Wednesday, March 11, 2009

End of second week in Michigan

I am looking at the mirror. Right after my stroke, while at the hospital I didn’t want to look at the mirror at all, until I came home. And then I stole only quick peaks, on a need to know basis. Why? I didn’t know how to come to terms with my new look. You see, right half of my face is paralyzed. I cannot smile with my right half, on top I have a droop. So, when I smile or laugh, it is only a half smile, the other side just stays there, doing nothing. Of course that is very peculiar. I remember, only two months ago I was concerned my face getting wrinkles. Now I look at the mirror and think that now my face isn’t going to get any more wrinkles at all. When I reach my 70ies my face will look like a prune on one side, and like a baby on the other side, can you believe it? I smile at that thought with half of my face.

I am so lucky to be alive that I don’t dwell on that thought too much. Now my goal is to speak, period, everything else is just sidetracking.

Concentrate on how to produce the “sh” sound:
Sharp knife
Use a sharp knife.

On the ship
I will not go on the ship.

Very shy
My niece is very shy.

Shoot the picture
Aim the camera and shoot the picture.

I also have to work on my vowels. As I said multiple times I can easily see and try to reproduce the frontal sounds, but how the mouth cavity and tongue have to be positioned inside the mouth is still a mystery. I cannot differentiate between short vowels and long vowels. Let’s take “e” sound, it can be short as in “it”, or it can be long as in “each” or short as in “egg”. Now how do I position my tongue (half of it not working) inside my mouth to say that. My counselor Marie also has a hard time because she doesn’t know, whether it is my Turkish accent interfering, or whether it is my disability. Finally I bring in Mehmet, and Marie drills him on my exercises to differentiate between both. We decide that Turkish accent substitutes “w” with “v”, “th” with “d” but this is about it. I shall be able to produce every vowel. So I shall continue working than.
Eye odd it each
Ice on in ear
Ike ox ink eat
Ion obsess inch ease
Irate oblong ill eager
Ivy oxford imp either
Irony omelet ignore equalize
Ideology October imitation eagleeyed
Isolation observer ingredient eavesdropping

Monday, March 9, 2009

October 2, 2006

Today, I learned about Mike’s stroke experience. We were having a group session: Mike, Linda and me. Everyone was trying to tell their war stories. Mike’s was so funny I almost fell out of my chair laughing. This is how the story goes:
Although Mike is only 49, he has a 19 year old son. One beautiful spring day Mike, Mike Jr, and Mike’s father go golfing. They golf for three hours, they complete the 18 holes, they go to the parking lot and say good bye to each other. Just as Mike is waving bye to his son, he notices that he cannot lower his hand. The hand is stuck in a permanent waving motion, and he is saying good bye over and over again…
Thank god his son notices that something is not quite right with dad, and they bring him to the hospital.
I imagine Mike still stuck in the waving motion, as they carry him like statue into the ambulance, like they would in slapstick comedies. I have never heard of stroke leading to one not being able to stop doing something. What a funny way to go. Mike also laughs at this.
Of course, not everyone’s story is amusing. Some patients are bitter. Take Linda for example. She is an outstanding ob/gyn, or rather she was, before the stroke. She was always fit, busy, determined, on target, on time… One day while she is on the treadmill, running and then “Bamm!” it happens. The peculiar thing about us patients is that nobody among us is overweight, on the contrary, quite slim, relatively in good health… It seems that somebody has thrown us a curveball out of nowhere. About Linda, the most amazing thing is that after her stroke her friends shunned her. Let alone helping her, they gave her the cold shoulder. I wonder why this happened. What leads a person not to help another person in need. I simply cannot grasp this notion.
Ruth among us is the most colorful character. She is 84, as I said. But if you look at her from behind she looks 18; she has a ballet dancer’s posture; she moves easily and with grace. She is vivacious, ready to smile all the time. Ruth tells me she has three sons, all living in different parts of the country, she herself lives in a retirement community in Sarasota Florida. One of her sons flies to Michigan every weekend, not to leave their mom alone. Too bad she doesn’t live in our hotel, it would be fun to have her every day. She is so talkative, although of course she doesn’t understand much of what’s being said to her, and doesn’t know what is coming out of her mouth. But aren’t we all having tangential conversations most of the time.

