Updated: May 29, 2020
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. If that didn’t work I would have been a park ranger, but I did graduate from law school and practiced law. I knew I wanted a small poodle for a pet. I never dreamed that I would be ever living with aphasia, because I didn’t even know what it was! I had my stroke 13 years ago, when I was 47 years old, and now have aphasia. I have trouble talking, writing and listening.
With speech therapists, my family including my husband, and my friends I am much better than the first few months after my stroke. I could no longer practice law.
I was in the hospital for two months for recovery from brain surgery and then intensive occupational, physical and speech therapy; and continued in speech therapy after I left the hospital. My stroke was caused by a blood clot in my leg that passed through a hole in my heart called a patent foramen ovale. The clot went to the left side of my brain which caused aphasia and right sided weakness of my body. Many friends came to visit me in the hospital, but I couldn’t understand much of what they were saying and couldn’t really talk at all. Even people I didn’t know visited me. Of course my husband and younger daughter who was in high school visited often. My older daughter was in college in Ohio at this time, but came to visit over spring break. I thought that I would never see my friends when I left the hospital and they wouldn’t care about me anymore. But my friends stayed with me.
Even though I couldn’t work anymore I still see some of my work friends at lunch. Some of my friends and I will see movies, talk, and sometimes we just go for a walk. Most of my friends will ask me to explain what I am saying if they don’t understand me. I don’t like it when someone pretends they know what I am saying even though I know they don’t. It makes me feel dumb. People with aphasia are still intelligent even if they can’t show it normally. Things that have helped me recover are being able to read using the text to speech feature on the Kindle. I cannot read much, especially a book, without being able to hear the words spoken. I like reading Stephen King books, but his stories are so long! I don’t like audiobooks alone. More recently I have been using dictation on my phone and iPad. It works so much better than being able to just type a few words, it isn’t perfect but is much better. Dictation has allowed me to start writing short stories and blogs. I also just started using the speaker feature on my phone since I have trouble hearing out of my left ear. Now I have trouble walking a little bit, but I can still go canoeing in small lakes in the Boundary Waters.
It is easier for me to walk slowly than just stand in one place for a long time. I don’t know why this happens but it does. When I am at stores and restaurants and need to ask a question, I try to find someone who is older rather than younger. Younger people don’t always have the patience to understand me. I also have found that people with stroke and aphasia like to talk to each other in groups. I have known some of these people for 13 years. When we first met their children were small, and now they are in college. Every year we go as a group camping, and we still hope to go this year with the pandemic if we can. When we are camping, the spouses along on the trip are amazed how those with aphasia can talk with each other even if it doesn’t always make sense.
It has been very interesting to me that everyone’s aphasia is unique. No one has the same skills or problems. One thing that is really hard for me is people’s names. I can sometimes talk in paragraphs about something, but if I try to remember by brother’s name I cannot. I have asked doctors and therapists why names are so hard for me but no one has an answer. Another odd part of my aphasia is that I don’t like to talk to people on the phone. I always am afraid I will forget something important when I am done, so I prefer emails so I can have a record of it. For example, a friend might say they want to meet me at 2 pm, but since numbers are hard for me I might think it was 1 pm or 3 pm. An email will have the correct time so that is what they do for me. I ended up having poodles for my pets. My current dog is a year old, and is a small miniature poodle. I had 2 dogs before her. Friends that have aphasia have commented how helpful dogs are, both to have a reason to go on walks, and for companionship. Every year I am still getting better. I am so happy I didn’t die and my life is okay.