Aware of aphasia? Hell, I can’t get it out of my mind!


I hear that June is National Aphasia Awareness month in the US.

I’m aware of it the other 11 months as well as June. I’m only too aware of it outside the US since I live in the United Kingdom.

I wish mine would go away, constant companion that it is.

All this effort I have spent on redoing my brain. Since my stroke and resulting aphasia, I’ve learned about my brain, what it does, what it can do, what it does with a good blood supply, what it does now that I interrupted that blood supply, what it might do if I could get stem cells injected in it, what it does with medications.

Before Stroke (BS) I had little interest in the organ on top of my head. I knew it would work for me. It would hurt occasionally if I mis-used it. I used it primarily for the creative arts – weaving words and pictures with an active imagination.

The closest I came to studying the brain before BS was the case of Billy Milligan. His was a case of the brain so mis-firing because of child abuse, that he developed 24 separate personalities and acquired foreign languages written and spoken, martial arts, weapons expertise, and even an artistic flair.

I covered his story and later worked with him (just the one Billy after they re-did his brain) on a screenwriting project. The last I heard of him they were still going to make a film of his life.

I have learned so much about the brain, even that there is a Human Brain Coloring Book, Now £6.99 (RRP: £9.99).

I think I’ll give myself a treat after I save up some money.

There’s a wheel clamp on my brain, so the Swedish Chef and Tony Soprano are guest starring in my life


In the week after my first speech therapy appointment (only 10 days after my stroke), I tried to talk my way out of the aftermath that had
been done to my brain. I thought of things to say aloud, and followed my facial and mouth exercises like a newly enrolled monk at the monastery. Something had to go wrong – the first was I developed accents, and Swedish was the first on the scene.

When my family noted my accent I took it to mean because of Wallander
(I had been following the Swedish cop TV series, complete with English
subtitles). For a moment I thought I might have foreign language syndrome, the
ability to speak foreign languages through some brain fart.
(I personally knew of this happening because I got to know Billy Milligan in my reporting days. He
could do unusual things, among them was to speak Arabic and Croat, even Etonian
style English even though he never left the Midwest of America. But that was
because of child abuse, giving way to multiple personalities. That’s another story, soon to be a major motion picture, so they say. You can read the screenplay about it here from James.)

I watched an episode of Wallander and I could understand the language! But that was because the BBC made a version in English with Kenneth
Branagh.

The Swedish version still was incomprehensive except with subtitles.

Then, occasionally, I would lapse into New Yawk-ese – “ jesus gawd, I need a cuppa kaw-fee, an dis time I’m being honest witcha.” Right from The Sopranos.

Through each phase – Swedish and New Yawk – Amoret and my youngest daughter considered this my finest comedy hour and would fall apart laughing at my impressions when I was just trying to ask a simple question. Well, that triggers me laughing for no particular reason. I told you I have a laughter/cry response syndrome (my assessment) as an aftermath from the stroke that kicks in whenever it feels like it. I take their laughter like a true professional comedian, although I haven’t put in the work. To top it all off Amoret tells me I don’t sound like Wallander – I sound more like the Swedish Chef off The Muppet Show.

Whatever the accent, the words that come out are sparse. I speak in incomplete sentences minus the ifs, ands or buts. (My mother used to say,
meaning the complete truth:  “no ifs, ands or buts.”) I was telling the truth but I could say was: “Want to go? Out with dogs?”

(Does that sound Swedish?)

In the week between my first and second appointment with Catherine I practiced everything I was given, sometimes even five or six times
a day. I didn’t feel I had improved, yet I couldn’t wait to get back to speech therapy to soak up more of her secrets to unlocking this wheel clamp on my brain.