Excerpted from the Readers Room department of Stroke Connection Magazine, January/February 2002
Judith A. Russo, Caregiver
Narragansett, Rhode Island
"Did you hear that Joe had a stroke?" asks Person A.
"Oh yes, poor thing!" says Person B.
"He was such a good person, and a good worker," says A.
"Yes, too bad, isn't it?"
My husband had a stroke in February 2000, which left him with Broca's aphasia. Do you know what Broca's aphasia is?
What you need to know is that he is not a "poor thing." And he still is, not was, a good person. He is a survivor who is living a richer life now than he was before. He was in the rat race of existence, going round and round with the dizzying effects of a non-stop merry-go-round. Now he has time to smell the lilacs, watch the egret fish for its dinner, and marvel as his granddaughter grows inch by inch. How poor can that be?
He is, perhaps, disabled, but the same person he was before the stroke. Most folks become so intimidated with the affliction "stroke" that they forget there is a real person living in that body, a person who thinks, hurts, laughs and cries just like you.
The rhetoric continues, "What do you say to him?" asks Person A.
"I don't know," replies Person B.
"Well, I won't bother him now, or call or visit. After all, he's probably busy, and I don't know how much he understands anyway."
"I agree," says B, "he probably wouldn't know who we are, and we don't want to embarrass him."
By the way, Broca's aphasia is the inability to communicate effectively by speech. What is the therapy for people with aphasia? Talking to the survivor and encouraging them to respond. You might have to wait for two or three awkward moments for them to think about what to say. In the meantime, you may see the egret fish for its catch of the day. You may see the lush brown velvet cat-o'-nine tails waving in the wind, or the rabbits playfully goading each other on the lawn, or the huge turtle crawling along the banks of the pond with a goldfish in its jaws. Come at dusk and perchance you will see the deer as they come to the pond to drink.
You will go away richer for the visit because you will have escaped the runaway merry-go-around, if only for a few moments. You will feel rich and will have blessed the heart of the "poor one who was such a good person."
When a stroke happens to a relative, friend or co-worker, please do not put them into an isolation they never asked for. Reach out and touch someone today.