Billy McLaughlin, world class guitarist and Emmy award winning composer (among other accomplishments), almost lost his career due to focal dystonia. This neuromuscular disorder created a rift between his brain and his right hand, causing contortions and making it difficult to play the guitar. McLaughlin struggled to find a diagnosis, but upon learning about dystonia, began seeing specialists. He started relearning the guitar with his left hand, and is now an ambassador for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation.
In this podcast we discuss:
- There are different kinds of dystonia, sometimes misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy. There’s generalized dystonia, cervical dystonia, and other forms that target the neck and vocal cords. Focal dystonia targets a specific part of the body; in McLaughlin’s case, it targets his fingers (4:24).
- McLaughlin saw lots of hand doctors, who hypothesized that the problem was psychological. In fact, it was neurological: “The trouble is in my fingers, but the problem is actually in my brain, and the inability of my brain to talk to my fingers individually.” (7:34).
- Similar to a TBI, there might have been an incident earlier in his life that may have triggered the dystonia without him even realizing it (8:50).
- McLaughlin struggled to get a diagnosis because dystonia is not prevalent in med school curriculum (11:46).
- Insurance companies can be hard to work with for TBIs and dystonia because of a lack of understanding (18:34).
- Amy discusses her experience with people getting into car accidents and not being checked for concussions or TBIs (19:24).
- Athletes can be mistreated because people assume they know what they’re getting into (21:25).
- McLaughlin received Botox and started relearning the guitar with his left hand; these are examples of adapting to the dystonia (25:05).
- Don’t be afraid to find a specialist and to seek out help. You don’t have to battle a TBI or dystonia alone (31:14).