Monday, August 18, 2008


In June of this year, I contacted my first speech therapist Sandy and requested an interview. Sandy, who is quite a character, had read my blog. She corrected my last entry. She said that it wasn’t until the 20’th day or so that she would give me a list of full words. Instead, the first weeks went by, by trying to produce some sounds, I had luck with.
She said that her strategy as a speech therapist was: she would take a sound, any sound I could utter, then do variations on it, see whether I could pronounce them. Depending on which ones I could pronounce, she would add them to my vocabulary or to my working list.
Let’s take the sound “P”. It is somewhat easy to say because you can watch how the therapist’s lips are closing, you can feel that there is no vibration of the throat. The “P” sound is produced by bringing the lips together followed by an explosion of air, blowing the lips apart.
Seeing I could utter “P”, she would work on variations that would be familiar to me. Like: “Pooh” (as in Winnie the Pooh), like “Pee”, or “Pa” (as in Papa) etc.
In other words, she said, she would build on success and go from there!
In her presence, I was always on my toes. In an encouraging sort of way.
During that one hour of speech therapy, I spend so much energy, I cannot believe. I sweat profusely, my toes are clenched, my knees are locked. By the end of the hour, I’m so tired, I’m ready to sleep in the car.
By the end of the week my friends pay me a visit. Here, I have to open a bracket and tell you about my friends a bit.
I have moved to Metro Washington DC area in 2003, right before my son was born, two months before. My son was born in May. With that birth I developed post partum depression. I had no history of depression before, I am quite a “no worries” person, quite determined in my attitude…
But moving to a foreign city, leaving all my support system behind was, I guess, the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back. It did me in. I spent an entire year crying, torn between the feeling of guilt –for I couldn’t show any affection for my son – and my own survival instinct… Then we moved to a Condominium complex and so I met Ursula. Ursula was a German lady with two very cute children, one my son’s age. Through Ursula I met a wonderful friends: International Women’s Group (IWG). A group located in Bethesda MD, about 100 – 150 woman of all nationalities. All new to DC area, all in the same boat of raising their young children and needing friends. So we all leaned on each other for support, for laughter… Slowly with the help of medication, lots of sleep and a better social environment my depression cleared. I started to think about volunteering within the group because I wanted to give back to this community who had helped me in my darkest days. So in 2004/2006 season I volunteered for the Presidency of the group and I made even more friends this way. Within those two years, I also befriended wonderful Turkish women through IWG, we became each other’s family in the absence of our own families.
It was in the middle of all this when my stroke happened. Everyone in my friend’s group was shocked. Utterly shocked. Stroke is something for elderly people, we all thought, not for somebody in their 30’s, raising young children… Suddenly the reality of vulnerability set in.
It is a tradition in our group, when a friend needs help, we all line up to help her any which way we can. In my case, my friends didn’t fully know how to help. My mother had come from Turkey to help with my son and the house, my husband was a physician at NIH. What kind of help could be needed?
They started with the most logical thing: Informing themselves. They invited a neurologist to talk to them about aphasia, to understand what it is about.
It is quite common that after a brain injury or a stroke one has paralysis. In that horrible case, there is something visible. People can understand the case of a limb not working. But in the case of loss of a hard to explain brain function, people classify that as a mental health problem and put you the same category as “all those crazy people”. It is a kneejerk reaction of facing the unknown. For almost anybody losing mental functions is unthinkable. We understand we get the flu, chickenpox, lower back pain even cancer… But losing our mind? That is a no no, as we imagine ourselves bravely facing all atrocities, enduring pain and thus modeling courage for our children… Having a part of our brain not functioning has no role in this scenario. Although, of course brain is an organ just like any other, it has a remarkable capacity for healing, but nevertheless it is an organ, it can malfunction.
So, after my friends informed themselves about what to expect, they came to visit.

1 comment:

LemonDenise said...
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