Have you ever witnessed a toddler experience a tantrum because he wants something and can’t say exactly what it is that he’s wanting?
When stroke suddenly makes you go non-verbal, it is immensly frustrating. Similar to the toddler example, we could potentially throw some sort of a tantrum as adults if we can no longer speak.
What’s even more frustrating is when you can’t understand the words coming out of anyone’s mouth.
So, you ask in your own way for them to repeat what they just got done saying.
Every time you ask them to repeat, they keep getting louder and louder. Which the volume wasn’t the issue- the issue was the brain not computing the language. It’s like being placed inside a completely different country and people are speaking to you, and you have no clue what they are saying (Cue the tantrum).
What I’ve just described is aphasia. There are three kinds of aphasia (Broca’s, Wernick’s, and Anomic). For today, I will focus on just one of them.
Broca’s Aphasia is a “smart term” that is “a(n) acquired communication disorder caused by brain damage that impairs a person’s ability to understand, produce and use language” (Plowman, Hentz, & Ellis, 2012). This means, when we experience stroke, all communication comes to a screeching halt. We can’t comprehend verbal communication, our bodies can’t figure out the process of speech, we can’t even form complete thoughts at times.
Since “stroke is the predominate neurological condition associated with aphasia,” this is an indicator that someone is experiencing a stroke (Plowman, Hentz, & Ellis, 2012). In other words, aphasia is a sign of stroke. If you or a loved one suddenly experiences what I’ve just described, I urge you to act fast- call for help- time is everything for a stroke patient.
If you are like myself and you still experience aphasia years after stroke, please know that we aren’t alone. “1 million Americans are currently living with Broca’s Aphasia” (Plowman, Hentz, & Ellis, 2012).
I can still remember during the first hour of my stroke on December 6, 2014, a nurse approached me with a drawing of a feather. She asked me if I knew what it was. I shook my head as if to say, “yes, I do.” She then asks me to communicate to her what it was. I was able to make the F sound but was unable to comprehend the TH part of the word. I tried so hard to say the word feather. Out of frustration, I exclaimed, “Fffffffff, ffffffff, FUCK!” I was so excited because I meant to cuss, and I did it! From that point on, the F-word was my go-to word whenever I got irritated (and frankly, this was often).
When my friend came to Memorial Medical Center to see me, she had heard that I was cussing. Elated, she said, “Yess! She’s still in there!!
Often times, stroke patients go for curse words because they are easy to say. Please don’t get upset at us for using the “F” word- we are just trying to communicate. 🙂
Yes, this takes patience, love, acceptance, and time on the part of the caregiver and the patient. But please understand, we just fought for our lives. Now, we have to fight to thrive.
Plowman, E., Hentz, B., & Ellis, C. (2012, June). Post-stroke aphasia prognosis: a review of patient-related and stroke-related factors. Ebsco host. Retrieved from https://web-p-ebscohost-com.libproxy.csustan.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=5e25c739-0063-4e98-9172-3318c9d6100e%40redis&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=75008980&db=aph