Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How jet engine technology restored a woman's voice, after 35 years

Jan Christian, 53, has regained her ability to speak, thanks to several complex surgeries and jet-engine technology. Christian lost her ability to speak some 35 years ago, after an auto accident.

Christian thought she had lost her voice forever after a car accident when she was 17. In that crash, she was thrust forward, with her throat slamming against the dashboard. The impact of hitting the dashboard flattened the cartilage surrounding her vocal cords, which meant they could no longer vibrate as required to make the sounds necessary for speech.

About two years ago, a stranger in a grocery store heard Christian struggling to speak and handed her a business card for Dr. Sid Khosla, an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist and head of the Voice and Swallowing Center at the University of Cincinnati. Unfortunately, Christian never got her savior's name. She said (yes, said):

"I sure wish I could remember what she looked like and knew who she is. I like to call it my little ‘Miracle Card.'"

Prior to turning to medicine. Dr. Khosla studied engineering at MIT, and since joining the University of Cincinnati, he's teamed with another professor. Together, they have used the technology of aerospace engineering and the theories of wind and how air flows inside of jet engines to help in defining ways to improve air flow over vocal cords, as in the case of Christian.

It took seven surgeries to restore Christian's ability to talk. It also took extensive therapy, as she had to re-learn the ability. Now she isn't just speaking, she is also singing. On Easter, she sang in her church choir.

She jokes, however, that her husband of 33 years is both a fan ... and not a fan ... of her new voice, saying that "he thinks it's great, although he used to joke that he had the perfect wife, one that can't talk."

You can watch and listen to Christian below.

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