The stroke occurred one week ago on Thursday evening, and by Saturday, she had begun to have return of motor function on her right side, but she still could not speak. I returned to my home in Florida , and despite the celebratory mood of my family, I feared the worse, and that was that speech and language would be remain impaired.
Presently, my mother has expressive aphasia, which means she seems to understand language but is unable to speak. The young medical residents's suggestion that "maybe she could write," reminded me of how little doctors learn in medical school about language disorders from stroke or other neurogenic conditions. Because we communicate through many language modalities, speaking, writing, reading, it is frequently the case that when spoken language is impaired, written language is similarly impaired.
Prior to the stroke, I phoned my mom daily, asking how she was feeling, re-assuring her that she was getting better, and optimistically ( if not cautiously) talking about a plan for discharge. Now, the silence on the other end of the phone, except for the very slightest vocalization, creates a void in my experience and a heaviness in my chest.
If you believe as I do that the ability to speak and communicate is one of our greatest human gifts, than aphasia is certainly a cruel thief.
More than 100,000 people acquire aphasia each year, most from stroke. To better understand aphasia and to and learn how you might help someone who has had a recent stroke, please visit: www.aphasia.org