Bilingual Anomic Aphasia. Ana caring for her newly married sister, Carolina.

Carolina suffered a stroke at the end of her honeymoon. Her husband Mark, and sister Ana became her caregivers, but with two very different styles.

Carolina was doing her Ph.D in biology at Stony Brook University and I was also doing Masters in Anthropology at the new school.

Carolina, when she was 30 years old, she had a brain aneurysm that burst and it was very complicated. At the end of the surgery and being in coma for 15 days, she made it through, but the neurologist told us that she was going to have, that her lesion was very severe on the left side of her brain, so she was going to be paralyzed on the right side and have aphasia.

She’s as bi-lingual as I am right now. We learned English late in life. Our mother tongue is Spanish. We learned English more for graduate school type of business so our English is very academic and you can communicate, but it comes more from books and that type not as casual English.

When this happened, this happening in Columbia – back in Columbia. Carolina had just recently been married, actually the week before this happened. And after they came from the honeymoon, and the day she was traveling back to New York, the aneurysm broke and she had a severe headache and all this started to happen.

At the beginning it was very hard, she couldn’t walk so she started from a wheelchair. She couldn’t say any words whatsoever. It seems as she lost her voice. Speech was the main thing, that was the most worrisome because without it what can you do?

I moved back to Columbia, her husband stayed in Columbia, and we all live with my father, sort of taking care of Carolina. So you can imagine how much of a shift that is for newlywed to live with that.

I guess we had a dynamic where it was me, I was doing more of the motherly care for Carolina, I was very concerned I was trying to do too much for her. And her husband had a different approach, and that approach was more “she has to be independent. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, or you know, how much time it takes for her to just tie her shoe, but we let her do it.” And I think that having him with that approach and me with the more “I’ll do it for you” helped Carolina a lot. Right now when I look back, I really think his approach because I think you cannot do everything for her, for anyone at all times. That’s advice that I would have for more people to really let them do as much as they can, and it’s hard to watch.