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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Maybe this is the new me?

This all started early in the fall of 2011.  I had been experiencing some problems with my voice.  Nothing strange; mostly my voice simply got softer and more hoarse.  My regular doctor, Matt Hansen, suggested that I see an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist (ENT).  Dr. Butler, the ENT examined me and decided that my little problem was most likely caused by some minor acid reflux.  They gave me some antacids and some advice on how to minimize the problem and asked me to follow up in a couple of months.

As the weeks passed, my voice didn't improve, and I found that I was having problems with my speech.  It was as though my mouth couldn't form words as easily as before.  This was annoying but I wasn't alarmed.  I figured it must be something related to my acid reflux problem.  One day, I was visiting with a colleague at work, our Finance Director, Lisa.  It just so happens that at this same time I was having a problem with my shoulder called adhesive capsulitis - frozen shoulder.  This is an annoying condition but not unbearable by any stretch.  Lisa was having a different kind of problem with her shoulder and that day she asked me how I was doing.  I told her that I was fine.  She asked me if I had been taking pain medication for the shoulder.  I answered that I was not.  She then asked me again, as if she didn't believe my answer.  I assured her that I would know if I were taking pain meds, and unless someone was slipping something into my Dr. Pepper, I was clean.  She then told me that she was concerned about my speech.  She said that I sounded as if I were under the influence of a narcotic substance.

Within a few days of my conversation with Lisa, I was conducting a meeting with some folks at the University of Utah, when Chuck, the Dean of the Graduate School, asked me what I had been drinking for lunch. I passed that off as just a funny comment.  Then, one day, my boss, Eric, the University CIO, also asked me, "When is that going to get fixed?"  He was talking about my voice quality and my slurred speech.  I said that I didn't know - "Maybe this is the new me," I said.  I decided that I had better ask my ENT to take a closer look at what was going on with my voice.

When I visited the ENT, I asked him if he could check to see if there was something going on that would affect my speech - not just my voice.  He gave me a concerned look, mentioned that he could hear the change in my speech, and told me that he would take a look but that he didn't think he would find anything.  He scoped my throat, vocal cords, etc., and comfirmed that there was nothing that he could see that would be changing my speech.  Then he told me that I needed to ask my regular doctor, Dr. Hansen, for a referral to a Neurologist.  I was like, HUH?  He told me that I should try to get something set up as soon as possible.

A few days later I had a follow up visit with Dr. Hansen.  I passed on the info from my ENT and Dr. Hansen said that he also noticed a change in my speech.  He said that I needed to get an MRI on my noggin as soon as possible.  He was able to set it up for the very next day.  On the paperwork, the reason given for the need for an MRI was "onset of disarthria." So, I went in, got the MRI done, and received results that said that my brain was not just normal, but very good looking!  No problems.  I breathed a sigh of relief, but I found that this was not the end of it.


  1. My awesome Uncle Kevin! I love you and think you are so inspiring! I am so sad about your symptoms, but I know that because you are YOU, You will live! (well, maybe not forever, but really, who wants to look like Yoda, anyway?)
    I am glad you are writing this blog, and I look forward to following your journey. As always, you are in our prayers. <3

  2. Yes - we were worried about your speech. After all, you are affectionately known as "Lips Ahoy" in our shop. (You have to see the hand motion for "lips ahoy" to get the full effect.)

    I was thinking that if you hadn't have been overseeing the UIT communications group, we may not have known about this as soon as we did. Maybe if you had managed the video team, we may not have seen the early warning signs! [for some reason, the word "communications" really highlighted the symptom...]

    Thanks for sharing this with us. The way you live your life is amazing and a good example for all of us. Your sense of humor is inspiring.



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