Sports Anchor Loses his Voice

You can Anchor with bad hair and even a bad outfit, but there is one thing you must have.

Your voice. 

For a Syracuse Sports Anchor that was a problem. 

WSYR Sportscaster Steve Infanti's voice developed a raspy quality in February and persisted for almost two months.

"It sounded like I had constant laryngitis,'' Steve Infanti, the sports director at Syracuse's NewsChannel 9, said.

Most of the time, Infanti would clear his throat and push on through, but it got worse. 

"I figured it was just overuse,'' Infanti said. "I thought with some rest, it'll come back. But it was not coming back. If anything, it was getting worse.''

By mid-March, Infanti sounded like he had just gargled with sandpaper.

On a trip to cover the Syracuse University women's basketball team in the NCAA tournament in Connecticut, Infanti could barely put together a report.

"I had to do my stand-ups over and over again because I just didn't sound right,'' Infanti said. "I was clearing my throat and I was trying to get a good take and it took me a while.'' writes that Infanti knew then that he needed to go see a doctor. He saw Dr. Dave Gordon, an ear-nose-throat specialist, who snaked a scope through Infanti's nose and down his throat.

The doctor had good news and bad news, but this was no joke. The diagnosis would put Infanti in fear for his professional future.

"The good news is I know why you're raspy and hoarse,'' Dr. Gordon said. "The bad news is there's no other solution besides you have to have it out.''

A non-cancerous polyp, which are common in adults, had formed on Infanti's right vocal cord. Surgery was the only way to treat it.

"When you make a living with your voice, it's unsettling to hear that,'' Infanti said. "A million thoughts go through your head. Is my voice going to change? He said probably slightly. There's risk involved.''

Initially, Infanti thought he would only miss a week following the surgery. But when he went to see Dr. Richard Kelley, an otolaryngology specialist who would perform the surgery, he received more bad news.

"Your vocal cords are very swollen,'' Dr. Kelley said. "Have you been trying to work through this?''

Of course, Infanti had been doing just that.

"I hate taking days off or calling in sick,'' he said. "I was just working through it and by working through it, I'd really irritated my vocal cords.''

The swelling had to go down before Dr. Kelley could perform the surgery. Infanti was put on "voice rest'' for two weeks. He had to limit the amount of time he talked during the day and telephone conversations were prohibited.

On Wednesday, May 17, Infanti reported to the North Area Medical Center where Dr. Kelley removed the polyp. The procedure went well, according to the doctor, but Infanti had to wait five excruciating days before he could test his voice.

"That was tough,'' Infanti said. "It was almost as bad as the anxiety before the surgery.''

With orders to not speak at all, Infanti turned to an App known as Speaker to communicate. He downloaded the App to his phone. He could type in words, hit a button and an automated voice would say the words.

The Speak App provided a small dose of levity for the technology-challenged sports anchor during those five anxious days.

"There are several male voices, but I couldn't figure out how to save the male voice to my phone,'' Infanti said. "So anytime I got out of the App and went back in, it reset to the woman's voice. I got tired of it so I just used the woman's voice.''

Infanti still needed to rest his voice. He could speak for 5-minute stretches followed by two hours of rest. He would also need weekly voice therapy sessions.

But the doctor gave the go-ahead for Infanti to return to the air.

On Thursday, May 24, Infanti handled the sports segment during Channel 9's 6 p.m. newscast. He was on camera again the following night. After taking a few days off, Infanti did all three newscasts on Tuesday the 30th.

"It's a process,'' Infanti said. "It doesn't sound perfect yet. I can't punctuate words right now. I can talk in normal conversation at a normal level, but calling highlights, it's hard to say 'And so-and-so scored!' I can't hit that yet. But it's going to come.''