to help others learn! :-)

I do love speaking with others, sharing my story, and helping others learn more about people with disabilities. I especially enjoy talking with elementary school children and have done many disabilities awareness talks over the years at local schools.

Matthew Smith said...

While you're writing your post about speaking with a vent, do you know why some people use a vent and a trache that doesn't allow them to speak? I know one of your friends (with muscular dystrophy) has one like that, and I heard Tiffiny Carlson interview someone, also with MD, who had a vent and 'cuffed' trache which could be set to allow her to speak or not, but she usually had it set not to (during the interview she had the cuff set so she could, obviously). Is it a matter of money or of medical necessity?

Cheryl said...

I also say "UM" a lot when I do public speaking. People always tell you not to, but try to watch old episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show and count how many times she says it! She's managed to make herself a gazillionaire, so I stopped caring.

Steph said...

I LOVE THIS POST! hahah...I can just hear you laughing hysterically and telling the nurse to hang up..