End of September end of 1st week at UMAP, 2006

I keep working, doing the exercises they give, and do some more on top. So far I didn’t notice any difference in my speech. My tutors say that you begin to see a difference towards week three or four. The classes are held in each speech therapists own office. Some of them don’t have any permanent offices then we go to a room, some of the rooms are so tiny that you can only fit in one desk and two chairs, and nothing else. I have also discovered two day rooms where you can go between the classes and take a nap. The day rooms are very funny: There is a bed, quite plush, with cushy pillows, a quilt, and several afgans as cover. Plus there is an easy chair, a night stand with a cozy lamp on top. The whole atmosphere is set like a bed and breakfast rather than a school or a clinic room. I find it very soothing, familiar.

On the home front all is well. Kaan is having such a good time. The Hands On museum was such a success. Now for three days in a row, Kaan and mom have been going there. After they have their breakfast, Mehmet leaves them at museum’s door, and three to four hours later he picks them up.

The museum is a stand alone building at the very heart of Ann Arbor. Completely devoted to children, It won awards for best Local Museum and Best Place for Kids under 12; has more than 250 interactive exhibits with subjects ranging from physics to health to nature to mathematics and beyond. The museum is constructed in such a fashion so it can provide an informal environment for children to roam freely and get their “Hands On” everything. Among many exhibits are: whisper dishes, tornado, Building in a Building exhibit. Facts about the human body, full-size ambulance, X-rays, a preschool area for children 4 years old and younger where Kaan can splash in water tables, dress up like fire fighter and play on the child-size fire engine. There is a section about experiment with simple machines, how traffic lights and the Internet work. There is a section about light and optics by playing the stringless Laser Harp or catching your shadow on the wall. The science of television, telecommunications and the concepts behind cutting edge technology. I can easily see why Kaan gets so exited.

I guess Kaan is learning much more here than he would learn at pre-school. Of course mom is trying to keep up with him running from experiment to experiment, the energy level of a three year old and a 70 year old don’t match and she is exhausted after three hours like any adult would. Good thing that we live in a hotel where everything is done for us, so that mom can focus on taking care of Kaan, Mehmet can focus on his work, and I can focus on my work.

September Wednesday 29, 2006

I go through morning routine: Shower, breakfast, speech exercises and then off to school. Today Kaan, Mehmet and Mom will go the “Hands on” science museum for Kids. Mehmet has found out about this Museum on line. He decided to get a family membership, which costs about $ 65, for an entire year’s access to science Museums across the USA. It seems like a great deal.

I, on the other hand, will go to school and learn how to speak again. I am so ready for this. In fact I am enjoying this Back to School thing, without having any responsibility. I don’t have to be a wife, a mom, a homemaker anymore; my only responsibility is to learn to speak intelligibly.

Today’s exercises include the sounds “sh” and “ch” and “j”

“ch” with increasing syllable count
Check, Chair, Choose, Cheese, Change, Choke, Cheap, Char, Chance, Chop, Choice, Chill, Chew, Cheek
Cheerful, Chaplain, Chuckle, Charter, Children,Chubby, Churning, Cherry, Chicken, Charming, China, Charcoal, Chimney, Chapter, Chummy

Champion, Chocolate, Chicory, Chancellor, Chiseller, Chatterbox, Chastisement, Chargeable, Challenging, Childishness, Chariot, Channelling, charity, Changeable, Chunkier
“ch” in a sentence:
Chilly days are good for a hot bowl of chili.
Please do not change the channel again!
That chain around your neck looks chunky.
The children fed cheese to the chipmunk.
And so on

