ALS patients preserve their voice with 'voice banking' - KPTV - FOX 12

ALS patients preserve their voice with 'voice banking'

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When she's not baking, 39-year-old Vashti Ross is banking on her future -- voice banking, that is.

Last April, Ross was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive and deadly disease. It often leads to complete paralysis and can take away a patient's ability to speak.

So as Ross plans on living the rest of her life with ALS, she is recording her voice now with the help of a computer program called Model Talker. She creates a synthesized voice for her future, and the voice sounds remarkably like her own.

It's a time-consuming process. She records sounds, words and phrases; it's important to her, she says.

"When you lose your voice, you lose a piece of who you are," Ross said. 

Ross records phrases she'll want to say to her loved ones such as "I love you." She also records phrases that are uniquely her own: "Seriously, Seriously."

Shana Tognazzini, a speech pathologist with the ALS Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, helps patients like Ross bank their voice.

"To communicate is to be human," she said. "For many of us, our voices are our essence."

Eventually, if Ross loses her voice, she will just press a button, and those phrases will play on a computer

That's what 67-year-old Cynthia Greene does now. The northeast Portland woman is almost completely paralyzed; in fact, in order to operate her computerized voice bank, she operates a mouse with her toes, clicking the cursor with her left knee

She banked her voice five years ago.

"I have been using bank voice so long it's normal," she said.

Doctors describe ALS as a disease that traps patients in their own body: their mind is still alert, but their body is unable to respond how their mind wants it to. Voice banking is one way to fight that.

For Ross, the only hint that something is wrong is the braces she wears on her legs to help her walk.

For now, the disease has taken little toll on her physical being, but it will. And although the disease is destroying her nervous system, it's not destroying her sense of humor. She recently recorded a joke with voice banking and she plans to use it in the future when someone is driving her crazy.

"You are getting on what might actually be my last nerve."

For more information about ALS Oregon and SW Washington, visit


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