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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So here it is. I was discharged from the hospital a week ago. Last night, I was able to practice for 2 hours. Play consistently up to D above fork F and down and on an 8 Otto Link STM on tenor. As the doctors still don't want to claim Bells Palsy vs seventh nerve damage all I can say is that they seem to both be the same and my experience has mirrored those of others I have talked to.

First, check out Gunnar Mossblad's article on playing through his bought with Bells Palsy. Great stuff and determination. Quite frankly reading the article saved me from a great amount of depression and the gave me the courage to find something that would work. Here it is.

http://www.dornpub.com/saxophonejournal/bellspalsy.html

Next. I feel I owe great deal of my recovering to my P.E.T.E. from Warburton. having this simple and effective tool helped to really stimulate muscle and work it out at any given time. It's so useful. http://www.warburton-usa.com/index.php/products/accessories/pete

I use the woodwind model and I can't say enough about how great it's been. I also followed the exercises in Gunnars article. I even created the "shield" that he did an had similar success. However, sleeplessness and obsession led me to think there might be another type of device that I may find more effective for me.

So, I made many different prototypes. However, this is the model I settled on. I like that it can sopport either side or both sides. When playing with partial paralysis the other side tends to wear out so this helps to center the release of air a little better in my opinion.

Also, the bottom and lower lip rail help to add support and a snug fit so that you can actually use your embouchure and lips. nothing touches the reed but you. Also, by tucking the lower lip just inside the support it can redoce that tendency to bite through the lip due to lack of sensation and pain on the effected side.

All I used was a coat hanger (the coated kind as the still is thin enought to fit into the lig), a Francois Louis Ultimate ligature, electrical socket covers (you know - for kids), clear tubing, gel sole inserts for shoes (unused), sports tape, and a hot glue gun.

As there isn't much of a demand for this type of thing that I know of I will dispense with the "who will help me manufacture this" call. If you have an interest though, drop me a line here.

Anyway, here's some pics. And keep in mind I got maybe a total of 10 hours sleep over the previous 4 nights so my assembly is crude and my appearance a little shaggy.

I can only hope this can help someone somewhere.

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I applaud your determination! Very impressive, so many folks would pack it in on this diagnosis. Great work.

guido
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So, here is the update. I was able to make it through my entire gig on Saturday night. 4 hours of playing - 2 on standards and swing stuff - 2 on rock n roll, sould, motown, etc...

Band was loud, I had no monitor. It was probably in my top 10 toughest gigs - definitely it was - for physcial stamina. But, my chops felt actually better for it. I swear that by continuing to play and even play hard that I am moving faster in my rehadb than expected (well, I know I am moving faster - just "why" is the question).

Gotta streamline the apparatus a bit. maybe build something for alto or soprano if I need it after the next couple of days.

So the bottom line. Wednesday April 6th I awoke with partial facial paralysis due to either Bells Palsy or an injury to the 7th cranial nerve. Saturday, April 16th I was back on full evening gig form despite only being about 75% recovered.

I attempted to play a little bit without the chops cage to no satisfactory results. With the cage I was really able to be about 85% back to form in my playing.

I am going to build one of these for a friend who has had to play out of one side for over 10 years. The nerve to his lip was severed. If it can work for him than I am confident it could help a LOT of people.

Cheers all.
 

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This is fantastic. I've had two students over the years who dealt with bouts of Bell's Palsy. In one case, it was about six weeks to recovery, with no recurrence since. In the other, it became an ongoing situation. Very glad to hear that your case sounds temporary. Your generosity in sharing your experience is sure to be helpful to others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I wonder if something like my design could assist. One thing I managed to do during my gig and practice sessions was to increase, decrease and change the positions and pressure based upon symptoms. For instance, I would notice that my right cheek and jaw would get sore (the good side) as I was compensationg for the left side. So, I would occasinal just shift the weight or force af my jaw to give the right side more support thereby allowing it to relax the muscles.

The affect of haveing the cheek pads gives an articial type of support allowing the embouchure to remain relaxed (or in this case - paralyzed) and still achieve a more natural emouchure.

Feel free to email or PM me if you would like to discuss.
 

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David Jacobsen, the saxophone/flute professor at Virginia Tech, is one of the unlucky ones who has permanent nerve damage from Bell's Palsy. I went to his recital at VT in September of '08, and he played a full recital very well. He has a huge rubber band that wraps around his head to keep his embouchure in place.
 

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I currently sit in a chair with a 3 x 4 mirror facing to my right. I hold one alto in my right hand(my good hand) and another alto in my left. The bad hand is on the other side of the mirror so I cannot see it. I sit there for say 45 minutes doing simple fingerings like G-A-B-C or B-G-G-A. I watch my right hand in the mirror playing while my left hand does the same stuff on the other side of the mirror. I sit and hope it will get better. I don't know if it's helping or if I am just learning new ways to compensate for the condition. I am going to keep at it until I lose faith.
 

