Last Tuesday morning, I saw on my phone that my Mom was calling and I answered. What I heard will forever be ingrained in my memory. My Mom’s voice, usually strong and articulate, was out of control with crying and no discernable words with the exception of one. “Stroke”. As a Speech Language Pathologist with experience in stroke rehab, I immediately knew she was having a stroke and could die or be severely impaired. I rushed to the hospital where my Mom was taken by ambulance. She was conscious and oriented, but communication was difficult for her. In the ER, it was obvious to me that my Mom was suffering from Aphasia and Dysarthria. She also had right side weakness that affected her face, hand, and leg. Aphasia is a communication disorder, typically caused by damage to the left side of the brain which contains the “language center”. It usually impacts the individual’s ability to express themselves verbally and in some cases, writing. In my Mom’s case, she knew what she wanted to say but she couldn’t “get it out”. She tried to say “heart” and instead said “house”. Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder also caused by damage to the brain. It affects the muscles used for speech (tongue, lips) resulting in slurred or choppy speech. Her mouth drooped on the right side, her smile was asymmetrical, and her tongue deviated to the right when she stuck it out. Her right hand and leg were also weak. My Mom also demonstrated difficulty eating and swallowing (Dysphagia). Finally, we received the results of the MRI which revealed, not one, but two strokes. One on each side of ther brain. In a single moment, I went from being a Speech Language Pathologist to being the daughter of a stroke victim who just wanted her Mom to be ok. Both the therapist and the daughter were terrified…but knew what the next steps would be. (to be continued)
Donna Rowan Culley is an SLP who worked in stroke rehab and suddenly became the daughter of a stroke patient.