Deborah L.

Minnie Mouse is My Soul MateNovember 2007

I had 23 Botox shots for Spasmodic Dysphonia over nine years. They didn’t give me back my voice. Now I’m cured by Dr. Cooper’s Direct Voice Rehabilitation, all-naturally.

Today is my first day for Direct Voice Rehabilitation. I am more apprehensive than I realized. There is a lot of money on the table for something that may work. I am also intimidated a bit by this doctor. I have had a few phone conversations with Dr. Cooper and he is very clipped in his manner. He seems eccentric. I am due to arrive in his office at 11 am. I have a 25 minute walk through an area that is strip mall intensive.

After a one on one appointment with the doctor for diagnostics, I met my group: Sandra from the Netherlands, Scott from Denver, and Paul from Orange County. All seem to have a sense of fun. Dr. Cooper is a warm and charismatic man of about 75. He is passionate about his craft. He is encouraging and nags like a mother, “raise your pitch, now louder!”

We lunched at a noisy restaurant, which is a nightmare for someone with this condition, by design of Dr. Cooper. He recorded our conversation. Each one of us swore that we were shouting. Our peers swore that we weren’t. It’s so weird. When you speak from your face rather than your low throat it sounds so much louder in your head. I felt like Minnie Mouse. Dr. Cooper says that this is an improper voice image. Our therapy is not just a reeducation of the voice, it is also a reeducation of our voice/self image. That gives me pause.

As we listened to his recording of our lunch we all laughed at ourselves. Right there on his little tape recorder was the evidence of incorrect voice image. Afterwards we each were placed in a room with a voice tone machine and we had to practice saying ‘uh-huh’ over and over again. My pitch is in the key of A. After what seemed like hours of ‘uh-huh’s’ I began to talk and sing into the microphone. It was a lot of work to keep my speaking voice in the key of A. I had to raise my pitch artificially and project it much louder than I feel comfortable speaking. Singing in A seems automatic, so if I get lost I go back to the Happy Birthday song.

By the way, Dr. Cooper says I am doing very well. But I am exhausted, even though I have been sitting most of the day, I feel like I have been using my entire body for this therapy. Later that evening my throat hurts.

Second day of therapy is another day of uh-huh’s and lunch with the crew. Dr. Cooper’s waiting room is uneventful. When you see the names of the miriads of rich and famous that Dr. Cooper has cured you just can’t imagine them sitting in this little bland magazine filled office. As you enter the inner sanctum you notice that the walls are plastered with magazine and newspaper articles noting Dr. Coopers successes. The rooms are awash with outdated technology that Dr. Cooper operates with stealth. During our uh-huh sessions, which are done solo, you can hear the clickity, click, clickity click of a typewriter. This is not the secretary. This Dr. Cooper…typing… on a typewriter. He is a self-professed bumbler and although there is a computer in his office, his assistant does not allow him to touch it or use anything else high tech without her assistance.

Today we met Dave a Hollywood voice over professional. He sounds excellent, you would never know that he had severe SD. It was inspiring. Dr. Cooper showed us some footage of The Sally Jesse Raphael Show where he introduces a lady who got her voice back from SD after 34 years from extensive, disabling SD, and who had Botox shots and gave it up saying that it hadn’t helped her. Her entire personality changed, she says. I could really relate to her. No voice equals no life. After the video was over we discussed voice image and self-image.

“I love to be with you people. You are the horror story of speech pathology. And I am going to try to help you heal yourself,” this escapes from the good doctors lips with a gleeful chuckle. We were all exhausted by the days end.

Monday we were back to the repetition, “Uh-huh, uh-huh.” Doctor Cooper is confident in his healing ability, “It’s the voice image, you have to change the voice image! Botox guarantees there is no cure of SD. Botox cannot cure you.” Dr. Cooper says that he does not guarantee a cure of SD, he simply reports cures of all types of SD. Dr. Cooper raised the pitch of my voice so I thought I sounded like Minnie Mouse talking higher. He is trusting us to work with each other now. Conversation is instructional. You learn where your weak places are and you learn how to restate until you get it right. Intonation, breath, volume, resonance and pitch all work together to make a beautiful voice. Right now we are all thinking more about process and less about content. But what happens when content is important and we have to make sense?

By Tuesday it is becoming easy for me. Everyone thinks I am cured. However I do feel the inadequacies, the hoarseness, the missed letters. I concentrate on finding errors and restating them. We meet a couple new women who have severe SD. All of a sudden I feel my improvement in spades. It’s difficult to see your own progress when you eke it out one uh-huh at a time over hours and hours of boring therapy. But when you see someone who is where you were just a few short days before all becomes obvious. Dr. Cooper is the real deal. It sometimes seems like he doesn’t quite know what he is doing. Although he affirms his genius regularly, his cure is so simple it feels ridiculous. But that is the genius: to stay with the simple program until it works, not if it works but until it works.
What is even more ridiculous are the doctors who pump us with botox as a remedy for uncontrollable symptoms. Botox has not been tested for long term affects. Who knows what it is doing to our bodies in the long run? Why wouldn’t anyone prefer a natural remedy when it is available? Why did it take me fourteen years to hear about Dr. Cooper? This is not a disease but a misuse of the voice. What bad habits are learned can certainly be unlearned. And new ones can replace them. Speech pathologists should be pounding down Dr. Coopers door to learn his methods. Why aren’t they? (Now I am sounding like Dr. Cooper.)

Tomorrow we tape a few public access shows for the doctor. And it is my last day. Of course being able to function in my own context will be the true test, but I feel like I have the tools in my hands to walk my healing though to it’s completion. Dr. Cooper has worked his magic on my vocal chords and my voice image. There is always the chance that I will have to return for more therapy. But I am convinced that this condition is curable with determination and a few tools. Thank you Dr. Cooper you are a genius.

It has been one month since I left Dr. Coopers office for the last time, and nobody says I sound like Minnie Mouse including me. Back in my own context, I have days that are better than others. But I am my own worst critic. By now it has been over seven months since my last botox shot and my voice should be hoarse and ragged, missing sounds, and fatigued. But it is not! My family and friends say that I sound fantastic. I attempt to do my voice exercises most mornings and they help get me on track for the day vocally. I have spoken publically four times and my collegues say that my voice was “great, no symptoms of SD.” I can’t believe it was this simple… after fourteen years of no voice.

I give up the right of privacy and confidentiality to tell you my story of recovery and cure from Spasmodic Dysphonia.

Deborah L.