“ch” within paragraph.
The children were looking for an adventure as they took their picnic lunch to a nearby orchard. The temperature was warm for March, and many creatures out from their hiding places. Chad was the first to spot a woodchuck stretched out under a birch tree. Gretchen put her sandwich aside to watch a chickadee and gold finch which were perched in a nearby branch of peach tree…

In the afternoon it is my lab time. I’m introduced to several software programs: Parrot and Bungalow among them.*
*I have searched since then, the following softwares are available on the market as of March 09
* Aphasia: React2, Aphasia Tutor 1, Aphasia Tutor 2, Numbers 'N Sounds, Sights 'N Sounds, Synonyms, Antonyms and Homonyms, Freeform, Lexion, Lexilogic, Step by Step, SentenceShaper.
Apraxia: Sword, The Source
Articulation/speech production: React2, Numbers 'N Sounds: Sights 'N Sounds:, lingWAVES TheraVox: Speech pacer, Speech Sounds on Cue, Speech prism

Monday, March 2, 2009

some words of wisdom

When you have a stroke several things happen:

1) Of course you had a brush with death. This has a profound effect no matter what. After the brush with death, everything that happens to any survivor happens. The feeling of being grateful for every day; love of life even stronger than before…

2) But there are other states of mind that, I believe, are particular to stroke:
a. Understanding for everyone. Stroke means part of your brain is damaged. According to the damaged area you have lost something that you never ever imagined was possible to lose. Maybe your capacity to understand, or to make sense, or to control yourself. It may be as specific as to being able to recognize faces. Because brain is still a black box to us we don’t know what is inside. For example it is obvious that if a person loses her eyes due to an injury, she cannot see. If a person has hysterectomy she cannot ovulate anymore. So, the innerworkings of human body are very much known, except the brain. It is still mysterious why a person suddenly acts differently. You cannot open the brain and look inside, to figure out the reason why. So we attach some kind of mystical, magical, mysterious explanations to it. We call it character sometimes, or the will power. Except it is nothing more than brain chemistry. Lucky for us, there are more tools available to mental health science than before, like better drugs and fMRI. Long story short, you, as a stroke survivor, suddenly gain valuable insight to the innerworkings of the brain. Because, your experience changes as you recover. And you understand why certain people can or cannot do certain things. In my case, for example, as a result to the damage to temporal lob region, I lost my ability to grasp the concept of Math. Over the course of four weeks I seem to regain it. But I now understand that if a child is genetically not well developed in that brain region, it is going to be harder for him to master math in school. And we would brand him as:”He is a bit stupid, he doesn’t get it” I now have an understanding for the genetic underpinnings of why a person can or cannot exhibit certain behaviors. So I say to my self: It is not intentional, it is what it is.

b. You take nothing too serious. You laugh at yourself. Well, once you forget what to do when you sit down to pee, it is not easy to take yourself too seriously. You notice that people around you can take care of themselves, thank you very much. You were always thinking that without you, the world will come to an end. What you notice is that, without you, the world continues to turn, people around you rise to the occasion and quite often exceed your expectations. You are relieved of the burdens of everyday life, because now other people do it. Yes it might not be the way, how you would do it. But often you are surprised how well their solutions are. You learn to trust other people. You learn how to let go.

c. You grow as a result of the process. Most of the people, including myself, feel too proud to ask for help. This is especially true for United States where doing-it-your-self is very much engrained in people. But when you cannot do the things you need to do, like getting up, or depending on others to utter you words, you have no choice but ask for help. It is a very very humbling experience. Swallowing your pride, letting go of your ego is an outcome of this process. The earlier you can do it, the better. We all like to give people around us, but it is not easy to be on the receiving end. You feel weak, sometimes even humiliated. But again, it is all in your head, how we attach meaning to behavior and words is up to us. In the end you understand that it doesn’t matter, nothing matters, in fact, you become humbler and wiser.