Google Saved Dilbert

    March 9, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Scott Adams, creator of the popular Dilbert comic strip, found himself with a strange speaking problem that baffled doctors but not Google.

Adams posted a lengthy description of his battle with voice problems and how he finally tracked down the problem with Google.

Since May 2005, he had experience problems with his voice. He could speak to an audience or talk out loud when alone in his normal voice. But conversations over the phone or face to face with another person came out unintelligible.

His visits to a variety of physicians proved fruitless. He learned about a lot of conditions he did not have – polyps, sinuses, acid reflux – yet was no closer to a resolution. Meanwhile his voice was worsening.

Then Adams experienced a revelation, and turned to a certain search engine to confirm his suspicions. (Warning – the following passage from Scott Adams’ blog hints at the cartoonist being in an undressed condition for a brief period of time. Sensitive readers and small children should skip the next two paragraphs. WebProNews cannot be held responsible for any offense or discomfort experienced by the reader, you can thank the First Amendment for that. After all, we do.)

That’s when Google saved my sanity. I was taking a shower one day – that’s where all my good ideas are born – and I started to wonder if my bizarre throat problem was related to my bizarre hand problem. My right pinky goes into spasms when I try to draw on paper, yet I have no problem drawing on a computer even though I hold the stylus just like a pen. I knew from experience that this too had seemed like I was nuts until I found the right doctor to diagnose it.

I dried off and Googled “dystonia” – the name for my hand problem, plus “voice.” Bingo. There’s a rare neurological condition called a spasmodic dysphonia with voice symptoms identical to mine. When I played the online voice samples of people who have it, they sounded just like me. The symptoms are amazingly specific, as in “can speak clearly while yawning but can’t speak on the phone.” And “can sing but can’t speak in normal voice.” There’s even a propensity for this condition to pair with another dystonia, like the one in my hand.

Upon finding a specialist who validated his suspicions, Adams began to undergo Botox treatments. Those involve long needles being inserted through the neck to the vocal cords to deliver the Botox. Adams wrote that “the creepy factor is through the roof. You can feel the needle inside your neck the whole time. The “bad part” takes about 60 seconds, and believe it or not, you can actually get used to it.”

The treatment worked, to Adams’ delight. He has given a couple of speeches, where he has noticed the most improvement. He will need follow up appointments, but his joy at finding a cure well exceeds the creepy factor of the treatment.

One can’t help but think Dogbert would have suggested sticking long needles into Adams’ throat immediately. Maybe that will be the subject of a future comic.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.