As I mentioned in my previous post, you want somebody that has done this surgery many, many times, and understands the intricacies of what to do, how to do it, and how to recover when things don’t go as planned. The ‘somebody’ you want is Dr. Berke.
I’ll call this out right up front: this post is basically an homage to Dr. Gerald Berke! He is the Professor and Chair of Head and Neck Surgery at UCLA Medical Center, as well as Director of the UCLA Voice Center for Medicine and the Arts. All very nice titles, but I don’t really care about any of that. What I care about is the fact that he has a demonstrated history of delivering positive results. Oh yeah, he is also a genius as well as a compassionate and caring human being.
He pioneered this surgery. He has performed it more times than anyone else on the planet. Ever. (I don’t have a specific reference factually documenting that anywhere, but would be hard pressed to think there is any data to accurately refute it.) He is THE GUY that trains other doctors on how to do this.
Also, he has treated other patients for other vocal problems. Patients like Grammy award winner John Mayer, who’s sold 10’s of millions of albums. Celine Dion was also his patient. She is/was making $476,000 per show in Vegas. (Google it. It’s on the Internet, so it must be true, right?!) If somebody making almost half a million bucks per night with her voice trusts Dr. Berke, that is also a reasonably good testimony to his skills, eh? Though these examples did not have the same surgery I did, they speak to the fact that he is an expert in voice/throat issues.
Celebrity references were fine and dandy, but as I did my pre-op research, I was much more compelled by the experience of people that had actually undergone the surgery I was considering. One of whom actually is a bit of a celebrity himself – Scott Adams. Scott is author of my favorite cartoon, Dilbert. He also is a public speaker, author of a fantastic blog, as well as numerous books. He had Spasmodic Dysphonia (which didn’t do much for his public speaking gig) until he underwent SLAD-R surgery, which was covered here, there and many other places on the web. His most recent book spent a good bit of time discussing Spasmodic Dysphonia, as well as the surgery. I found it quite valuable. (See reviews and buy it here.) You can listen to what his post surgery voice sounds like here.
I also got help from a wonderful person who put me in touch with many patients who emailed me regarding their experiences with the surgery. They were all positive. (Note, I’m aware that there are others who have not had as positive an experience, but they are – by far – in the minority. Also, Dr. Berke has refined his technique to address these issues.) I was able to listen to many pre/post surgery recordings of other patients.
One of the patients I spoke with was Erik Laurence. Of all the patients I had either been in contact with or was aware of, he was the best ‘test case’ for what my experience might be like. He has a job very similar to mine, we are about the same age, same gender, etc. His experience was profiled here. He wrote a blog that was very helpful in helping me understand what to expect. Erik was a huge help overall. His blog is part of the reason I’m writing this one. I’m hoping it may help someone as much as Erik’s helped me.
In any case, I had the surgery 3 weeks ago. It typically takes 3 – 4 months for the voice to begin returning. It will likely be somewhere between 6 – 12 months until I get a full voice. So, I can’t tell you how I’ll ultimately sound, but I can tell you that the vast majority of Dr. Berke’s patients are very happy with the results. I have faith that I will be the next.
One final note on this. It boggles my mind that of all the humans on the planet, not just now, but throughout history, and across all of time and space, Dr. Berke is the single person who was best equipped to operate on me. Ever. Anywhere. OK, maybe I’m being a bit of an overly dramatic fanboy, but I really do believe that he gives me the best chance at being ‘freed from the prison’ of Spasmodic Dysphonia. I’m thankful I had the opportunity for Dr. Berke to perform surgery on me.
Image source: http://www.memegen.com/meme/x2edv0