Music has been part of Samantha Trattner's life since she was a little girl.
"I was named 'the jukebox' in preschool," Samantha Trattner, who suffers from VCD, told Ivanhoe.
After picking up the guitar two years ago, she was hooked.
"There's nothing in the world that makes me happier," Samantha said.
When Sam was in middle school, she was diagnosed with asthma, but at the end of her sophomore year, her symptoms got worse. She was hospitalized and then diagnosed with vocal chord dysfunction, a syndrome that causes asthma-like symptoms as a result of abnormal closure of the vocal cords. Doctors told Sam her singing days were over.
"I literally broke down, and I started crying," Samantha said.
Sam refused to accept it. She found speech pathologist Dr. Celia Santine. She helped Sam get her voice back with simple breathing exercises.
"When the person is trying to breathe in and inhale, the vocal chords decide that they need to close, so they start tightening and tightening and tightening," Celia Santini, Ph.D., a speech pathologist at Florida Hospital Sports Center and Rehab, told Ivanhoe.
"She helped me with an exercise I like to call birthday cake," Samantha said. "It's where you press your lips together and breathe out first and then you suck a little bit of air back in and you breathe out again, and slowly, you relax your lips slowly each time until you're breathing normally again."
After a few sessions with Dr. Santini, Sam couldn't believe the results. She took her newfound confidence to the stage, winning first place at a national songwriting competition, where she sang a song she wrote about her struggle with VCD.
"That's the best feeling in the world knowing that I can help someone else," Samantha said.
The cause of VCD is not fully known or understood. The breathing exercises help with the symptoms, but the disease never fully goes away. For it to work, Dr. Santini says it's important for patients to do them daily before an attack happens. Other than asthma symptoms, a hidden symptom of VCD could be a soft coughing every three to 10 seconds.
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