We are answering your questions…2

 

How did you get started with public speaking?
Early in Gordon’s stroke recovery, when we knew nothing of the journey ahead of us, we naively thought he would be fully recovered in 1 year.  We thought we would have a party for all the wonderful people who helped us and we would all celebrate the end of a horrible year.  At the 1-year anniversary of the stroke, Gordon was nowhere near recovered so we decided to postpone the party until the 2-year mark.  He had to be recovered by then, right?  At the 2-year anniversary, Gordon was still in terrible shape so we agreed we would celebrate full recovery at 3 years.  At the 3-year anniversary, we finally understood that recovery was probably going to be a lifetime pursuit and that maybe we should just have the party anyway.  Gordon agreed but he said he wanted to talk about the experience at the party.  It took 6 months to write “My Brain Has A Hole In It” and 8 months for Gordon to practice enough to deliver the speech.  On the 4-year anniversary, we had the party and Gordon spoke.  The overwhelming feedback was that Gordon needed to tell more people—and here we are!

How are the kids?
When the stroke happened, Rachel was 14 years old and Tommy was 12.  If those years weren’t hard enough, adding the chaos and devastation of their dad’s stroke pushed them in ways I never wanted for them.  The threat of losing their father and their home as well as the loss our lifestyle and routines was life changing.   It was painful, scary, and de-stabilizing.  The good thing is that the kids were able to see their parents stay committed to their marriage, be supportive no matter the circumstances, and rely on their Christian faith in good times and in bad.  Our kids are young adults now and are choosing their own paths.  We are proud of them and the choices they are making.  I don’t think we really know all the ways the stroke affected them.  They don’t like to talk about it.  Our hope is that they are able to move past the sad memories, have strong, stable marriages of their own, and appreciate the blessings of family and faith.

If 100% is full recovery, how recovered is Gordon?
I would rate Gordon as 80% recovered at the 7-year mark.  His memory is quite good.  We continue to see improvement in the right side of his body.  While his right arm has movement, it isn’t useful, controlled movement.  Language and cognition are the real problem.  He has dramatically improved his ability to converse but extended thought and expression are still out of reach.  Add any stress to the conversation and his language stops.

Jill Viggiano

I AM important!!!


This appeared on the National Stroke Association site last week.  Check it out!

Gordon V.

I am … A Survivor

I was a family man trying to do things right — work hard, provide for my family, follow Christian values.  Yet on my 51st birthday, I suffered a massive stroke that nearly killed me and left me with serious impairments.  I went from being a healthy, active, no-risk-factor man to being half paralyzed, unable to speak, organize my thoughts, or remember.

The experience has been a true test of faith and perseverance.  My wife Jill, and I have worked together in my recovery, facing each obstacle as a challenge to be overcome.  Nothing has come back quickly or easily, but we continue to work as a team and hope for the best.

We are now 7 years post-stroke and have surpassed all expectations given with the severity of my stroke.  I am certainly not fully recovered so mine is not an “I did it and you can too” story.  My journey of recovery is still in progress and will likely be a lifetime pursuit.

Everyone needs encouragement and perspective from time-to-time. We now speak publicly about our stroke and recovery experience and how it has affected our lives, our marriage, our kids, and our faith. My hope is to inspire people and help them see that good things can happen, even when it doesn’t seem possible.  Even more importantly, I hope people will see how the Good Lord has been faithful to His word, providing for us and carrying us when we were too devastated to carry ourselves.

Jill Viggiano

Being married to an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster ride of extreme highs and lows but my husband Gordon’s stroke was a low I could not have imagined.  Pre-stroke, he had been so sharp and competent.  In a moment, he had become severely disabled, childlike, and disconnected from reality.  He had no idea how bad he was and for him, that was probably a blessing.  His entrepreneurial drive and determination were still intact and he never even considered not recovering fully.

I, on the other hand, understood fully the magnitude of his brain injury and I could imagine what our future might look like.  It was a lonely place to be:  I couldn’t cry and lament in front of Gordon or the kids.  Gordon needed to believe everything was ok—he needed that positive attitude.  The kids needed me to reassure them and to make them feel as safe as possible.  They were dealing with huge changes to their lives too.  I had to be the grown-up.

The sadness and loss stayed with me for probably 4 years.  Gordon tried very hard to go back to work as a consultant but he couldn’t do anything without me, so I became a consultant with him.  For 2 years he tried to be a consultant again and I had to watch him be unable to even form sentences in front of what Gordon believed were potential clients.  His optimism and belief that he could do it all again was essential to ongoing recovery so I couldn’t bring him down.  I had to submit to his needs, even though it was painful.

