Saturday, June 28, 2008

Avera Medical Minute: Aphasia and Speech Therapy

By Nancy Naeve

Aphasia affects 1 in 250 people in this country. More than 100,000 of you will acquire it this year, and yet most of us have never heard of it. It's a disorder that impairs a person's ability to process language and most of the time it happens after a stroke or after a head injury.

One man in Sioux Falls is fighting tooth and nail to get his speech back with the help of outpatient therapy at Avera Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

46 year old Dave Gluyas is hammering away re-learning words to everyday objects that would come out without second thought. He has aphasia. A common communication disorder resulting from a stroke or head injury. Dave had a stroke in April 2008.

Dave says, "I know what I want to say... (he stops)
His longtime girlfriend Linda Tenneson helps finish his sentence and says, "It's in his head but it won't come out his mouth. It's very frustrating for him."

Three times a week for 45 minute sessions, Dave works with Tina Jacobson, a speech and language pathologist with Avera.

Dave says, "Tina she's great." He looks at Linda and says, "Tina, right?" Linda smiled and said, "That's right, Tina. She's been a great help."

Tina says, "Initially he used single words and a lot of gesturing. Everything was all jumbled up. But he has the best attitude. He's so happy and laid back and is very motivated to improve so he works hard when he's not with me by doing home projects."

Tina says some people are so impaired when she first sees them that she has to use a communication board to figure out what they need. It has pictures with words on it so the patient can point to what they want or what they are trying to say.

Tina says, "He still has trouble with word retrieval, coming up with words. So what we do is work on repetitive exercises and positive feedback."

Linda says, "He's come a long way from not knowing what the ER doctors meant in the when they asked him to raise his arms. He didn't know his birthday. He didn't know my name. And now he does. He knows all those things so I don't feel as bad leaving him alone so I can go to work. "

He now puts 2 to 3 word sentences together, but Linda says Aphasia is still hard on both of them. Dave was lucky in a sense because he recovered very quickly from his stroke physically. Other than aphasia, he has no impairment, but his speech pathologist credits his hard work and starting therapy immediately.

Linda says, "It is hard. In a sense, I've lost my best friend because it's so hard to communicate with him. It's frustrating for him too. To tell me what he wants to eat it becomes a game of charades and sometimes I don't get the charade. But with Tina's help we'll keep working on it. We are working through it."

And the hope is, his communication will once again be as sharp as the pencil he is learning to identify all over again.