Sheriff regains his voice one year after meth lab injury

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

SHARP COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts has spent the last week talking a lot more than normal.

That's because for the last year he hasn't been able to speak much at all.

Last October, Sheriff Counts found himself in the Intensive Care Unit for more than a week after inhaling fumes during a meth lab bust.

"I remember they had a hidey hole in the floor, I called it and I opened that up and found that and them chemicals hit me and I knew I was in trouble," Counts said.

After more than 20 years in law enforcement, the sheriff never thought a routine home search would leave him fighting for his life.

"I can remember leaving the ICU eight days later and leaving on oxygen and thinking, I'm 41 years old, I'm too young to be on oxygen," Counts said.

His lungs would eventually recover, with help from physical therapy.

Counts said his 16-year-old daughter would miss the first hour of school every day to take him to therapy.

"And it would take us 30 minutes from the time we pulled into the parking lot to get around to the back because I didn't have enough oxygen to make it back there," he said.

But after regaining his strength and lung capacity, one thing didn't come back.

"You don't realize how important something is to you until you lose it," Counts said.

His vocal cords were damaged. Most days he was lucky to get a whisper out.

Counts spent the last year going from doctor to doctor. Three different ear, nose, and throat specialists told him they didn't know how to fix it.

"The last few months it got discouraging," he said. "I thought, you know, I'm never going to get my voice back."

But three weeks ago his family doctor referred him to one last specialist in St. Louis.

"He didn't say maybe, he didn't say there's a chance we can fix this, he said we can fix this," Counts said. "And it was a prayer answered."

Last week, Counts went into outpatient surgery. After six shots into his vocal cords, similar to Botox treatments, he could feel them change.

"Finally I breathed and I felt my vocal cords vibrate and I got really excited," Counts said.

It would be a few more hours before he could finally speak to his wife, who had been by his side through the entire battle.

"It's been a tough road but she started crying and I just smiled and that was worth it all," he said.

The sheriff said he woke up the next morning ready to talk, but first, he tried humming.

"It took me a minute or so and I'm laying there and I finally got to humming and I thought that was the neatest thing," he said. "For a year and 18 days, I could feel no vibration so I'd hold my hand up there and I'd just feel that vibrating and I thought that was the greatest thing."

He eventually woke his wife up and began some long overdue conversation.

"I started talking and she smiled real big and I just kept talking. I had so much to say."

Counts said this miracle was possible because of the Sharp County community.

"There's been so many people in this community praying for me and, you know, I've never run into so many people that said I've been praying for you and I know that's what done it," he said.

According to Sheriff Counts, meth labs aren't as common now as they were about ten years ago. Much of the methamphetamine they run into is imported from Mexico.

But his department is definitely more aware of the dangers that meth labs present and both his deputies and wife have agreed that he won't be allowed inside any more of them.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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