Thyroidectomy | Nikki's Story

Author: Johns Hopkins Medicine

My name is Nikki Jean. I'm a professional singer/songwriter and currently based out of Los Angeles. The reality about getting worse and worse at the thing you're trying to be best at.

Is that, ultimately, you're not gonna be able to do it anymore. And for me, I'd spend my whole life pursuing a career in music. And I had gotten to this place where there were major recording contracts, there were national tours, there were international tours, there were all these things going on.

And none of them were gonna be possible anymore, because I couldn't sing. In 2008 I was coming back on a flight and I noticed I had a lump in my throat. And I went to the doctor, got it all tested, it was determined that I had nodules in my thyroid. I had a fine needle aspiration biopsy that said it was benign and I didn't need to worry about it. Four years later, I was having a really difficult time swallowing and singing. I was initially diagnosed by an Endocrinologist in Philadelphia, who said, oh, you can leave it in, you can take it out, it doesn't really matter.

And I was trying to express to him the urgency that I felt not being able to sing, and me being a professional singer. I found one woman who was a professional opera singer and she used to say, you gotta find the best doctor. And then I found Dr.

Thyroidectomy | Nikki's Story

Tufano Thyroidectomy is removal of the thyroid gland, but it is much more than that. Once we get in to where the thyroid is, we're concerned about nerves. Those nerves are the recurrent laryngeal nerves which control the focal folds, and usually are responsible for your conversational voice. But there are also smaller nerves that are on top of the thyroid that run along the superior pole of the thyroid that control the vocal folds elongating and shortening. And therefore, they control the pitch of your voice. Now, that's incredibly important for singers or professional voice users who rely on pitch changes and inflection in the voice. I had done so much research before my appointment. I had kind of a laser beam focus on this idea of the external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve, because that's the nerve that controls your power and your range.

And I went in, and as I was talking to Dr. Tufano, I was like, do you know if they make, maybe something that can protect this nerve too, because I'm very concerned about this nerve. And his face kinda lit up. He said, that's a really good question. Turns out Dr. Tufano had been doing research at that time for this brand new sensor. And so, I was one of the first people to get to use it.

It's sole purpose is to protect that third nerve that I was so concerned about. And you know, that's just one of the benefits of going to somebody who's at the cutting edge of their field. There's a lecture that I give nationally and internationally that talks about this nerve being the forgotten nerve.

In every case, what we do differently than I think anybody else, is look for that nerve, stimulate that nerve and protect that nerve, while we are working on the superior pole vessel. The day the surgery, they were all awesome. Coz I was scared out of my mind.

I remember the wonderful nurse anesthetist that helped me just kinda calmed my nerves and stayed with me before I went in. And when I came out the nurses were amazing. It's such a team of people that you constantly feel like you're in good hands. I remember coming to see Nicole in the recovery room after surgery and I let her know that everything went very well. And that all of those nerves that we were concerned about were preserved and working beautifully at the end of the case. Laying on the table, barely opening my eyes and him saying, give me a note, and me being like [SOUND]. And it was maybe the ugliest note that I have ever made, but the one I'm most grateful for.

Because I knew at that moment, that very fuzzy moment, that everything was gonna be okay. You travel from Philly, you travel from Minnesota, you travel from wherever to Hopkins, because Hopkins is the best place. It's gonna give you the best chance to get your best prognosis and your best outcome. Within six months, that's when they said it would be my full, I'd be all the way back. It's like a brand new voice. I can sing stronger than I've maybe ever been able to sing in my life, and it's brought such a joy back. And he is just a little yellow pill.

Amino Acids to Improve Your Health - Podcast #145

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Evan, it’s Dr. J. How are we doing today, man? Evan Brand: Happy Monday. I’m doing good. Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Happy Monday.It’s a great day out here in Austin,…

By: Just In Health
Integrated Genomic Characterization of Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma…

Matthew Wilkerson: Thank you. It is my pleasure to present some of our results and discoveries from the Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma Analysis Working Group, and I co-chair this…

By: National Human Genome Research Institute
Endocrine Surgeon: Sanziana A. Roman, MD

Hello, my name is Sanziana Roman and I am an endocrine surgeon at Duke. Well, I'm not too shy about this because it's a really great passion of mine. And it's gotten tied…

By: Duke Health
Thyroidectomy | Nikki's Story

My name is Nikki Jean. I'm a professional singer/songwriter and currently based out of Los Angeles. The reality about getting worse and worse at the thing you're trying to be…

By: Johns Hopkins Medicine
Dr. Aarti Mathur | Endocrine Surgeon

Hi, my name is Aarti Mathur. As an endocrine surgeon, I care for patients with thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal disease. I became interested in endocrine surgery when I have the unique…

By: Johns Hopkins Medicine