Monday, April 23, 2012

T+447: Checkup in LA


Last month I was in California, so I set up a follow-up visit at Dr. Berke’s office.  The visit took place about a year and a month after my surgery.

I was seen by Dr. Jennifer Long, who said that my voice sounded good.  She had a look at my larynx using a laryngoscope and noted that they were showing good symmetry.

At the time I was still unintentionally hitting high notes on a few words here and there.  Noting that there was some inflammation on my larynx, she suggested that reflux could be playing a role and that I should try taking Prilosec.  While I haven’t noticed a problem with reflux, my throat was indeed scratchy from time to time.  Dr. Long prescribed that I take double the recommended dosage of Prilosec OTC, which can be purchased over the counter (i.e. 2 tablets per day instead of the usual 1).

I’ve been taking the Prilosec for about four or five weeks now and the occasional falsetto notes have stopped.  My throat is also no longer scratchy.  It would seem that the Prilosec is helping, so I am planning to keep taking it for a while.  It’s also possible that I’m just further along in the recovery.  At some point, I will probably ease off the Prilosec and see if there’s any difference.

As a side note, Dr. Long remarked that my larynx is somewhat narrow overall, and that this seems to be a characteristic not uncommon for people with spasmodic dysphonia.  Perhaps people with narrow larynxes naturally have their vocal cords closer together, lowering their tolerance to the hyperactive signals coming down the laryngeal nerve.  That’s my theory, not theirs.

My voice feels stronger and better than ever, and I don’t think I’ve had a single voice spasm since before the operation.  It’s not 100% and it can give out if I get tired.  It’s also not quite as loud as it once was, and yelling in loud environments is not my strong suit.

Here’s a sample of how I sound now:


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

T+365: Recovered at Last!


Today marks exactly one year since my SLAD-R surgery with Dr. Gerald Berke on February 1st, 2011.  I’m thrilled to have finally reached this milestone and what a year it’s been. I was expecting a four to six month recovery, was hoping for a two to three month recovery, and wound up with a year long recovery. While this has been a lot harder and took a lot longer than expected, the result is worth it.

You can listen to the result yourself here:



I would now characterize my voice as near normal, perhaps 95% of normal.  It's now fully functional and doesn't impede me in any way. It's loud and for the most part clear.  I can yell if I need to, and no longer have trouble in noisy environments.

The reason I don't put it at 100% is because it's not quite as smooth or melodious as I would like it to be. The squeekiness that I was experiencing over the past few months has almost completely gone away, but I still get it here or there with a word or two.  That's been happening less and less, and I expect it will go away completely.  In the mornings, I need to speak for a few minutes to "warm up" my voice before it gets to an optimal state.  Late at night or especially after a couple of drinks, my voice can start to give out a little.

The scar has healed well.
I also can’t really sing very well, but then again I never really could. While it would be nice to sound like Michael BublĂ©, I’ll have to leave that to another lifetime.  For those of you that are singers, be aware that this operation will probably not do a great job of restoring your singing voice.

The neck pain that I reported a few months ago has also all but disappeared.  I still don’t know if it was related to the operation or not.  The scar has healed almost perfectly and is difficult to see.  A little bit of numbness does persist in the area above the incision and below my chin, but it doesn’t bother me.  That part of my neck is still a bit flabbier than I’d like it to be, but maybe that’s just because I'm older, and hopefully it will regain some tone with time.

The best news of all is that I have now gone for 365 days without so much as a single voice spasm. Spasmodic dysphonia is not a fun thing to have.  The road I took to get relief was a long one and not always an easy one, but I feel it was the right one.  Hats off to Dr. Berke and his team!  The work they do is truly amazing, and something that I’ll be appreciative of for a long time to come.

Going forward, I will probably only update this blog at semi annual or annual intervals, unless there is something noteworthy to report along the way.

Please feel free to reach out to me at any time if you have questions, either by leaving a comment on this blog or by contacting me via the Spasmodic Dysphonia Group on Facebook, which is another worthwhile resource for people with SD.

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