When Oscar Bugarin began losing his voice eight years ago, physicians couldn’t seem to pinpoint the problem and it was affecting more than his ability to communicate — it was affecting his confidence.

Oscar’s voice was faint and raspy and would cut in and out. It seemed to get worse with certain foods and overuse, which was detrimental to his thriving sales career.

“It is critical to my success to be able to speak and present to my clients,” Oscar said. “When my voice started going, I lost the confidence to talk with them in person. Instead, I would look for ways to interact without meeting face to face like sending email. It is really a burden if you can’t speak and communicate directly with your clients.”

For several years, Oscar visited various doctors and speech therapists, who continued to misdiagnose him with acid reflux. “I became more frustrated and I felt hopeless that there wasn’t anything out there that could help me,” he said.

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Finally, Oscar’s primary care physician diagnosed him with spasmodic dysphonia. Spasmodic dysphonia is a neurological disorder which causes the voice muscles to spasm during speech.

Oscar was then referred to Michael Johns III, MD, professor of clinical otolaryngology at the USC Voice Center of Keck Medicine of USC. “I knew immediately that Dr. Johns was going to be able to help me find a solution to the problem with my voice,” Oscar said. “His confidence was the reason I wanted to work with him; I knew he was going to do the job right.”

Dr. Johns recommended treating Oscar with botox injections every three months. For the first 10 days after an injection, Oscar speaks just above a whisper. After that time frame, his voice returns to normal. “I’m happy with the outcome,” Oscar said. “The procedure is quick and easy and the results are amazing.”

A fuller life

Oscar says that finding Dr. Johns and getting diagnosed is one of the best things that has ever happened to him. “As soon as I got my first series of injections, I was able to read a book to my two-year-old son for the first time. That was pretty amazing — it’s the little things like that we take for granted.”

Since his treatment began, Oscar’s confidence has soared. A few months after the first injections, he landed the biggest sale of his career. “It’s being able to speak clearly and confidently,” he said. “I don’t think I would have flown to Chicago to meet with my client face-to-face before the injections. It probably wouldn’t have happened.”

That’s just another example of The Keck Effect — giving people confidence to live a fuller life.

By Heidi Tyline King

Learn more about the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and the conditions it treats.