5-Year Update – August 1st, 1995
Note: The doctor's name below has been redacted and appears as a fictitious name, Dr. Blake.
Six months after receiving three weeks of intensive "direct voice rehabilitation" from Dr. Morton Cooper, I was feeling fairly good about my voice. It was obvious to me that I was not completely cured, but my voice had improved incredibly. I decided to write the Professor Otolaryngology at a prominent Midwest medical school. Dr. Blake had been treating me for abductor spasmodic dyphonia for approximately two years, and had administered seven injections during that period. Dr. Blake was extremely helpful in obtaining financial assistance for the trip to California and in general seemed to be supportive of the therapy. Despite the doctor's support, I knew he was extremely skeptical that Dr. Cooper would be able to do anything positive for my voice, which made me even more anxious to have him hear my improvement with his own ears.
After writing Dr. Blake a brief letter he called me and said he was very anxious to see me in person and asked if taping me would be possible. I told him that I had no objections to the taping, but reiterated what I had said in the letter, that my voice was not perfect, but when I was able to apply the elemnts [sic] of good voice (my diaphragm breathing along with lower pitch for tone focus) my voice was free from spasm. Dr. Blake told me that he could tell over the phone that my voice had improved and repeated that he was anxious to see me in person.
The day of the meeting I was extremely nervouse and excited. I desperately wanted to prove to Dr. Blake that "direct voice rehabilitation" works for spasmodic dysphonia. Since Dr. Blake comes in contact with more SD's than anyone, I know, I felt that he would be able to present Dr. Cooper's methods as a viable alternative to an injection of Botox to possibly hundreds of people suffering from SD.
Upon entering Dr. Blake's examination room he quickly thanked me for coming, abruptly sat me down in a chair and put a microphone in front of me. Then he asked me to recite the same paragraph that I recited when he had diagnosed me with SD. Despite my nervousness I felt my voice was fairly smooth and was almost free from spasm. The times that I did spasm I noticed that my pitch came up and I lost my tone focus so I continued to push my voice lower to recover.
After completion of the audio recording, Dr. Blake asked if he could make a video recording of me explaining a little bit about the therapy in general. I started by explaining that Dr. Cooper's "direct voice rehabilitation" does work for many people and that I had seen and heard many of those people with my own eyes and ears. I explained that it normally takes a lot of hard work and commitment to be successful and explained a little bit about tone focus and diaphragm breathing. During this taping I would say that my voice was definitely a "good voice" and free from spasm.
During and after these tapings [sic] sessions Dr. Blake had not said one word regarding the improvement of my voice. My curiousity [sic] got the best of me. "What do you think of my voice?" I asked. Dr. Blake paused and said smugly, "I've seen this before." "What do you mean you have seen this before?" I said with extreme shock in my voice. Dr * then went on to explain that he felt that my symptoms were in remission. He said that on occasion an SD's symptoms will go into remission and for some unknown reason their voice will clear up for an undetermined period of time. I could not believe my ears! Trying to keep calm I asked, "You mean to tell me that if I would have never gone to California and done any speech therapy my voice would have probably cleared up on its own?" The doctor replied with an emphatic, "Yes, that's what I believe."
Unable to control myself any longer I said in a loud voice, "You're wrong, doctor!" I told him that I thought that people tend to put doctors up on a pedestal and believe what their doctor tells them. I informed him that if he did not advise his patients that speech pathology can be a viable alternative to Botox he was doing his patients a great injustice. Then I concluded, "You have not been with me for the last six months and you have not experienced what I have experienced. You have not been with me in the mornings when I forget to apply what I have learned and my voice spasms the way it used to, only to have it clear up after applying the proper tone focus and breathing. You cannot tell me that my voice would have cleared up on its own whether I worked on this therapy or not!"
Dr. Blake clearly was not ready for my response. Then he said, "Maybe I need to reconsider?" I quickly replied, "Maybe you do!"
Another thing that stands out in my mind about my conversation with Dr. Blake is his stance on speech therapy in general. At one point in the conversation I had stressed the point that I had seen and heard with my own eyes and ears dozens of patients that have been cured or dramatically improved with Dr. Cooper's "direct voice rehabilitation." That I asked Dr. Blake why he did not believe that Dr. Cooper's methods work. He said that he had read some of Dr. Cooper's publications and that in his opinion it was basic speech pathology 101, in other words, Morton Cooper's methods are too simplistic to work. Dr. Blake continued saying something to the effect that if the answer is so simple why couldn't speech pathologists all over the country report the same positive results? With that I laughed because I had remembered Dr. Cooper stressing that most of his fellow pathologists used that as a reason for their disbelief in his methods. My answer was direct and to the point, "Why does it have to be complicated to work!"
I have experienced for myself the close minded attitudes that exist among the medical community regarding spasmodic dysphonia. I believe that SD patients that have experienced success with speech pathology have some responsibility to their fellow SD's to get the word out, that speech pathology can and does work. If enough successful patients were to force the medical community to sit up and take notice, far less people would need to suffer from this disorder!