My turning point came when I embraced my powerlessness and asked God to lead me each day.  Surrendering my desperate attempts to be in control freed me of the stress and worry that weighed on me.  Each day became a gift—still difficult but gratitude began to tip the scale in my favor.

As we continue to fight the good fight for recovery, we speak to audiences about our journey and inspire them to face adversity with hope and faith.  My experiences as caregiver, wife, and mother are chronicled in my book called “Painful Blessing.”

I wrote the book for several reasons:

  1.  There is still hope, love, and joy to be had, even after a life-changing experience.
  2. There have been no shortcuts in recovery.  We are still working on it 7 years later.
  3. We cannot be the only people to go through such a devastating experience, even though it sure felt that way.

Our story is compelling, inspiring, and ongoing–all things I hope will help others in crisis.

Painful Blessing Link: https://www.createspace.com/4735394

Post-stroke PTSD is real!

ptsdA stroke is a traumatic physical and emotional event.

And it may take time for a stroke survivor to adapt and cope with all the changes they are experiencing.

Feeling anxious, afraid, and depressed are common experiences for stroke survivors, especially in the year following a stroke.

Some stroke survivors even experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stroke Survivors and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder caused by exposure to a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event.

According to a study led by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center:

• Each year nearly 300,000 stroke survivors develop PTSD as a result of their health scares.
• One in four stroke survivors suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder within the first year.
• One in nine stroke survivors experience chronic PTSD more than a year later.

Support from family members and counseling with a mental health professional can help stroke survivors regain a sense of calm and normalcy in their lives after a stroke.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you believe a stroke survivor may be suffering from symptoms of PTSD after his or her stroke.

Reaching Out for Help

Let your stroke recovery team know if you suspect a stroke survivor may be suffering from PTSD or is experiencing bouts of depression or anxiety.

A doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help with depression or ease anxiety.

And a strong social network may be able to aid in a stroke survivor’s emotional recovery and guard against PTSD.

As a caregiver, encourage a stroke survivor to tell you how he or she is feeling each day.

Be sure to reach out to family and friends for emotional support. Visits and phone calls can make a big difference for caregivers and stroke survivors alike.

Joining a support group where a stroke survivor can share their feelings and experiences with others who are further along in their recoveries may also help to ease anxiety and lift a stroke survivor’s spirits.

Source: Posted by Lucy Lazarony of StrokeSmart

We were featured in AphasiaToolBox!

 

Gordon and Jill Viggiano is a couple who were on the fast track in life. Gordon was a successful sales executive, consultant and entrepreneur; Jill spent 19 years working in commercial real estate before retiring to become a full time mom.   All that changed when Gordon turned 51. On his 51st birthday, Gordon suffered a massive stroke with aphasia.

Gordon is now 7 years post-stroke and he is happy to report that he is getting better all the time. He is certainly not fully recovered from his stroke so this isn’t an “I did it and you can too” speech. Says Gordon: I am in the middle of my recovery and so my perspective is from “the trenches.”

In his presentation “My Brain Has A Hole In It,”he discusses this life changing experience and the lessons that have come along with it. his goal is to inspire people and help them see that good things can happen, even when one doesn’t think it is possible.

Despite his aphasia, Gordon is an inspirational and motivational speaker;  You can book Gordon for speaking engagements; visit his website: www.mybrainllc.com

Gordon’s wife, Jill, focused her skills and energy on his recovery and is now assisting him in his day-to-day needs as well as in his speaking career.  Jill’s book – Painful Blessing: A Story of Loss, Recovery, Hope and Faith, is about her spouse and caregiver experience, shedding light on the real life impact of acquired brain injury, and providing hope and encouragement to those facing significant challenges.

Additional articles on Gordon and Jill are available.

If you have questions about how Aphasiatoolbox.com can help you and your aphasia , please contact us or call us at 724-494-2534. 

For a viewing of the complete email, click here.

Look at me; I’m a Finalist!

oregon writersIn March at the recommendation of our friend David, I entered my book (at that time, still unpublished) in the Oregon Christian Writers Contest.  Last week, I received notice that I am a finalist in the competition!  The winners in all categories will be announced August 6. I am honored to be considered and excited to see where all this will lead us.

In the meantime, I am constantly encouraged by people who have read Painful Blessing.  It is important to me that the book be meaningful to anyone who reads it, not just those affected by stroke.  It is a wonderful experience to listen to people’s reactions and feelings and then to hear their stories.

Jill Viggiano