Living with Aphasia

Working for risual, regardless of what kind of role we fill, we all depend on communication. Be that communication between our colleagues, our clients or even our own families and friends; it will be both sound and sight communication between people. So what happens if your ability to communicate is impaired in some way? Most people will think of Dyslexia or Dyspraxia as the common forms of impairment but there are mental impairments as well.

In April 2018, I was rushed into hospital after suffering a stroke. It would leave me with paralysis in my right-side and a slight blindness in my right eye. After spending three weeks in hospital, I underwent months of physical and occupational therapy. Physically I recovered quickly and most people, both clients and colleagues, have been impressed with the results of the therapy. The usual comment was “you don’t look like you’ve been ill”.

But I want to talk about how Aphasia presents itself, and the mental/occupational therapy required.

Aphasia is defined as an impairment of language; in this instance, it was caused by the stroke injury but it can be caused by any neural injury. At the hospital, the impairment was so bad that I was literally unable to speak, listen, read or write. My therapist gave me a brilliant analogy: the human mind is very much like a filing cabinet, so what a stroke essentially does, is it throws all the files on the floor and shreds the index.

Over the months of therapy, I recovered how to speak in short sentences, and able to read once again. To follow that analogy, I had to re-index my memory again. If you think of an object such as a car; it has a name that defines that object, a sound that tells you when it passes you, a word to be spelt, a sound that links to that word, and so on. All of those are usually indexed in your mind whilst you are growing up, at a time when your memory stores quickly.

During my recovery, risual arranged for me to visit the office and take part in the risual Summits; that interaction with my colleagues and the SMT allowed me to relearn how to hold a conversation with people. My colleagues and the SMT have encouraged and supported me throughout my therapy. And that is perhaps the greatest therapy that a stroke survivor can have.

Aphasia can broadly break down into spoken/comprehension and read/write forms, and at different levels. As I write now, my ability to read and write have recovered enough to write this blog without sounding too clinical. My recovery in speaking and comprehension is taking longer (and I suspect that it will be never fully recovered) but I’m now able to speak to customers again and carry out the job I love doing.

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