May is “Better Speech and Hearing” month.When we think of keeping our bodies healthy, the voice doesn’t usually come to mind.But “talk” medicine is something we shouldn’t take for granted.Just ask Kara Voisine.For close to four years, the 20-year old thought she was going to die.The young woman’s throat would suddenly swell up, to where she literally could not breathe.Then, Voisine heard about the Voice and Swallowing Center in Belfast.=========”I love playing sports. I grew up playing sports,” says Kara Voisine.Especially field hockey. That’s Kara Voisine playing goalie. Kara was overjoyed when her team made the state championship, until doctors gave her some devastating news.”My doctor told me, ‘Kara, we can’t have you leaving Bangor, it’s just too unsafe.’ So I couldn’t go to practices, I couldn’t go to games. I couldn’t do anything.”Doctors were concerned about Kara’s breathing attacks. The 20-year old had been to hospital emergency rooms more times than she could count, was intubated several times, pumped full of steriods, spent weeks in the hospital, and had seen countless specialists…every time, coming to the same conclusion.”They couldn’t figure out what was going on,” says Kara.After one attack, Kara was rushed to a Boston hospital. It was there, Kara finally got the answer she was so desperately searching for.”It’s called peridoxal vocal cord dsyfunction,” says Kara.Kara then came here, to the Voice and Swallowing Center in Belfast. She says a big part of her treatment was finding out her condition wasn’t fatal.”It took so much anxiety off and my trigger is anxiety,” says Kara.Kara then learned that controlling her attacks was as simple as breathing. “It’s just a matter of re-training the muscles around my vocal cords, so that when they do spasm, they don’t close up,” she says.(“Kara demonstrates breathing through an attack”)Kara says within several treatments at the Voice and Swallowing Center, her attacks have gone from daily to almost non-existent.In addition to treating voice disorders, the Belfast facility also helps voice professionals.Bridge Rose is a speech pathologist, as well as a classically trained singer.”One of the things that’s really interesting about being a speech pathologist with a singing background, is that you’re bringing this artistic, creative bent to a clinical view,” says Rose.Rose says part of her job is to make folks more aware of how we use our voice.”Where do you feel those words and sounds when you make them, what part of your body. Do they feel stuck in your throat or do you feel them up more like near your mouth or maybe quote unquote a buzzy feeling when you’re speaking,” Rose explains.Rose works with many different types of voice professionals.”Somebody in the clergy, maybe a telemarketer, a news reporter.”(nat sound- Rose working with Joy)”And just pay attention to how you’re breathing.”Being in the voice business, I decided to ask Rose for some ways to improve my mouthpiece. Turns out, I had my work cut out for me.(nat sound- Rose working with Joy)”OK, try this with your mouth.””wait, how do you do it?Ugh, I can’t do this.Some people can do this, and some people can’t do this,” says Rose.=======Rose says one of the biggest mistakes all of us make is a lack of voice hygiene. Too much alcohol or caffeine or too little water can really affect our voice boxes.The Voice and Swallowing Center is part of Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast.For more information on the facility, log onto www.mainespeechtherapy.org or you can call 338-9349.