Opera star sings RNTNEH's praises on 140th anniversary 

23/09/2015 00:00 
World renowned opera singer Lesley Garrett CBE has voiced her gratitude to staff at UCLH’s Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital (RNTNEH) for saving her career after a vocal injury threatened to destroy years of dedicated work.
September marks the 140th anniversary of the historic hospital’s opening. On 15 September 1875, the RNTNEH’s first foundation was laid by the highly acclaimed opera singer and patron of the hospital, Madame Adelina Patti, Marquise de Caux after whom the first ward was named. The hospital has gone on to deliver pioneering treatment and build a reputation for clinical advances, teaching and research. 

Another star of opera was back at the hospital recently to celebrate the anniversary and thank staff for the treatment she has received over recent years.

“Happy 140th anniversary and long may your good work continue,” Lesley told staff. “I can say completely hand on heart that if it wasn’t for your incredible team I would not have the career, or the life, that I have today. Over the years I have received wonderful treatment from the whole hospital, audiology and rhinology departments as well as laryngology.”

Lesley was left ‘terrified’ when her vocal cords haemorrhaged and silenced her voice during a lead solo at The London Coliseum with the English National Opera.  “I was in the middle of a solo performance of Kurt Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. At the end of Act 1 - suddenly and with no warning-   my voice just went. It felt as if I needed to cough but no matter what I did I couldn’t get my vocal cords to come together.  I thought I would never recover. It was the most frightening moment of my life.”

Her husband Dr Peter Christian – a north London GP commissioner – recommended the RNTNEH. Under the care of consultants including John Rubin, Professor David Howard and speech and language therapist Philippa Ratcliffe, she gradually regained her vocal strength. In 2001 the Lesley Garrett Laryngology Research Laboratory was opened at the hospital by none other than Lesley herself.

More than 20 years later, she still follows their advice: “Opera singing is a bit like an extreme sport and I was given a list of things to do to manage and care for my voice, known as vocal hygiene rules. I still go in for a vocal ‘MOT’ retune when I need to! Over the years their expertise and reputation has grown steadily and now  nearly every West End theatre, opera and pop singer knows about their work. Hundreds of performers have had their careers rebuilt by your amazing hospital.”

Part of her treatment included taking regular medication to avoid acid reflux which was damaging her vocal cords, periods of voice rest and retraining her vocal chords to avoid strain – particularly when speaking. Keeping hydrated and avoiding talking against background noise also helped.

 “I would like to congratulate all the staff for the incredible work they do. I will always be grateful and will never stop singing your praises.  If it wasn’t for you, thousands of people would never have reached their potential and would not be enjoying the life and career they worked so hard to achieve.  I count myself blessed that I am one of them.”

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