After a Stroke, Aphasia Affects Millions of Survivors
Advocacy If you think that strokes only happen to older people, think again.
At 30 years of age, Christie Arnold experienced a bad headache, took some Advil and figured she would be okay. But she wasn’t.
A blood clot in her brain resulted in a massive stroke that left her paralyzed and without speech. She could only say two words: “the people.” If she was hungry or sad or had a question, all that came out was “the people.”
Reclaiming her life
She spent six months in the hospital. That was 9 years ago and Arnold is still recovering. Aphasia is a lifelong condition and it continues to affect Arnold’s reading, writing and speaking, but she now volunteers at the place that helped her recover, the Stroke Comeback Center in Virginia. She even coordinates a golf tournament that raises funds to help others recover from aphasia.
While her progress has been miraculous, there are so many miracles that are possible with the proper treatment and support. When asked about her ability to continue to recover and live successfully with aphasia, Arnold answers: “Absolutely. 100 percent. You know what I’m saying.”
“She could only say two words: 'the people.'”
She says it well and speaks for the 2 million people in the U.S. currently living with aphasia.
Dr. Josh Sickel was sitting on top of the world. A renowned and accomplished surgical pathologist, he had climbed the ladder to success in his profession. He was equally renowned for his compassion and dedication to overall care for patients at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California.
Knowing that healing can be stressful, he financed and initiated a healing arts program in the hospital that brought humor, art, music and massage to patients and their families. And he was busy on the lecture circuit, giving more than one hundred lectures on humor and healing.
Returning to form
That was until April 2, 2011 when he experienced a massive stroke that left him without speech and without the use of his right side. Once he survived the initial phase of his stroke, he applied the same intelligence and humor to his own recovery.
Using every tool available to him and, with the help of friends and family, he progressed from bed to wheelchair to walking and from no speech to words, phrases and sentences. His aphasia persists but he found ways to live independently and successfully with aphasia; he now mentors residents in pathology and is planning a return to the lecture circuit this time using his own recovery as an example of how humor promotes healing.