Luana Hess, M.D.
"You're not Dr. Cooper, you're Mr. Wonderful." Left on Dr. Cooper's answering machine from Luana Hess - Emergency Room Physician
This is Luana Hess and I think you're just great. Great, great, great. That's all I can say. I have talked 12 hours in the emergency room today. I just graduated...I drove around with my daughter for 1 ½ hours. We talked with the windows down. For the first time in six months I actually sang a couple notes. I just sang some sounds. It sounded like my singing. I was so excited I drove up to my mothers and I said "mom, listen," and I sang a couple of notes. I'm not going to push it yet but I'm really excited. The first day after that red eye home it was kind of rough at work. I had to keep humming all the time and it wasn't like perfect or anything. I'd make myself hum like 2 hours before I went to work and little by little it got better. I still practice everyday. I'm really careful. In fact I tend to go a little high because I'm always thinking that I don't want that to happen again. For like a parlor trick I have showed a couple of people...look, if I talk my normal way, this is what I sound like. But guess what...here's the great thing...it's harder for me to go back to my old way now than to speak my new way. It's really weird. I started to really get used to my new way. I'm very excited and I'm really happy and I just think you're great. I'll be in touch later but I wanted to let you know how I'm doing. I'm really really happy. I've told everybody that this is the best thing that I've ever done. I'm so grateful. It's almost like a miracle. I can't even believe I can talk. I can talk! It's so great! I just had to tell you.
I am writing you at this time so you may share my letter with others who have spastic dysphonia. I know by now I would have been on total disability had I not taken the chance that you could help me. I could not continue as a physician without a voice. The decision to take days off and fly to Los Angeles to work with you was one of the best decisions of my life. I now have a voice and I marvel at the lovely tones, the range, and the freedom to express myself. In May of 1999 I became hoarse. It was difficult to be heard in the Emergency Department, where I am a full time physician and the director. After two weeks of this, I became worried to the point of going to an otolaryngologist who performed direct fiberoptic laryngoscopy on me to rule out cancer. He did find thickened vocal cords, a result of misusing my voice I now know. He referred me to a speech therapist and I made an appointment immediately. She stated we would try to get my voice to last as long as possible and told me I would likely never sing again, although she thought I might be an alto with luck in the far future. I requested and read all the literature she had to offer. I lowered my voice as she instructed (later I learned from you this was harmful and hastened my advance to spastic dysphonia.) I did everything as instructed: sucking lozenges, drinking water right before dictating, standing up to dictate, taking deep breaths, and even making nutritional improvements. None of this helped me in the least. Within a month, I had deteriorated to the point that she stopped my therapy so that I could rest my voice except when at work. I was terrified by this time. I had purchased an amplifier to wear on my waist with a headset attached, so I could be heard by the patients. I cut back on my hours. I wrote notes at home instead of speaking and wrote letters to loved ones I had previously called regularly. It was painful to speak after one sentence and I had begun to totally lose my voice despite great effort. My transcriptions had blanks which I had to fill in later. This was when my ENT doctor diagnosed spasmodic dysphonia. I obtained and read stacks of literature on the treatment of spasmodic dysphonia, which was described as a "dystonia" by the medical centers, an incurable neurological disorder. The therapy was costly, painful, and not successful. I had a bleak future as did all the patients in every study I read. Then I found on the web "The Voice Doctor" who gave me hope. I was shocked to read the histories of people like myself who had suffered with this problem for many years before they finally had direct voice rehabilitation with you and could speak clearly and without pain! I still cannot read those letters without having tears of sympathy and joy for what they suffered and what they finally achieved. You were the one who helped them and I know now they number in the thousands. I am one of your patients and I would like to say that not a day goes by in which I do not thrill at the thought that I have a voice - a good, clear voice! By the time I saw you in September, I had pain in my throat even when I wasn't talking most of the time, and I sounded like a frog at best. I did exactly what you told me to do when I got to your office, even though it didn't seem logical. After sixteen hours of therapy I could speak, but my family told me I sounded like Mickey Mouse. I kept doing what you told me to do anyway. After twenty-four hours of rehabilitation, I finally sounded normal. I called my family from your office, because I was afraid it wouldn't last. My daughter shouted in joy when she heard me, "Mom, You sound normal!" It wasn't easy to keep this up. I returned to work and had a pretty tough time the first few shifts. I kept practicing until my new voice took over on its own. I spontaneously sang one day about two weeks later, which was such a thrill that I drove to my parent's home to sing the one note. A month later, I sang phrases! For six months before I saw you, I couldn't sing even a single note. When I tried, something like the sound of sucking in on a harmonica came out. It didn't even sound human in quality and I had no control over the tone, either. Now I can sing and I am expanding my range gradually. I used to sing at various local events, and I hope someday to be able to do this again. At the moment I am happy just singing to myself! Everyone I speak to at the hospital notices and compliments my voice. I can now talk to my daughter while driving with the car windows down, and I can talk at parties. I am grateful for your discoveries and efforts to help people with spasmodic dysphonia and other voice problems. I now recognize voices heading for trouble and I tell these patients what I know. I also tell the physicians I know about your approach. I hope this letter can be used to spread the word so others can be cured, as I have been. Thank you for saving my voice and for continuing to help others with this terrible disorder.
Emergency Room Physician
PS. I forgot to mention the strange experience of having sore muscles under my chin and in my neck as I used the new techniques the first few weeks. The vocal cord pain was completely gone, but using the proper muscles for the first time resulted in muscles fatigue and discomfort. This is totally gone now as well. I also wanted to say there was not one day in the six months before I saw you in which my voice was not a problem. It was always hoarse, painful, and difficult to control. After direct voice therapy, I have not had a single hour of vocal cord pain, hoarseness, nor skips! The change was absolutely dramatic! I would like to thank the previous patients for letting their stories be told, as this gave me the confidence to go directly to you for help.
Three Year Update: Remains Cured of SD
Dear Dr. Cooper, who is really Dr. Wonderful!!!
It is over three years now and I am still working full time in my Emergency Room, and I am still talking to my daughter in the car with the windows down, and I am still singing, thanks to you!
I go back to the basic training whenever I get tired and feel my voice needs retraining and in less than ten minutes I am back on track. I have not suffered the terrible pain, hoarseness, nor loss of voice at all since I recovered there years ago after seeing you in LA. The six months before I saw you I had NOT ONE DAY in which I could speak normally! I encourage people to seek out your Website, books, and give them an idea of what you offer whenever I see (and hear) a patient who needs you. I think anyone interested should read my testimonial on your Website, as well as others, to have a better idea of what your therapy can do.
Your voice rehabilitation gave me back my voice after so many months of suffering. I am joyfully speaking, laughing, humming, and singing - thanks to you!
Luana Hess, M.D.