Gayle Pace

Update: Remains cured of SD 10 years later.

Gayle Pace

About four years ago (1991), a simple case of the flu set off a condition that became an extremely lifealtering situation. What seemed like simple laryngitis just did not go away. Since I am not a writer, it is very difficult for me to convey the frustration I felt while this was going on.

I made numerous trips to my local doctor and we started with complete quiet. It didn't seem to matter whether I talked or not; sometimes my voice would come out fairly normal and other times it would come out just a hoarse whisper. My throat was sore all the time and it felt like there was something lodged in it.

Between March and August 1991, 1 was seen by nine different doctors. I had two tests that involved the doctors putting a scope into my nose and down my throat, a Cat Scan, and allergy tests. I took speech therapy. I was put on a limited diet, and was given two antibiotics, three different allergy medications, a stomach medication, an antidepressant, various inhalers, and Prednisone. I used a TENS unit on my neck as well as every home remedy you can think of. Some of the drugs would make a difference when I first started using them, and I would think I was finished with the whole thing, but nothing had any lasting effect.

At times, I was made to feel there was really nothing wrong with me, that it was all in my head. And in a way, I guess it actually was. Finally, I went to see Dr. Gerald Berke and Dr. Bruce Gerratt at the UCLA Medical Center, Head and Neck Division, in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Gerratt did a laryngeal exam with a video camera, as well as some other measuring tests. They decided I had spasmodic dysphonia, supposedly a. neurological disorder with no cure. A short time before I went to UCLA, I read an article in Prevention Magazine about this disorder. It sounded so very much like the problem I had been having, and it described some of the frustration I had felt.

The treatments described in the article were very discouraging, so I asked our librarian to pull all the information available on the condition. The treatment that seemed to have the most success was Botox, a poison injected into the vocal cords to paralyze a portion of them. It has some definite drawbacks. Other than being poison, it only lasts 4-6 months, and is very expensive.

Any reference to speech therapy said it was not effective for any length of time.

I can't even begin to describe the turmoil within when I discovered I had spasmodic dysphonia. All I could say was, "I wanted you to tell me it wasn't that." He was quite surprised that I had ever even heard of it, much less knew anything about it, since it is a rather rare condition.

Dr. Berke injected my vocal cords with a medication to simulate the action of Botox. I fainted, but even before I came to, my voice was clear, and it lasted an hour or so that afternoon. Dr. Berke said my spasmodic dysphonia was somewhat different than most, since both the abductor and adductor muscles were affected. He referred me to Dr. Morton Cooper, a speech pathologist in the Westwood Medical Plaza located a short distance from UCLA Medical Center.

After one visit, actually the first few minutes of the first visit to Dr. Cooper, there was such a marked improvement that I was totally amazed. The simplicity of his treatment is the hardest part to believe, especially since there is supposed to be no cure. The first day I was there I met several people with this disorder, and just talking with someone who truly understood what I had gone through just to even find out what my real problem was, made me feel so much better. After three visits we decided that I would be able to handle the exercises on my own and that I could call if I needed more coaching.

Dr. Cooper is the most accessible doctor I have ever known. The man answers his own phone half of the time, and he doesn't make you feel like you are either unimportant or crazy. He is terribly bossy and makes no bones about being that way. If fact, he is quite a character. Incidentally, though Dr. Cooper is the only one reporting cures of spasmodic dysphonia by direct voice rehabilitation, he wasn't in the printout pulled by the librarian. Had it not been for the UCLA Medical Center referral to him, I would never have found him.

Now, ten years later, my voice remains excellent. I truly thank the Lord for Dr. Cooper and would recommend him to anyone who thinks he/she might have spasmodic dysphonia.

L. Gayle Pace