Mother who lost full strength of voice after vocal-cords operation begins court action

Abigail Barnett Hunt broke down in tears as she told the High Court how she can’t shout out if there is a danger to her children and her voice cuts out when she attempts to read a bedtime story.

Mother who lost full strength of voice after vocal-cords operation begins court action

A mother-of-three who lost the full strength of her voice after an operation on her vocal cords has sued in the High Court.

Abigail Barnett Hunt broke down in tears as she told the High Court how she can’t shout out if there is a danger to her children and her voice cuts out when she attempts to read a bedtime story.

The 40-year-old now has a low, hoarse voice and she said people comment on it all the time.

‘People say were you out last night. There’s no escape, people comment all the time. I don’t sound like me. My life has changed in ways I never dreamed of,’ she told the High Court

She added: "It has changed my identity. This is not my voice. My voice is my identity. It took my career away; it has left me on high alert around dangers for my children."

The primary school teacher said she was heartbroken when she was not able to return to teaching since the operation four years ago and had to take early retirement two years ago.

"That was my passion, teaching. I loved teaching, particularly the infant classes. I have been teaching since I was 22 years old. It wasn’t a job to me; it was an absolute privilege," she said.

And she told Mr Justice Kevin Cross how as she signed the consent form before her vocal cord surgery four years ago, the surgeon "turned to my husband and said ‘Every man’s dream - the quiet wife'."

Abigail Barnett Hunt, Ballykeeran Big, Athlone, Co Westmeath, but now living in Dublin has sued head and neck surgeon, Peter Gormley and the Bon Secours Hospital, Galway as a result of an operation carried out by Mr Gormley at the hospital on May 9, 2016 to remove polyps on her vocal cords.

It is claimed that Ms Barnett Hunt suffered injury to her vocal cords and loss of tissue leading to substantial impairment of her voice. It is further claimed that scarring has caused loss of tissue and loss of vocal cord pliability and she is left with a breathy and hoarse voice.

The court heard that a breach of duty has been admitted in relation to the operation.

Her counsel Denis McCullough SC told the court the lesions on Ms Barnett Hunt’s were found to be benign. Counsel said her vocal cords are unable to meet in the middle to give a natural resonance a voice requires, and Ms Barnett Hunt is unable to get her vocal cords together to get adequate sound.

In evidence Ms Barnett Hunt said she had to rest her voice for seven days after the operation. On the seventh day, she said she was shocked when very little sound came out. "I had practically nothing. I got such a fright," she said.

'It has had a massive impact'

Her 12-year-old son, she told the court, has to read to the younger children and her youngest - a five-year-old daughter - asks her who is going to fix her voice.

My children are voicing for me all the time. It has had a massive impact. My children speak if somebody comes to the door or when the phone rings. I can’t project over sound . People can’t hear me on the phone.

Asked about future surgeries on her vocal cords, Ms Barnett Hunt said she will do "whatever it takes" to get her voice repaired.

"I will have whatever surgery it takes to get my voice and my life back," she added.

The case before Mr Justice Kevin Cross continues on Wednesday.

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