I’m on my way to my first speech therapy encounter with Amoret as my trailblazer/translator in a brand new building next to the George
V- Edward VIII- George VI- era Northampton General Hospital ( in other words very Bedlam-like), a funny thing happened to me on the way.
I should mention anything remotely laughable or sad affects me in a profound way – I either laugh until I cry, or cry until I laugh –
something else the stroke has left me with, a sort of extra embellishment of emotions, no extra charge. (I’m so blessed)
On entering the lift (elevator) I was forced into a choice – up one floor, or get out and take the stairs because there were only two
stories. I took the only option available to me (remember I yaw to the right) and pushed number one. The door closed and the show began.
Door closing the Stephen Hawking computerised voice said in metallic tones.
First floor it said in a Terminator voice (not with the Austrian accent).
I told Amoret that, at the most, with my speech difficulty, I could get job as the voice of lift. It was the minimum extent of my
vocabulary. Then I got the giggles at how mentally clever I’d been. Nothing is more irritating than somebody who
laughs at their own jokes; really laughs until they cry, but it’s a gift the stroke has left me with so I’ve quit apologising for it. Amoret just lives with it without complaint.
I spoke in the voice that I had at the time, drawing a breath, forcing out the words in the exhale much like people who have lost
their voice box to cancer and used to speak on a burp with mechanical larynx.
It was this voice that I brought into the room for my first meeting with my speech therapist Catherine. The problem with that voice was that it had a few defects – sometimes I couldn’t remember words – they just deserted me, leaving
me stumbling to communicate. It was a poor debut in front of Catherine but I
imagine she was used to such impediments.
Using a few words, then stumbling, I looked at Amoret with
pleading eyes for help and she filled in the blanks. Catherine suggested I try
to think of the first letter of the word, and look for a synonym.
My communication method left me with…let’s see: begins
with an X.
No. Not X or XA.
It means “hurry.” No.
It means “stampede”, like ”hurry”, or like ”frustration”,
maybe it’s like ”hurt”.
No, that’s not the word I need. It
means…(my mind is boiling with permutations of words, each tumbling into
view, then rejected, only to be filled with another candidate also less
worthy)…it means…what is the word I need?
To people watching me through this
process, I would stumble (I was good at the word “ah”), look in the distance
for the word like it would come coming galloping into view, and then go into
confusion. The minds thinks, but somewhere the brain has short-circuited to the
delivery system, so forgetting words means the result is anxiety in trying to
find a word, and that is resulting in verbal stumbles, and that is resulting in
That’s the word I was looking for:
Looking back it at the situation,
I was acting the word I needed.
Now you understand when I say my life has turned into a
life-sized crossword puzzle – I’m constantly trying to find the word I need.
For someone who had lived life in fast lane – even the overtaking/passing lane
– of the English language, I found I had broken down. Catherine, then, was to me the RAC; my 4th emergency service, to mix metaphors.
She tried the engine that powers communication. I was given
lips and tongue exercises to loosen up the damage caused by a short-circuit to
the brain. Some, such as putting your tongue to your upper lip, then lower lip,
and putting your tongue to the outside of your lips at either side while
looking in a mirror looked liked an audition for leering looks in an adult
film. Add to that pursing your lips saying “oh” and grimace saying “ah,” and now
I’m doing the soundtrack.
And Catherine didn’t say the results of the stroke would be
back to normal in “no time” or any of the other euphemisms by health professionals
trying to be kind rather than honest. In the hospital I felt that when I went
home I’d be given a motivational poster like: “You can jump a thousand feet if
you can think like a flea!!!!!!” (The NHS is having cutbacks and that was
probably the first to go)
Catherine assessed the damage, provided the exercises to get
back some functionality and provided genuine sympathetic listening. I was given
the next appointment for a week’s time.
I left feeling better than I felt for the first time since
having the stroke. I was thinking like a flea.