YOU DON’T KNOW ME, THIS IS MY STORY AFTER SURVIVING A STROKE
Almost 6 years ago I “survived” a stroke and am today still recovering from its impacts. I was lucky that it didn’t cause paralysis but I am left with a permanent disability called aphasia. Aphasia impacts the area of the brain that is responsible for receptive and expressive communication. Aphasia changes peoples’ ability to understand information that is presented to them and also their ability to communicate with others, it does not impact intelligence. My disability is not visible to others, I am not in a wheel-chair, I am able to walk without a limp, but my brain has changed and continues to as I learn to live with the impacts of stroke. Many people still don’t understand stroke and aphasia, I have had people say things like “I’m sorry you have a hole in your head” and “you should try and walk faster”. I feel that at times some people try to intimidate and take advantage of me because of the challenges that I have. People have no idea how frustrating aphasia can be and outsiders who see a respectable person sometimes make unfair assumptions and judgements. It is something that I have to deal with, I know that I am not alone and other people in my situation often feel the same. I am different and I can not help it. Talk to me about my stroke, it is good therapy for my brain. “In one second, 32,000 brain cells die from a stroke” (lack of oxygen).
To go along with the physical impacts of my stroke several other areas of my life have changed as well. I am no longer able to work and am living off CPP disability. Money is very tight, I have to watch what I spend and save money wherever I can. Social situations can be more challenging especially in the evening when my speech becomes more difficult. I have lost many friends who don’t understand the “new me” and the relationships within my family are strained. Don’t avoid us, talk to us. Help us get back to a “new” normal lifestyle after out abrupt change in our health. We are scared too. Stroke has been a life altering event that has not only physically changed my brain but has impacted all areas of my life.
Sometimes I wonder why I survived the stroke. Over the past 6 years that answer is becoming more clear, I feel that I am here today to educate people about stroke and aphasia. I want people to take time to learn about our strokes and not assume what is wrong with us. Talk to us and you’ll be surprised at what you learn. We need people in our lives and to be integrated into the community so we feel less alone and more supported. Each person with a disability is unique and has their own strengths and challenges. People with disabilities (and me included) often ask for help, not because we want to but because we need to. Be patient with people with disabilities, try to be empathetic and understand their story, be patient and most importantly respectful.
– Edith Dennis, Puslinch