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   Coming Up : Inside Out - East: Monday September 11, 2006

Stammering

Exclusive web interview
Heidi King
"Sometimes I just wish it wouldn't have to be such a struggle every time I open my mouth to speak."

Twenty five-year-old Heidi King is the life and soul of any party.

Intelligent and vivacious, she has a wide circle of friends.

She loves to socialise and is a keen tango dancer.

When Heidi opens her mouth to speak, her voice instantly commands the attention of everyone in the room.

Most of us take talking for granted, but a few simple sentences can take severe stammerer, Heidi, an age to get out.

It's painful to listen to and exhausting for her.

She's no victim though and she doesn't want pity. In fact the only time her smile fades is if you try to finish off her sentences.

Heidi began stammering around the age of three.

Growing up in Billericay in Essex, she had all the therapies, none really worked.

But she hasn't let it hold her back - her outgoing personality is testament to that - so too is a first class honours degree in psychology from the University of Kent.

She has a good job too - working on an older carer's project for Age Concern in Norwich.

Pioneering treatment

Despite not seeing her severe stammer as an impediment, Heidi has volunteered for some pioneering treatment in America. She's one of the first Britons to try it.

It's not available on the National Health Service so it'll cost over £5,000 and there are no guarantees it will even work.

Exclusive web feature

"I suppose deep down I would love a cure or something which helps my stammer," she says, as she prepares to fly to New York.

Before she leaves, she has one last pep talk with her speech therapist Mary Kingston.

"I don't think we should look at it a cure. It is much more like a pair of glasses. It will hopefully ease it. That is what we are both hoping for," said Mary.

SpeechEasy

The device she's having fitted is an electronic implant called SpeechEasy - it looks like an advanced hearing aid.

Like most stammerers, Heidi can sing in unison without stuttering.

The implant mimics that "choral effect" by sending out an echo of Heidi's voice.

It tricks her brain into thinking she's talking along with someone else and unblocks the impediment.

It was developed by a stutterer in America. New York speech pathologist John Haskell is one of those trained to fit it.

At his Madison Avenue office, Heidi gets a life changing transformation.

The moment the SpeechEasy device is activated, more than 20 years of stammering virtually disappear.

Video

For an hour, Heidi talks fluently - practising reading pages of text; recounting the days of the week, the months of the year.

The emotional release is too much for Heidi. She can't believe the transformation. All the years of struggling to talk have gone.

"I don't feel like Heidi because I am not stammering. It is almost as if I am detached. That is a strange person speaking, it isn't me. I feel as I am on a drug because it is making me so relaxed. I am listening to a little man in my ear. I am just not struggling as much. It is just so strange to speak without stammering." Heidi King.

But this isn't going to be a total cure, as speech pathologist John Haskell explains:

"Heidi is starting to hear herself differently. She heard her voice with a slight delay and with a higher pitch speaking with her.

"She will have to expect moments of stuttering or blocks, but she is going to learn to deal with it. People around her will have to expect that she is not going to be 100 per cent."

Emotional blocks

There are emotional adjustments to make too.

Heidi admits she's scared of using it, "Before when I spoke, I am used to instant silence. It will change the way I communicate. It is almost like I have lost my control."

After a sleepless night, that reality sinks in. Heidi accepts it's no fairytale ending. She goes to Central Park to practice her new techniques.

"Now I am more self-conscious. Today it is almost like I am a different person. I know I am not.

"I am trying to listen to the little man in my ear. It is quite hard. I go through life and I don't ever have to think about my speech. Now I am having to concentrate.

"It has been a long journey. I am still on that journey. It seems too much now. Too scary to look at what I can do with it. It's still me whether I stammer or not." Heidi King.

Watch Heidi's progress as an Inside Out TV crew follow her journey of hope across the Atlantic.

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Lido

Lido
Down at The Lido - what future for the open-air pools?

Julie Reinger investigates the threat to the future of open-air swimming pools in the region.

There used to be dozens of them, especially in inland areas away from the coast.

But they are costly to run.

The film looks at the campaign to restore one of our greatest - Broomhill in Ipswich.

And as demand for lidos grows, we look at how one pool in Peterborough is continuing to thrive, despite its high running costs.

We meet the regulars, and the man who swam the Channel, but was locked out of his local pool because the council didn't think it was safe for him to swim on his own.

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"The Guzzler"

David and Peter in eating dual
Battle of the bulge - David Whiteley .v. Peter Dowdeswell

Inside Out is always on the lookout for the weird and wonderful... and granddad, Peter Dowdeswell certainly falls into that category.

The man is a living legend.

He has 309 world records to his name and they're nearly all to do with eating and drinking.

Peter, from Northamptonshire, has been breaking records since the 1970s.

But he doesn't do it for greed, he does it for charity - over the years, he's raised £4,500,000.

He can eat 13 raw eggs in a minute, three pounds of mash potato in a minute, drink a pint in two fifths of a second... and one of the most staggering, drink 90 pints in three hours… the list goes on.

Food for thought

David Whiteley munching
Hotdog duel - David finds it too much to stomach!

But just how does he do it…?

Basically he swallows everything, and hardly ever chews!!

But the phenomenon doesn't just end with Peter the Eater, his sons are now at it too.

Inside Out presenter David Whiteley thought it couldn't be THAT difficult… so he challenged Peter to a hotdog duel!

Peter gave David a chance and had 20 sausages to the presenter's 10!

Needless to say Peter won, leaving David feeling rather sick!

On retirement from record breaking Peter says, "Well I keep retiring, but someone will come and ask for something for charity... and I can't say no, I come out of retirement to give them a hand!"

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