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Thank you swampcabbage for this post. Please keep us updated. Congrats on overcoming your paralysis.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I currently sit in a chair with a 3 x 4 mirror facing to my right. I hold one alto in my right hand(my good hand) and another alto in my left. The bad hand is on the other side of the mirror so I cannot see it. I sit there for say 45 minutes doing simple fingerings like G-A-B-C or B-G-G-A. I watch my right hand in the mirror playing while my left hand does the same stuff on the other side of the mirror. I sit and hope it will get better. I don't know if it's helping or if I am just learning new ways to compensate for the condition. I am going to keep at it until I lose faith.
That's a lot of determination tenor! I wonder if modifying keywork could help you. I think I've seen some single hand keywork modifications out there. Of course, ideally you would prefer to be able to experience a full recovery. However, one thing I've noticed about my experience is that by staying on the horn - even with some sort of gizmo for assistance - I believe has not only helped me physically experience a faster recovery than most accounts that I have seen, but it has helped me psychologicaly in ways that cannot be measure.

Either way. My best of wished to you and your pursuits.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Saw my Dr yesterday. She concurs that staying on the horn and the exercises has helped a very fast recovery (about 90% or more now). She thinks it was Bells Palsy and not an injury. So 2 Dr's say Bell's, one says injury, 1 thought it was a ministroke but was negated after the intial tests.

The Dr. has re-upped the prednisone so we don't have a back slide.

Last night I practiced 2+ hours all without the cage. All on my Florida Link (8 opened to .115). First couple of hours was on a MS LaVoz. Last 30 minutes on a MH Lavoz (closer to my original strength preferences).

Saturday I could not have played a gig without the cage. Today I am back on the horn.

My bottom line on this. If you come down with something like Bells Palsy - staying on the horn however you can and exercises combined with prednisone treatment may speed your recovery along. I know that it can be easy to get disheartened and give up. I am convinced that by exercising the muscles in conjunction with the steroids, I essentially "woke" up the nerve again. And that actually playing the horn had a big hand in that. Considering that electro stimulation is one of the phys therapies that they use for things like this. I think the benefits of the vibrations can amount to the same thing. So, if anyone were to come to me with this affliction I would say - do whatever you can to get back and stay on the horn.

I am not a Dr. though.

I still think developing the cage into a working and manufacturable accessory would be a great benefit to a lot of players of reeds and brass - not sure how it could help flute though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Just though I would follow this up after seeing the neurologist yesterday. She confirmed that it was (is) Bells Palsy. I am back to about 98%. There is some slight numbness and weakness on the left side. I am going back to the Dr for one more go around with the prednisone so we can go for the full recovery.

She confirmed that playing and exercising the muscles most definitely aided in rehabbing back to playing condition. She also liked my cage (or the WESA - Windplayers Embouchure Support Apparatus) and was veryimpressed with my development and determination to keep playing through it all.

I don't mean for any of this to come across as bragging or anything like that - I just wanted to document this for anyone else that may go through the same thing (I know I've said it a million times). In any case, it's just to let other know that there is a way to get through it - it's not the end of playing and staying with the horn might even aid in a speedy recovery.

If anyone is going through this type of setback - feel free to contact me through here. Good luck.
 

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staying positive like you have already done is a part of your recovery so your back on track already. i was going to suggest the Gunnar Mossblad's articles but i see you are on top of that so everything looks good. i wish you a speedy recovery swampcabbage.
 

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Your plan and execution is very impressive. Thanks for documenting it.

I have reworked mouthpieces gratis for a few players who have injuries to their face. One was a car accident. Another a dog attack. They found that a ultra-responsive set-up, that required very little pressure to make a sound, helped them to keep playing.

If I can be of assistance, let me know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Your plan and execution is very impressive. Thanks for documenting it.

I have reworked mouthpieces gratis for a few players who have injuries to their face. One was a car accident. Another a dog attack. They found that a ultra-responsive set-up, that required very little pressure to make a sound, helped them to keep playing.

If I can be of assistance, let me know.
Mojo, thank you. I would like to bounce some things off someone.

The interesting thing I found was that this ciontraption enabled me to play on my existing setups. And that I think it may work for brass with slight modifications. Brass players will have a tougher time getting back on it so this may really help them.
 

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Hi Swampcabbage.

Thanks for your very interesting post.

I'm very interested in building something like what you have.

I suffered a vicious case of the shingles that attacked my fifth cranial nerve and also affected the seventh, leaving me with a facial paralyses on the right side of the face.
It's been four months now, I'm recovering small steps and still getting better. But still I have a lot of air escaping when I try to compress which is why I think that something like your contraption would really help me.

I'm getting to the point where I need to get back to my saxophone so I need to do something.

Do you have any more pictures of the thing?
You can send to [email protected]. I'm in New York City.
As far as I can see you're only using two of the tubes on the Francois Louis ligature?
I was thinking of trying their Pure Brass ligature. I'm about to get one, to get into the process. Any further assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Kindly,

Thanks!
 
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