I Had to Learn How to Speak Again; as Many as 250,000 People in the UK Have Aphasia, and Yet Many People Have Never Heard of It. Health Reporter HELEN RAE Speaks to One Woman Who Is Living with the Condition

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN RAE

to speak again GRANDMOTHER Janet Speight had settled into retirement well and was looking forward to her husband Robert also finishing work so that they could spend more time together.

The couple loved walking and share a strong passion for classical music and books, so they were excited about their future work-free life.

But it looked like all their hopes and aspirations were dashed when Janet, 71, had a stroke just two days after a four-and-a-half-hour operation to remove a benign tumour from her brain.

Now, 11 years on, the former Newcastle City Council youth and play worker still has problems with her speech, and it has been a long and challenging road to recovery. Janet, of Chapel Park, Newcastle, said: "When it first happened I was angry and frustrated.

"I could only speak a little bit and I was unable to write. I remember that one of the things that upset me was that, before the stroke, I could use the computer. Afterwards, when I tried to send a letter to a friend, I put my fingers on to the keys but there were no words."

At that point, Janet knew that her life would never be the same again and she was forced to confront and come to terms with her limitations.

As a result of her stroke, the mum-of-two has aphasia, which is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that are responsible for understanding and using language.

It is estimated that there are currently 250,000 people in the UK who have aphasia, with 20,000 new cases occurring each year. Around one in three people experience some degree of aphasia after having a stroke.

For some time, Janet relied heavily on her husband Robert, 72, a retired engineer, for help and support at home and when out and about.

Robert was due to retire in six months when Janet had the stroke and he quickly found himself taking on the role of her full-time carer. He said: "We had plans for our retirement together and, obviously, these plans changed. …