Claudia Cismondi

July 2007

Claudia had extensive, severe SD. In 2008, she was presented at the U.C. San Francisco National workshop on SD. Claudia remains cured of her SD five years after she began her odyssey to find a cure for her SD problem. Her eye spasms have been greatly reduced as well. This was accomplished by Direct Voice Rehabilitation by Dr. Morton Cooper.

When I finally made the commitment to work with Dr. Cooper in Los Angeles I could barley talk. My voice was severely strangled and my voice mechanics were completely out of whack. It was impossible for me to have a normal effortless conversation.

As of January of 2007, I had nearly given up hope that I would be able to ever talk again effortlessly or normally. By the time I arrived in Los Angeles to work with Dr. Cooper, I was regularly using a TTY device for most phone conversations. In addition, to the TTY, a couple years earlier I tried to use an electronic larynx. An electronic larynx is a small hand held device that is placed on the neck which the user then mouths words. You don’t speak the words, one simply moves the mouth and lips then somehow the device creates weird sounding words.

The small hand held device makes odd robotic sounding noises in place of a natural sounding human voice. I joked during an interview with Cooper, that I sounded like Darth Vader when I used that device! It really wasn’t funny though. When I used that particular device, the electronic voice larynx, it was sad and even more embarrassing. My friends and family despised the thing and they could never really get used to it!

Being like most American’s these days, I use the computer. I usually emailed and instant messaged before I started using the TTY device. I was introduced to the TTY because not all situations allowed me to email. So, with the use and assistance of a TTY and computer, I could communicate. Unfortunately, always having to write or type was not satisfying my need to communicate with my own voice.

Another device I tried was called a voice delay device or white noise device. I can’t quite remember exactly what it was called. One of my speech therapist’s had one on loan so I was able to try it out without purchasing it.

All I remember, right now, about the equipment was, I had to wear a microphone and a set of headphones. I can’t quite remember much else about how it worked, except it had something to do about “white noise and delayed sound.”

Most of all, I remember feeling distraught about the contraption. As much as I wanted to be able to talk and converse effortlessly, the thought of having to resort to the ugly contraption was depressing.

IIn the end, after the trials, the device didn’t work for me.

II was at the point of giving up and looking into synthesized voice products and computer programs before I decided to give it one last try and work with one more voice specialist. I had heard of Cooper through an internet search a few years back. For some reason, I never got around to seriously considering going to him. One reason I did not go see him was I first tried to find help locally and within my local health care system, beginning with a primary care doctor.

It has been nearly seven years that I started having the voice problem. It got so bad during the last three to four years I was too tired and too strangled to speak. The other symptoms that came with my disorder also included horrible eye spasms as well. I was not strangled in the beginning, but due to many factors I ended up being almost completely mute.

There were a few factors as to why I was not cured earlier. Because it started out gradually and was not extremely debilitating I wasn’t too concerned. My voice troubles started around 2000 and 2001, when after one bad cold or flu I kept having a cough and the sensation I needed to cough. I noticed I was having trouble talking too. The first few doctors and therapists weren’t quite sure what was going on. I felt I was stressed and tried to lower my stress levels. I also had appointments with voice therapists, but somehow and for some reason I just couldn’t get a handle on my voice.

In fact some of the first symptoms were pretty typical. I had sore throats which were always very common for me. I have experienced laryngitis often, all throughout my life at one time or another. Typically when I am about to catch a cold or other respiratory type illness I might have a raspy voice or laryngitis.

The first doctor I consulted suggested a few things. What was weird though; when I wanted tell him about my voice problem I didn’t display my typical symptoms of having a voice issue. That was very odd and embarrassing to me. I never understood why when I went to a doctor my voice seemed to return. That was the one particular and bizarre symptom that bothered me and may have contributed to my reluctance and inability to understand my voice disorder. 

The fact my voice would be normal when I consulted a doctor would cause me to be unsure and baffled for the next five or so years. Whatever caused me to start talking normally and get my voice back during certain situations made me feel crazy! I could only describe it as the white coat syndrome. I think the doctors thought I was crazy!

Unfortunately by the time I committed the time to work with Cooper I was having very few episodes of a normal voice and I couldn’t figure how to talk at all. I pretty much didn’t know how I to get my voice back. Through the years of 2000 to 2006 I went to a couple different voice therapists once or twice a week but, I couldn’t remember how to talk after a few days. I would slip into my bad patterns and habits. My breathing was off and not normal. I couldn’t figure how to get my voice or my breath to work effortlessly. The natural way of speaking had escaped and then I couldn’t figure it out period. Everything I tried just didn’t work. 

II spent a lot of time and money in search of a cure. I tried alternative as well as a medical cure. I had four botox shots, therapy of all sorts, massage, Rolfing, acupuncture, emotional therapy, and various trials of drugs. I had an MRI and a number of laryngoscopic procedures trying to figure out what was going on. While I was willing to continue with the Botox shots, the last two injections I received did not relieve my strangled voice. With the understanding Botox was not a cure, and it was just a short-term solution I did not have any further shots.

II am now 98% cured. I say 98% cured because when I am tired I notice a little difficulty with my voice and I have to concentrate on my technique. My pitch tends to go low and it almost feels like I am talking from my abdomen or lower throat.

II spent a month with Cooper and I believe that the month I spent working with him helped me to find my voice. He helped me to get past the emotional barriers and work on the physical mechanics. He often reassured me it was not difficult or rocket science to figure out, but for me it meant taking and making the time to do then practice the proper techniques. I am one of those individuals who sometimes finds it I it hard to take time to take care of myself. I get distracted and sidetracked. For me I have always found it hard to stick with simple boring things. Practicing breathing and humming was something not so easy for me, but it was something very necessary for me to do. 

At one point almost every time I talked I experienced Blepharospasms. Since DVR my Blepharospasms have decreased. 

Since it took a few years for me to pretty much screw up my voice and develop bad breathing habits, it took some time to get my wonderful voice back. Now that I have regained the confidence and have put the correct techniques in place, my life has greatly improved. Ask me a question and I can give you an answer that can be easily heard and understood! Life is good once again! Cooper helped me to find my voice and for that, I am grateful.


Update: July 2007

Dr. Cooper,

Now that I can talk you want me to email you…? Gee thanks…what’s up with that? Just kidding!

Now that my voice has returned and I can speak effortlessly and without much effort I am so much happier. My stamina and energy levels have returned as well! It is interesting though, as I mentioned to you during our last phone conference, certain friends and family members have been having negative reactions towards me.

Well…maybe I let certain things slip or my delivery isn’t sweet as honey. Simply put, I have unintentionally pissed a few people off. Oh well, that’s life! It is part of the healing and recovery process I suppose.

I must say this, with each passing day, I am amazed and so grateful that my voice is back. Every time I answer the p hone, or respond to a question I ma in awe that I can talk! Thanks for your help!

Have a great week!