I just wish it wouldn't have to be such a struggle every time I open my mouth
to speak." |
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
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.
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.
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.
not available on the National Health Service so it'll cost over £5,000 and
there are no guarantees it will even work.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
this isn't going to be a total cure, as speech pathologist John Haskell explains:
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."
There are emotional adjustments to make too.
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."
a sleepless night, that reality sinks in. Heidi accepts it's no fairytale ending.
She goes to Central Park to practice her new techniques.
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.
Heidi's progress as an Inside Out TV crew follow her journey of hope across the
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