Ira Newborn

My Botox Shot – July 29, 2003

Gosh! It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in the waiting room at a famous teaching hospital waiting for my first Botox shot.

After months of worrying about losing my voice permanently as it became more and more hoarse and strangulated, I decided to take the advice of a couple of ENT's I had seen and go to yet another ENT who specialized in treating the incurable dystonia known as Spasmodic Dysphonia. With my asymptomatic Acid Reflux kept firmly in check by months of Prilosec and/or Nexium, I felt ready for the next step in the search for an effective and safe treatment for the symptoms of my incurable illness.

After a pleasant 1 1/2 hours listening to the gurgles, coughs, hacks, retches and gags of the other patients in the crowded waiting room, I was ushered into a small cubicle with a dentist-type chair in the center. In less time than it took to read Finnegan's Wake, a young assistant doctor came in and took a short history of my complaint and when he was through, told me I would have to undergo a video laryngoscopic stroboscopy. Not more than 1/2 hour later I was ushered into another room where a trained Ph.D. in this subject tried repeatedly to shove a long fat tube with a pistol grip on one end, down my throat until I gagged both of my socks up. Failing that, he proceeded to shove a flexible fiber-optic tube UP my nose and then DOWN my throat unerringly poking my epiglottis until I gagged my shoes up too. Not much other than gagging was captured on the video but the doctor came in and with one practiced glance made the pronouncement, "lotta tension there."

I was then escorted back to the small cubicle where the doctor and I exchanged a few words along the lines of what I did for a living, how I was not a suitable candidate for the special surgery performed for this condition and how Botox injection was the treatment of choice, it being harmless, well tolerated, low in side effects and needed to be repeated every 3 months or so. At this point I wasn't feeling too keen on having a paralytic toxin (no matter HOW purified it was) injected into my vocal folds so I respectfully rejected the offer. He then casually said, "Look, why dontcha try half a dose?" It seemed reasonable and I was there for so long, I thought, "What the hell. I'll try half-a-dose."

He got up and called out to his nurse (whose name was Ratched, I think) to make up 2 syringes, each with a half unit of Botox.

Another half an hour or so went by and in came the doctor with the syringes and two babydocs (interns) who wanted to watch the procedure.

I sat back in the chair, the doctor lifted my chin, felt around on my throat for a couple of seconds and stuck the first needle in to the right of my Adam's apple and almost immediately said, "OOPS!" and pulled it out. 

He then stuck it in again in a slightly different place and injected the Botox with what seemed to be a considerable amount of what I imagined was sterile water as a carrier. He quickly did the same to the left side and after choking for what seemed like 5 minutes, I could sort of croak, hand signal and breathe enough to answer him and reassure the frightened interns that I thought I was all right..maybe.

After recovering a bit and before I left I was informed by Nurse Ratched, that I could expect to have a "somewhat breathy" voice for up to 2 weeks before my voice improved and that I might have trouble swallowing and might tend to choke on foods and especially liquids for some time.

Three weeks later, still sounding like a Grade B science fiction movie alien talking through a ring modulator and after 3 weekly phone calls politely begging Nurse Ratched to tell me when I was going to have a voice and getting the same, "OHHHHHH Mista Noobawn, PLEASE be reassured that yaw voice WILL come back. The Docta and I have been giving BOtox shots faw ovah TEN yeahs and if OWNlee I could reasSURE you that yaw voice WILL come back........", I began seeing Dr. Morton Cooper.

When he heard my voice on the phone, it was so grotesque he thought I was playing a joke on him, however, he suggested I come in. Within 10 minutes or so, even under the influence of the BOTOX, he demonstrated to me that I still had a normal voice and could recover it. albeit with hard work and practice.