The Power of Speech - the Biggest Challenge for Aphasia Sufferers

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), October 14, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Power of Speech - the Biggest Challenge for Aphasia Sufferers


Byline: Sandra Chapman

Learning to speak again proved the greatest challenge of stroke victim Sally Wheeler's life. Here she tells SANDRA CHAPMAN of her support for the awareness week run by the charity Speechmatters.

ONE minute Sally Wheeler had just finished a telephone conversation to a friend. The next saw her lying in a heap on the floor in her Belfast home, liquid matter pouring from her eye, unable to move and in great pain.

Her husband Marcus was out and she realised she may have had a stroke.

The screaming she heard was coming from herself.

She was dimly aware of her cats sitting on the stairs looking at her anxiously before she passed out.

When she came around again her husband had returned, an ambulance was called and she was taken to the City Hospital, but later transferred to the Royal for emergency brain surgery.

When the operation was over she took a stroke and remained critically ill for three days.

Sally remained in hospital for over three months, dependent on psyiotherapists to help restore her mobility, devastated with her loss of speech.

Listening to her today it's difficult to believe that she had to learn every word again, painfully and slowly but it's a measure of her determination that now she can conduct a conversation though not always with more than one person at a time and she can walk again.

In fact, it was only when she began to go to Speechmatters after she came out of hospital that her will to speak again developed impetus.

It gave her the confidence to work at it, and thousands of aphasia sufferers here are also getting similiar help from the charity.

The communication disability of aphasiais is not well known and even fewer people appreciate the devastation that it causes to everyday life. Often sufferers are regarded as mentally ill or have had too much to drink.

Yet aphasia can happen to anyone and upwards of 1,900 individuals are stricken with it every month in the province.

It can happen as the result of a stroke, as in Sally's case, through head injury or neurological disease. It isn't necessarily a disability of the elderly.

Aphasia can affect all aspects of family life, relationships, employment, financial security, decision-making, social life, friendships, leisure activities and emotional well being. …

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