Education Commissioner Diagnosed with Vocal Cord Disorder

Apr 16, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. - It’s no secret that Dr. Terry Holliday has been having trouble with his voice.

“Well I’ll keep it short because I can’t talk anyway,” Holliday joked at a recent press conference.

For an education commissioner whose primary job is to communicate with teachers, school officials, and policymakers, that can be a problem.

Holliday started noticing symptoms last September, and by December his voice had dramatically deteriorated.  

After ruling out cancer, Holliday made appointments with several specialists.

“I’ve been diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, which is basically your vocal cords freeze up.”

A cause of the condition is unknown but fortunately it’s not life-threatening. Spasmodic dysphonia is the same disorder that affects public radio host Diane Rehm.

“I can sing, and that’s one of the reasons they think it’s spasmodic dysphonia. But I can’t go through life singing my speeches,” Holliday says.

He goes to Vanderbilt University later this week for a Botox injection into his vocal cords, a treatment that will likely become a regular part of his life.

“Treatments range from once every three months to once a year.”

Holliday says he’s received a lot of support and words of encouragement. According to the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association, an estimated 50,000 people in North America are affected by the condition.