Program restores voice to those with much yet to say

A hospital is giving voice back to those with Parkinson's disease. It's through a program called SPEAK OUT!, teaching patients to speak with more intent.

Former history teacher David Fulton is a member of the program who said, “I never had a problem with it before in the classroom. I never had any difficulty being heard."

David was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease about five months ago and found he was losing his voice.

“Without intention, people had been talking over me. It was sort of difficult to feel like what I have to say may not sound important because of the way I was saying it."

There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but David won't let it get the best of him. He met with a pathologist three times a week for four weeks learning to project and speak with intent through the SPEAK OUT! program.

“I could really tell the difference,” he said. “It was very obvious."

The program has been offered at the Columbus Community Hospital since 2014, and it's done through a referral from a doctor.

Speech Pathologist Michell Ruskamp said, “We know with exercise we can significantly delay the progression of the disease. For people with Parkinson's to get exercise, to get voice treatment, to get physical therapy, occupational therapy, their quality of life is going to be much better."

Once the program is finished members move on to weekly maintenance with The LOUD Crowd, as it's called.

Ruskamp said, “We all have really important things to say throughout our lifetime and losing the ability to communicate effectively can be very disabling for a person."

David said it’s hard work but the program gives him hope for the future.

"There is no cure, but there are things I can do to help myself. And one of those would be to be active in conversations and speak out when you have some things to say."

The LOUD Crowd is offered free. Parkinson Voice Project offers a grant to help hospitals pay for the program.

For more details on the grant and how to apply, visit their website by clicking here. Applications will be accepted through March 2, 2018.