When Jan Christian was 17, a traumatic car accident fractured her windpipe and voice box, robbing her of her voice. For her entire adult life, she has not been able to speak above a muted whisper.
But now, 35 years on, Christian is finally rediscovering what it feels like to be heard after a miraculous restorative surgery that used aerospace engineering theories gave her back the gift of speech, Cincinnati.com reports.
Christian, 52, said that when she first heard about the surgery, she was skeptical.
By then, she had already suffered from more than three decades of disappointments and grief.
Christian told The Daily that no doctor had ever offered any viable solution and her condition -- which made normal conversations and telephone calls very difficult -- continued to be isolating and emotionally traumatic.
"Not having a voice is sort of a disease of alienation," said Dr. Khosla, the otolaryngologist and director of the Voice and Swallowing Center at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio who performed the surgeries that gave Christian her voice back.
Christian, a Colorado native who now lives in Cincinnati, said that she had been shopping one day when a mystery woman heard her whispering and handed her a card with Dr. Khosla's details on it.
That small gesture would change Christian's life completely.
"I sure wish I could remember what she looked like and knew who she is," Christian told Fox News. "I like it to call it my little 'miracle card'."
With low expectations, Christian went to see Dr. Khosla. Incredibly, after looking down Christian's badly-damaged throat, he told her he could fix it, USA Today reports.
"I went home and cried," Christian said. "It's really funny when somebody offers you a new plate of hope when you haven't had any for so long. I didn't know how to process it."
Over the course of seven surgeries, Dr. Khosla rebuilt Christian's windpipe and larynx using his engineering background and theories of how the wind affects jet engines. Though Christian's new voice is "far from perfect," Dr. Khosla told USA Today that with voice therapy, it will slowly improve.
Now, Christian says she wants to write a book to encourage other victims of trauma that there is hope out there.
"There's always been a desire to share my story," Christian told Cincinnati.com. "When you're trying to do something and you don't have hope, you don't get very far."
"I am full of joy and can't wait to see what's next," she told The Daily.
For more on this story, watch this Cincinnati.com interview with Christian and Dr. Khosla.