Michaela Devins Insists on Good Shepherd to Regain Her Voice


Michaela Devins, 25, of Plattsburgh, New York, is known for her musicality. At age 5, she began taking piano lessons. Piano lessons led to voice lessons, and Michaela soon began to share her talent by singing in church. Since then, her world has been filled with music.

During her preteen and teenage years, she captured roles in her middle school and high school musicals, participated in jazz choir and band and was a member of the New York All-State Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

Michaela went on to hone her vocal skills at Ithaca College, where she studied vocal performance and teaching (music education), began singing opera and even traveled to Austria to study her craft.

Then, in 2010 the unthinkable happened, a swimming pool accident left Michaela paralyzed from the neck down. She was unable to walk – and unable to sing.

“I regained my ability to speak following the accident, but singing was difficult,” says Michaela.

Testing revealed Michaela had vocal cord paresis, or numbness. That, combined with a decline in lung capacity and abdominal muscle support and control, left Michaela without her singing voice.

“I basically gave up singing,” says Michaela. “I was devastated. I felt like that part of my life was over.”

Michaela sought inpatient and outpatient treatment at two nationally recognized rehabilitation facilities before a physical therapist in Syracuse, New York, told Michaela that Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania, was using the Ekso bionic exoskeleton with quadriplegics.

Although not optimistic, Michaela made her inaugural trip to Allentown in October 2014.

“During my consult appointment, not only did I learn that I was a candidate for the Ekso, but therapists had me in the suit that day,” says Michaela. “I left the appointment and said to my Mom, ‘I have to come here.’”

Michaela has since been making weekly, and now bi-weekly, 371-mile trips to Good Shepherd’s Health & Technology Center.

“Initially, I saw abdominal gains and improved lung capacity from walking in the Ekso,” says Michaela. “That’s when the staff at Good Shepherd suggested I capitalize on those gains with speech therapy.”

Shannon Reidnauer, MS CCC-SLP/L, helped Michaela regain her voice using a combination of massage therapy, resistive respiratory strength training and vocal strengthening exercises. At the same time, painless neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) via Vital Stim® therapy was utilized to improve vocal function.

“I noticed an improvement in my speech,” says Micheala. “I speak louder and without expending a lot of energy, but Shannon wanted me to sing again.”

“Shannon was a bit pushy,” says Michaela with a smile and a giggle. “So, I started singing in her office. She’d give me homework to prepare two songs for our next session.”

Occasionally, Shannon would bring an audience to help Michaela regain her confidence in addition to her voice.

A few weeks ago, Michaela made her comeback when she auditioned and earned a spot in a gospel choir near her home.

 “For the first time in five years, I feel good singing,” says Michaela. “I feel confident, and Good Shepherd gave me that. I’m glad that I insisted on Good Shepherd.”

For more information about speech therapy at Good Shepherd, call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422) or contact us online today.