Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Archive for October, 2011

Recovered from a Stroke, Part II

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I woke up–I don’t know when–to discover that my entire right side was paralyzed. This was much worse than I thought it would be. I was encouraged by the surgeon’s Physician’s Assistant attempts to calm me by saying that most of the paralysis would desist when the natural swelling of the brain, caused by the operation, went down.

I then discovered myself to be suffering from transcortical aphasia, a speech disorder whose main symptom is echolalia, the limitation of speech to repeating what others said to me.  I was really worried by this but kept telling myself at least I was alive and could only get better.

After about 5 days I was transferred to HealthSouth rehabilitation facility on the campus of Geisinger Medical Center. I could not move even my thumb on my right arm nor any part of my right leg.

When my occupational therapist, Bobbi, told me that she wanted to see me give her the thumbs up when she left in the middle of the following week, it seemed to me an impossibility. (But by then, I could do it, though I had little other mobility in my right arm.)

My physical therapist immediately made me walk by holding a hand rail that ran along the wall and dragging my right foot along with my left. I couldn’t see recovery beyond being able to walk with some kind of support.

I had little success originally with my speech therapists, Lisa and Kathy, for I could only repeat what they said. I had checked my grammar, located in Broca’s area, by rehearsing in memory grammatical function words like of, is, was, the. So I knew they were there and the possibility of speaking normally again was there. I could also recall quite a few words, just not utter them.

My wife started planning ahead: talking about getting a walker, a wheel chair and my younger son, Owen, the architect and contractor, planned to visit from Denver once I came home, so that he could build banisters for the steps and make the house more amenable to a c ripple.

My older son Jeff came early in my rehabilitation and bought me a portable DVD player so that I wouldn’t have to watch commercial TV. That was a boon. I watched 2-3 movies a day (we have about 100 of my favorites) from that point to my release. Jeffrey also took control of Lexiteria, answering the important e-mail, while Andrew Shaffer (Lexiteria) reran a series of only past Good Words and kept the website up and running.

My lovely wife, Faye, was there every day. She even slept over the first night, since there was no one in the other bed.  She drove 25 miles to Geisinger in the mornings and 25 miles back in the evening.

Dawn Shawley (office and translation manager) and Brian Hilkert (accounts manager) ran the translations. Dawn kept up the work with our major customers, Volvo CE, John Wiley,  and Geisinger Research Center, working with Brian to get out the POs, invoices, and payments.

I also had a plethora of friends visiting me. They were a reservoir of hope and strength. Two or three at least visited me every day, most were from Lexiteria and Congregation Beth El (of which we are “honorary” members), but also by neighbors, volunteers from the Union County Democratic Committee (on which my wife serves), and casual friends, one of whom visited wearing a leg cast. A very, very deep reservoir of hope and strength.

Recovered from a Stroke, Part I

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I am now feeling like my old self (as I best remember me–my memory still has not fully recovered) and feel I should first write about my experience.

Sunday I noticed a weakening in my pinky and ring finger on my right hand. I paid little attention to it because I could adjust for it by hitting the keys a little harder. Monday morning I noticed my right foot was dragging as I did my morning walk. I quickly put two and two together and my wife, Faye, drove me immediately to the emergency room at Evangelical Hospital in Lewisburg.

Now, I knew from teaching neurolinguistcs that hemispheres of the brain control the opposite sides of the body. Since I was having trouble with my right side, I knew that the problem lay in the left hemisphere. Now, here is the rub: the left hemisphere also controls language, both syntax and vocabulary. I was alarmed that I might lose control of my language skills (well, if you want to call them skills).

The CT scan at Evangelical Hospital showed a large “bleed” in the left hemisphere. It was stable, in fact, this one had been preceded by a more ancient one. I was placed in an ambulance and taken to Geisinger Medical Center, about 25 miles away, where there were neurosurgeons.

The subdural hematoma was confirmed there and surgery was scheduled for the next morning: the bleed seemed to be stable.  Early the next morning I was wheeled into the operating room and quickly went to sleep.