The world heard on Sunday night just how far Adele has come since facing serious surgery in November to repair damage to her vocal cords . But there was one person in the room at the 2012 Grammys who had an extra-big grin on his face when the night’s big winner made a triumphant return to the stage: her surgeon.
“I thought her performance was just totally inspirational,” said Dr. Steven Zeitels, the surgeon who performed the microsurgical procedure to stop a bleeding benign polyp on the singer’s vocal cords. The Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center and Eugene B. Casey Professor of Laryngeal Surgery at Harvard Medical School, Zeitels told MTV News that he could hardly contain his joy at watching his latest success story make her triumphant comeback.
“I think she sounded great,” he said of her powerful run through “Rolling in the Deep.” “If you know what her mechanics were like [before the surgery], in the second half of the song, she was just blowing it away.”
And the good news, for Adele and her fans, is that as far as Zeitels is concerned, the 21 star can consider her vocal cords fully open for business again. “I think she can do anything she wants. If anything, she’s better than before. The only thing I hear is that she’s cleaner and clearer, which is not surprising.” He said that when the performance was over, his wife looked at him and just shook her head and said, “Yup.”
Though the surgeon could not speak to any of the specifics of Adele’s condition or her recovery due to doctor/patient confidentiality, Zeitels did reveal that he was at the Grammys as a guest of the Grammy Foundation, which is in discussions about teaming with him to put on a concert or a series of shows featuring some of his famous clients to raise money for the kinds of surgeries that can help restore countless other voices.
“[Adele's] case has become the most visual one in the history of voice surgery,” said Zeitels, who has worked similar wonders with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, the Who’s Roger Daltrey, Cher and KISS’ Paul Stanley, among many others. “With Adele, we wanted it to go right the first time,” he said of his recommendation that the singer rest her voice for several months before re-emerging at the Grammys. “[That performance] was a testament to … the view now is that all kinds of people can be restored and repaired and people have contacted us from all over the world. People didn’t know how many things could be fixed.”
Zeitels said that when he operates on a singer, chances are he not only makes whatever problem they have better, but he also gives them a shot at advancing their career and singing, which leads to more referrals. His latest success story is “Jar of Hearts” singer Christina Perri, who came to him to remove a congenital mass on her vocal cords that she’d had since birth. “She could sing before, but she can really sing now,” he said.
While Adele’s label could not be reached for comment on what her future plans are in regards to resuming her touring schedule, Zeitels said that as far as he’s concerned, his former patient could hit the road whenever she’s ready.
“I think she was a bit nervous,” he said when asked about what sounded like a few tricky notes during the Grammy performance. “But who wouldn’t be? … From my perspective, she can tour tomorrow. She’s healed and looks wonderful. It was an outstanding result.”
As to whether she is under any restrictions to avoid re-injuring her instrument, Zeitels said the short answer is no. “She just has to be sensible,” he explained. “There are no restrictions, but like a running back with a hurt knee, she could have a problem again but it doesn’t happen very frequently.”