FROM LEFT: Mother Janice, daughter Janiyah and speech therapist Michelle Payne continue to work together on the young woman’s path to recovery.
Front Page
June 10, 2022
After being reduced to a whisper, young woman finds her voice again after surgery

by KATHERINE RENTON

AFTER LIVING 20YEARS with a condition that restricted her voice to a small whisper, a young Vincentian has a new lease on life after undergoing surgery to her vocal cords at the St Louis University Hospital (SLU).

PROFESSOR in the Otolaryngology Department at St Louis University Hospital, Dr John Eisenbeis (left), performed the surgery on Janiyah Horne.

Now at the age of 21 years, Janiyah Horne’s confidence and self-esteem are growing as her voice continues to get stronger with speech therapy and exercises three times a day.

Her mother, Janice Olliver explained to SEARCHLIGHT by phone on Tuesday, June 7 that it was something “miraculous”.

The family of four has been on a journey with Horne’s condition since she was a baby. Olliver, a nurse recalls when she took her younger of two children home from the hospital.

“I noticed I wasn’t hearing any crying sound,” she said. The infant would be awake but still not appear to be making much sound.

“Then, one day after breastfeeding and giving newborn, Janiyah a bath, the mother saw that the baby had vomited and it had come through her nose and “she didn’t even scream.”

“I say this is rather strange so I ran to the Emergency and when I got there I explained to them and they said no, something is wrong,” the mother recalled.

Checks revealed that Janiyah was not crying, and the parents were told that an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist would have to be seen. At the time a German ENT specialist was at the hospital visiting the Emergency Department.The family was told that those things happen and it was likely that the child’s voice would grow with time.

However, through daycare and into primary school her voice remained at a minimal volume.

According to Olliver, it was at grade one that her daughter first encountered problems, when the mother was told her daughter would have to repeat the kindergarten class.

“(Janiyah) is cognisant, she said ‘but mommy I passed, how would I go back, I passed?’” the mother recalled.

“…She had a struggle; in Primary School she had a struggle and it was really hard on me but I stood there for her, I stood there to encourage her,” Olliver said.

However, her daughter was still impacted, and negativity reached her from various sources.

It was suggested at form three in Secondary School that she should learn a skill and so her mother asked her daughter if she wanted to be a plumber, like her father.

Even this was challenging, as she could read the plans and do theory, but her self-confidence was not where it needed to be in interacting with others on the job site.

“Now that she has that voice, she’s building her self confidence, I am so happy. She now can go out, socialise with her peers, leave the house,” the mother revealed this week, as during her years of challenge she preferred sometimes to stay in the house.

The winds of change began blowing for the young girl when, during a vacation in the United States (US), she got the chance to be examined by a doctor after the church they attended offered to help.

The doctor delivered the happy news that her condition, congenital laryngeal web (where a web forms across to prevent air going through the voice box), could be corrected and gave her the X-Rays to take back with her to St Vincent for a follow up.

The mother’s plan was to head to the non- profit World Paediatric Project (WPP) whose mission is to heal children, and advance paediatric healthcare around the world.

Although their team did not have a visiting specialist on hand, one of the team members in St Louis knew who to call. The necessary contact was made and Dr John Eisenbeis, a Professor at SLU Hospital specializing in Otolaryngology, took on the case.

He performed surgical intervention on February 16 this year to separate the web.

Eisenbeis told St Louis television station KMOV, who covered the story, that Horne had a grade 4 web, meaning that she nearly had her entire airway obstructed at the level of her vocal cords.

The doctor has become a family friend and they are very grateful to him.

“…That job that God bless you with – always to go at it,” Horne said, when asked what she would say to her doctor, “go out more for people to help them that they could be also blessed and it will also bless you.”

The 21-year-old Janiyah during her recovery is focusing on her art, and becoming more involved in her church than ever before.

She noted that it has “Increased my self esteem from the low self esteem to the high self esteem. The high self esteem right now will always stay high because I have gained more confidence…” To those who may be going through difficult conditions as she did, she would advise, “don’t take on unnecessary thoughts because people may comment on you and what you’re doing.”

In order to distract from negative thoughts Janiyah advises, tell yourself you are strong and outstanding.

“And whatever you’re going through you have to always say thank you or give thanks. Be appreciative and just be yourself because whatever you do cannot impress people. So I will encourage those who are going through surgery journeys etc, to always walk the roads with your head up high and always put a smile on your face and never let anything that happen to you get you down.”

Her mother had a similar message for parents in a position like hers.

“With us it may seem impossible, especially when you think about the finances, when you don’t know how the finances gonna come to really assist you, but when you believe in yourself and there is a God above you go for it. It’s either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. It’s either a ‘wait we will help you’,” she explained, adding that the thought that help is on the way should always be there.

Olliver also issued a “big up” to the doctor who performed the surgery.

“We are grateful to God and the St Louis University Hospital and their executive board. Mostly we thank Dr John Eisenbeis and the WPP team and the Kirkwood Baptist Church. Lots of people were involved and we want to say, to God be the Glory great things he has done”.