Debra misses having nuanced conversation

Debra’s husband, Dave, had a stroke 8 years ago and now has Broca’s aphasia. She talks about her daily care routine that keeps her centered and their philosophy about progress with aphasia.

How long ago was Dave’s stroke?

Dave’s stroke was 8 years ago this month when he was 55.

Before the stroke he was president of a business with sometimes up to 100 employees. He was pretty busy with that, but we were also very physically active - biking, skiing, kayaking and we also travelled a lot. We’re from different parts of the country so traveling to visit family but also international travel.

And how long have you guys been married?

We’ve been married 34 years.

Yes, it affects everything. Inability to communicate or to communicate on any kind of sophisticated level is terrible. We can’t speak about nuanced things. We speak in this way: I suggest what I think he wants to say or he gets a few words together and I think what he i wants to say but it’s not the same as a real conversation with another adult. It’s really hurt Dave badly in this way, he was really an addictive reader before and he’s not able to read. After a few years we started hiring someone to read him the newspaper for an hour a day.

He’s hemiplegic, he is paralyzed on the right side. We jump on any disability program we can find for skiing, he’s done downhill skiing and cross-country. Just on our own we figured out how to get him on rafting trips and we got him a bicycle. Our plan is to push the physical side as long as we can, we’re still only in our 60s.

So I guess the only thing I could say is “don’t compare yourself to some else” and “don’t give up” That’s what we’re proving here. We’re here after 8 years and in the last 6 weeks, he has improved, so “don’t give up”

I actually think that we’re just lucky. That is a personality trait that we had before. I think we’re both very optimistic and that helps a lot. And we know more people now who’ve had strokes and I think among the losses, sometimes people lose their ability to want to do all the work that you have to do for such little gain. Dave and I are very lucky that he is willing to work this hard for what, empirically, could look like a small gain.

I, because it is 24 hours and when I signed on to it 8 years ago, I didn’t know how many hours 24 was. But I pretty much, wherever we are, carve out the first two hours of the day for me. I’m a physical activity addict and I go for a run or bike or something and then I come home, drink strong coffee and check my email. So those are the things that I want to do alone and starting the day that way, that’s what works for me.