Parkinson's Disease Stories

Debra's Story

Nov 17, 2021

“Not being able to speak was very frustrating for me.”


“Proper speech has always been so important in my life. My mother raised me to speak proper English – if I pronounced a word incorrectly or I mumbled, she’d ignore me. My spasmodic dysphonia is such irony.”

More than 15 years ago, Debra was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia which causes involuntary spasms in her voice box that make her voice break. She can have trouble saying a few words or talking at all. Doctors don’t know what causes it, and there are no cures.

“I do poetry readings. I’m the chairperson of several community groups and sit on city boards, so not being able to speak is very frustrating for me.”

Botox is a short-term fix that generally lasts about six months, and it didn’t interest her. So her primary care physician recommended that she try speech therapy at DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM).

“I never realized this was an option. I always thought of RIM as a facility for patients following an accident, stroke or other physical limitations, but not vocal cords.”

Debra went to speech therapy two times a week, for more than five months. Her speech therapist taught her daily exercises to warm up her voice and breathing techniques to boost her good voice.

“My voice is so strong and clear today, it’s amazing. The incredible part is my therapy took place over Zoom during the pandemic. RIM was really a godsend. The tools they taught me are magical. I’m so happy to be back reciting my poetry, leading my meetings and having my voice heard by my family and friends. RIM, I can’t say enough good things about you!”