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Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia

I remember, back in the 1950s, reading Zane Grey novels about the early American west.  Grey frequently used the term 'laconic' to describe his strong, silent heroes. Well, that's me.  I am, and always have been, a laconic man, at least in conversation. I have written hundreds of thousands of words in my life, but am quite reserved when it comes to verbal interaction with others.  It is easier to learn with one's mouth shut.

There are times when one must speak, however.  It's unavoidable.  Try ordering a Reuben sandwich, double sauerkraut and hold the mustard, with your mouth shut and no pen and paper handy.  Deaf and dumb people need to deal with this reality daily, and my heart goes out to them.  It is a real hassle not to be able to communicate easily when one wants to.

How is this all relevant?

In 1986, I noticed that my voice was diminishing in volume and increasing in hoarseness.  By the time I realized that something serious was amiss, I had virtually no voice left.   It took every ounce of effort to force out a few words. At the end of a normal workday, I was totally exhausted.  Off I went to my doctor who in turn sent me to Victoria Hospital, in London, Ontario, Canada, for assessment.

I was diagnosed as having a neurological voice disorder called adductor spasmodic dysphonia.  I was lucky to get such a quick diagnosis.  I discovered that many others with the same affliction are regularly misdiagnosed; some are even told that their problem is psychological or completely imaginary.

On the urging of my specialist, I took several months of speech therapy to help me learn to speak 'around' my problem.  It helped somewhat, but not nearly enough to enable me to function normally.  My staff at work pitched in and made phone calls for me and generally acted as my 'voice' whenever possible.  My wife Chrystyna did the same at home.  Over a period of a year or more, scarcely a word was spoken at home. It  was too difficult for me, and I will always be grateful to my wife for her patience and understanding.

I tried acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and naturopathy.  Nothing helped.  Finally, I tried hypnosis. I have no idea if the hypnosis actually contributed towards improvement of voice, but I was able to speak a bit better after my one session.  I was able to tell my wife, when I got home, that (according to the hypnotist) I was from another planet, in another solar system, and that I was only 'visiting' here on earth.  Hmmmm.  To this day, if I appear lost in thought while gazing off into space, my wife asks if I'm visiting relatives again.  Very strange.

Well, I don't believe that I am from anywhere else than from right here on Terra Firma. If there is life anywhere else in this magnificent universe, I can't imagine it being anything like the human race.  If I thought that we were the pinnacle of creation (or evolution, if you prefer) I would be more than a little depressed by the possibility.  

I consider myself blessed and very, very lucky.  I can deal with my voice problem.  Of all the medical afflictions that might have befallen me, this is certainly not one that I am likely to complain about.  There is much worse.

So... If we ever meet, and I am a bit difficult to understand when I speak, that is why.  Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia.