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Mute for 12 years…then I coughed up a coin

A threepence coin stole her voice

Here Marie McCreadie, 60, Wollongong, NSW tells the story in her own words.

Cooped up with my mum Veronica’s homemade soup, I felt sorry for myself.

It was 1972 and I was 13, but I’d completely lost my voice after a bout of laryngitis. It wasn’t until eight weeks later that I finally started to feel better.

But still, every time I opened my mouth, words just wouldn’t come out.

‘The virus seems to be gone,’ the doctor pondered.

Blood tests and X-rays followed, as he tried to figure out what had stolen my voice.

I’m sure it will come back, I thought.

I was a positive teenager, with my whole life ahead of me. But then, with Mum by my side, I got some news.

‘Marie, we think the virus has attacked your vocal cords…’ the doctor began.

He went on to explain I would most likely be mute for the rest of my life.

Forever? I fretted.

I could see the fear in Mum’s eyes too but she put on a brave face for me.

It was a weird sensation – I would move my lips and in my head I was speaking, but no words would come out.

Mum spoke with the school about how I became mute and word quickly spread.

‘You mean you can’t speak?’ my friends asked. ‘Never, ever?’

Instead, I conversed with them via letters. Almost everyone was supportive, soon learning to lip read.

But my teacher scolded me.

‘You need to be in the choir,’ she said.

But Sister, I can’t sing, I penned.

Shaking her head, she placed me front and centre.

‘Sing!’ she shrieked.

Tears streamed down my face as all eyes turned to me.

I went red trying to sing, but I didn’t make a peep.

At home, I ran into my room and tried to scream as loud as I could… Nothing.

Soon the sympathy dried up and I could see being my friend was a hassle.

People stopped speaking to me and I was miserable.

Amazingly, after school I got a desk job and made friends by typing out messages. Instead of seeing me as the ‘mute girl’, they saw me for who I truly was.

Then one day, when I was 25, I was at work when I felt a little tickle in my throat.

I attempted to swallow and clear it, then I started to cough… and cough…

Feeling something sliding up and down my throat, I ran to the bathroom and leant over the sink.

I turned it into a charm
I turned it into a charm (Source: Supplied)

Gasping for air, something began to drip out of my mouth… blood!

An ambulance was called and I was rushed to Emergency.

‘She’s mute,’ the paramedic told doctors.

Opening my mouth, the doc reached towards the back of my throat.

With one gentle pull, his hand emerged with a small bloody ball between his fingers.

Am I going to die? I panicked.

Bursting into tears, I opened my mouth to sob, when a moan wailed out!

What’s that noise? I wondered, shocked.

As I sobbed, sounds bounced across the room.

Staring blankly, everyone gasped at the mute woman making noises!

Rinsing the mysterious item, the doctor held it up to the light.

‘It’s a threepence piece!’ he said, shocked. ‘And how long couldn’t you speak?’

It had been 12 years, but after all that time, I could only make gurgling sounds.

The doctor confirmed the coin had been lodged in my oesophagus, which prevented my vocal cords from vibrating.

It hadn’t shown up in the X-rays as the coin had been resting horizontally.

Booking into a speech therapist, I said my first sentence two weeks later.

‘Hello Mum, it’s me,’ I croaked on the phone.

After that, I couldn’t stop!

Simple things reminded me how my freedom had been restored.

‘I would like to book in a cut and colour please,’ I said on the phone to a salon.

And when I married my husband in 1987, I was able to say my vows, which I never imagined I would.

I turned my story into a book
(Source: Supplied)

I was also there to teach our two girls, Danielle and Melanie, their first words.

Now 30 and 28, they have encouraged me to write my book, Voiceless.

After being mute for 12 years, I am not wasting a word. I’ve joined our local church choir and am finally able to put a sound behind the words I mimed all those years ago.

I’ve even had the coin set as a charm on my bracelet.

Over the years, many doctors and specialists have put forward theories as to how the coin got lodged in my throat without my knowledge.

Some reckon it could’ve been sitting at the bottom of a coke can and I guzzled it down.

Others said it might have been hiding in a pudding.

The truth is, I will never know how that coin got there.

But I am sure of one thing – with my voice restored I am finally confident to be me.

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