Here is a note that my wife recently wrote for the American Heart Association about aphasia:

Patience, humor, and lots of pointing!! We are 11 years post-stroke and my husband’s language ability has changed dramatically.  He started with only Yes and No and he said those words indiscriminately.  In those early years, we needed patience and strategy.  We started with big picture: person place or thing. We worked our way down to what he wanted to say. It was important to let him try rather than start guessing and talking for him and over him. We made games the whole family could play to help him learn words again. No matter how he was doing, we encouraged him and assured him it would get better.  Yes it was hard and frustrating but we kept at it. After about 4 years, he could put 3 words together.  They may or may not have been the right 3 words or in the right order but…3 words!!

Then he started reading out loud. After about a year of reading out loud (usually reading the exact same text so he could measure his improvement) he started saying sentences. Around the 5-year mark, he was able to say 2-3 short sentences in a row. It was an incredible breakthrough.

He still struggles with speaking. Around the house he is pretty good. It is quiet and no stress so he is relaxed and mostly able to express himself. Outside of the house, we try to keep it simple.  No open ended questions. It is a new normal but it works for us.

Don’t give up!  Giving up is the only guarantee that there will be no progress.

2 DIFFERENT things I did!


Through Gordon’s stroke recovery, one particular thing continues to remind me of the loss his brain sustained:  I will see him watching or observing something, appearing to be fully engaged.  I ask him what’s going on and he says “I don’t know.”

How can that be?  He is watching and listening attentively.  To look at him, he appears engrossed in the scenario.  Yet it turns out he isn’t making sense of the scene or understanding context.  He isn’t able to tell me anything of what just happened.  It is just happening in front of him.  That’s it.

So Gordon asked me to write about something that happened last weekend.  You will think it is nothing… so read closely!

We went to Target and Gordon noticed they had replaced a couple check-out stations with self check-out stations.  Then, when we were leaving the parking lot, he reminded me that we were going to Trader Joes next.

No big deal, right?  These are a big deal to us.  Little occurrences like these tell me 2 things:  1) Gordon still works very hard to make sense of the world around him, and 2) even 8 years later, improvement is still happening.

Jill Viggiano