Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MT woman with ALS speaking with technology's help

Posted: Jan 22, 2013 8:12 PM by Victoria Fregoso - MTN News
Updated: Jan 23, 2013 7:15 AM
 MT woman with ALS speaking with technology's help
  •  MT woman with ALS speaking with technology's help
  •  MT woman with ALS speaking with technology's help

BILLINGS - A computer-generated voice now speaks for Donna Fisher. Just two years ago, she was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Over time, she slowly lost her ability to move and speak.

"Donna's only purposeful movement is with her eyes," said Billings Clinic Speech Pathologist Carol Morse. "She has no other purposeful movement. She has minimal head movement, no other purposeful movement."

Thanks to a device called the ECO 2, Donna is able to speak once again. "I want everyone that is in my situation to know about this machine and to know how easy it is to work," she said.

"It certainly allows Donna to be independent," Morse said. "She shops online, she pays her bills online, she signs the time cards for her personal care attendants. It allows her to have independence."
Through "eye-gaze" technology, one by one, Donna picks out letters to form a sentence. Sentences ranging from a simple greeting to getting help in an urgent situation. "Friday I ended up in the emergency room. And until someone brought this up to me, I couldn't answer any questions the doctors and nurses needed to ask me," Donna said.

Dr. Carol Morse says training Donna on the device was a breeze; it was the funding that posed a challenge. After an appeal was filed to the state Medicaid office, Donna was granted the ECO 2 after a six month wait. Donna's doctors and friends fought for the device because it was something she couldn't live without. "I will quote Donna, If you take away this device, you take away her voice," Morse said.

Donna came forward wanting to let others in her situation know they still have the ability to communicate.

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