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Leading Medicine Magazine, Vol 7, No 1 - 2013

eep into the 2008 football season, Houston Texans announcer Marc Vandermeer was working a game, broadcasting play by play to more than 30 radio 43 D stations across the state. During the game, Vandermeer began to notice something wrong. But not on the fi eld. He felt something in his throat, a scratchy feeling, and with every word, Vandermeer knew he was in trouble. Nobody was warming up off the bench for relief — the live broadcast, like the game, must go on. “I managed to scratch my way through the rest of football season,” Vandermeer recalls. “When the season wound down, I needed to see somebody who could get to the bottom of the problem.” For someone like Marc Vandermeer, a voice problem can be a season-threatening injury. For 11 seasons, Vandermeer has been the “Voice of the Houston Texans,” calling all the games during a season and appearing on dozens of radio programs about the football team. A broadcaster for 20 years, he knew he needed to seek out a professional who would take his voice issues as seriously as he does. His fi rst stop was The Methodist Hospital, the Texans’ offi cial health care provider. Vandermeer checked the stats on Dr. C. Richard Stasney, deputy chief of otolaryngology and a clinical professor of otolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Stasney also has a long history of working with opera singers, newscasters and performing artists on their voice issues. So it didn’t take long for Vandermeer to realize he had found his man. “Dr. Stasney has treated opera singers for 30 years and is a big fan of the opera. So is my dad. He lives in New York, goes to the Met, he’s a huge opera fan,” says Vandermeer. “In Dr. Stasney’s offi ce, I was looking at the framed, signed photos of opera singers on the wall and texting the names to my dad. I had never heard of any of them, but my dad would reply ‘That’s the world’s top tenor, that’s the world’s best baritone.’ I fi gured if Stasney could help them, he could help me.” In fact, Vandermeer’s condition was one Stasney has encountered many times before — in opera singers. “It’s caused by acid refl ux, when contents of the stomach leak back into the voice box (larynx) and cause irritation,” Stasney explains. “For people who use their voice a lot, it can affect their performance.” There are two types of acid refl ux: gastroesophageal refl ux disease (GERD), where stomach contents leak into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach); and laryngopharyngeal refl ux (LPR), where these stomach acids reach the throat. LPR is commonly found in as many as half of all patients with voice problems. Patients with GERD may not have LPR, and conversely, patients with LPR may not have GERD. Patients with GERD typically have heartburn as their main complaint, while LPR patients may or may not have heartburn. Stasney is quick to caution that acid refl ux is not the cause of all voice problems, but he says it’s a good place to start. “There can be other, overarching issues beyond


Leading Medicine Magazine, Vol 7, No 1 - 2013
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