People with Brain Injuries Are Supposed to Fade Away but Edwyn's Not Having That; EDWYN COLLINS IS ONE OF 250,000 SUFFERERS IN THE UK WHO HAVE APHASIA Strokes Left Talented Scots Singer with Speech Problems
Byline: By Nan Spowart
IT'S hard to believe that the gifted Scots singer Edwyn Collins has problems with communication.
After all, he has just released his highly acclaimed album, Home Again, after a miraculous recovery from two brain haemorrhages and a bout of MRSA.
However, he is still fighting the effects of his brush with death and, like many people who have suffered strokes, he has been left with aphasia, a communication disability.
This has slowed his speech and means he has difficulty finding the words to express what he is thinking.
He is not alone in suffering from the condition - there are around 250,000 people living with aphasia in the UK and the chances are that, at some point in their lives, most people will either suffer from it or know someone with it.
"We could really do with more understanding of aphasia," said Edwyn's wife, Grace Maxwell, who has helped him battle back to health. "People think that if you have it you are stupid but it is not that at all. There is a breakdown between the connection of your thoughts and your language, so the frustration is immense.
"It would be good if people could understand it better because they tend to think you are daft but it is not an expression of what is going on inside your brain.
Edwyn has emerged with his intellect and his judgment intact."
There is certainly no doubt that the singer - who found worldwide fame with his single A Girl Like You, has come a long way since his haemorrhagic stroke in February 2005.
He suffered another brain haemorrhage five days later and wasn't expected to survive. His chances seemed even slimmer when he contracted MRSA during a high-risk operation.
He spent the next six months in hospital unable to walk or talk.
Yet two and a half years later, he can walk unaided and is able to talk in sentences, as well as sing again - although he struggles to play the guitar.
"He has confounded all the predictions and that is our message," said Grace, who believes stroke patients in the UK are written off too quickly and should be given more help to recover.
She added: "Edwyn may have been fortunate in that it is possible his brain was better able to recover but none of this is a free gift.
"He has had to work hard for it and it has been really gruelling."
They now hope that if Edwyn continues with his speech and language therapy, he will keep improving, although progress is tortuously slow.
"You don't get many Eureka moments - it's been a really gradual process," explained Grace. "He could not convey his thoughts through speech for quite a long time, although he did have some communication tricks. If someone pissed him off in the ward, he would find ways of making his feelings known."
Grace admits it has been a hard journey for both of them and their 17-year-old son, William.
"At the beginning, we were not getting anything back at all and there were moments of fear," she said.
"But you have to push them away and take each day as it comes. It is a huge adjustment process. You have to accept the fact that it has happened and that there is no going back.
"It is not unique to us. Stuff like this will happen to everybody - it's part of life.
"It's not weird, it's normal. I think these days all of us want a perfect life that is not touched by illness or tragedy but that is not going to happen. There is always going to be some challenge in your life and it is about how you deal with it, about how you get through it. …