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Finding Her Voice: Bonnie Lee Fusfeld on Her Daughter's Journey from Silence Back to Laughter

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 4:23 PM

On April 14, 2013, Hannah Fusfeld lost her voice, and within a couple of hours she was visibly ill. It was the first day of what would become nearly four months of missed school days, ice-skating practices and time away from and inability to communicate with her friends, family and community. Hannah’s illness made it impossible for her to communicate even her most basic needs. She was eventually diagnosed with combination of mononucleosis, or mono, and whooping cough. 

Hannah and her family saw three different doctors before deciding they needed to look for help outside Green Bay. After nearly four months with no voice at all, Hannah and her parents found the NorthShore Voice Center and Christine Buth Martin, Speech Therapist, who helped give her back her voice in one three-hour session. 

Hannah’s mom, Bonnie Lee Fusfeld, shares the experiences of the entire family, the downs and eventual ups, in their NorthShore Patient Story:

As a parent, when your child is ill, there is a vise that grips your heart. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, the constriction of fear is present every second of every day. The constant unanswered questions like, “What are we missing?” and “What hasn’t been found yet?” are isolating.  

After four months of what seemed like constant questions, it felt like a gift to sit in the offices of NorthShore's Voice Center and have them research Hannah’s history, assess, accurately diagnose and then, not only provide treatment but actually show us what was happening. The Center videotaped what was happening in the musculature of Hannah’s vocal cords, and they taught us about our daughter’s health problem.  

The word “healer” gets bandied around a lot these days and means many things to many people. To me, a healer is someone who opens the door for change to occur, someone who creates hope. Dr. Friedman did this the first time he sat down with us. Christine took that opened door and pushed it wide open. Christine not only treated Hannah with vocal massage and literally unthawed her vocal cords, but she helped us, as a family, unthaw as well. Fear, worry, hope, joy and laughter all came into that room and Christine facilitated that without being intrusive. She was only kind, compassionate and extremely skilled.

This experience has been a tremendous gift to our family, a gift that quite literally saved us. We had the understanding of friends, business associates and Hannah’s educational community and her KICKS Synchronized Skating family but it was still extremely hard.

Our family still has some hurdles to overcome. It’s been a year since the onset of Hannah’s illness and she’s doing great. She’s 17 now and back in school full time. She’s looking for colleges and works as a coach at the skating rink and as a receptionist at our local chiropractor’s office. And, she is skating again. Hannah is active and busy but she still has challenges, like making sure to watch her fatigue level, but she is learning. We are learning too. We are learning how to guide a 17-year-old young woman, who is heading into adulthood, on how to make good health decisions for herself. Hannah knows even though she is recovering, she is still building her strength.

For example, a two-day flu for most would take Hannah down for a week—she has to learn to manage that. And sometimes she just doesn’t have the strength to do it all, but the amazing thing is that she keeps trying, she keeps going. That is what I respect most about my daughter: no matter what knocks her down, she just picks herself back up and moves forward.

Thank you to the Cornerstone Community Center for graciously donating ice time during the filming of our NorthShore Patient Story.