The authors describe a novel cranial neuropathy manifesting with life-threatening episodic hemilaryngopharyngeal spasm (HELPS). A 50-year-old woman presented with a 4-year history of intermittent throat contractions, escalating to life-threatening respiratory distress. Botulinum toxin injections into her right vocal cord reduced the severity of her spasms, but the episodes continued to occur. MRI demonstrated a possible neurovascular conflict involving the cranial nerve IX–X complex and the posterior inferior cerebellar artery. Microvascular decompression of the upper rootlets of the vagal nerve eliminated her HELPS without complication. The authors propose a mechanism of HELPS implicating isolated involvement of the upper motor rootlets of the vagus nerve.