Patient sings during throat operation

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Alama Kante
Alama Kante was able to save her voice by singing during surgery.

Did you know that we use about 100 muscles to say the phrase “hello, how are you?” Using our voice is a very complicated process, and mastering these muscles to sing is all the more impressive because of it. That’s why one doctor asked his patient – professional singer Alama Kante – to sing while she was in throat surgery. This historic medical technique ensured the doctor didn’t accidentally cut her vocal cords and put an end to her career.

Our vocal cords – or vocal folds to be exact – are two thin folds that sit inside of our throat. When we want to talk, air passes through the folds and causes them to open and close, or vibrate incredibly fast. Each little puff of air that’s released during the vibrations is the start of a sound wave, which sounds like a person’s voice by the time it leaves their mouth. When we chose to sing a string of different notes, whether on stage or in the shower, we are effectively making the folds flap faster for higher notes, or vibrate slower for lower notes.

As you can tell, these vocal folds are a singer’s bread and butter, which is why the doctor wanted to be careful during Kante’s throat surgery. She was receiving an operation to remove a tumor (abnormal clump of tissue) and the doc knew that one false slip of the surgical knife could put her out of work. So, instead of knocking her out with drugs, he simply made her throat numb to the pain and asked her to sing. Kante was also placed under hypnosis – a naturally altered mental state open to suggestion – in order to distract her from the painful procedure.

Featured image courtesy of Bill Selak on Flickr. Image of Alama Kante courtesy of Alama Kante Facebook.