Living with Aphasia and Recovery

My name is Dannie and I have aphasia. I go to SCALE (Snyder Center for Aphasia Life Enhancement) on 1 day a week in Baltimore, Maryland. I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba, but I now live in Columbia. My family is Swiss, and prior to my stroke I was speaking three languages: English, French and Swiss-German. Now I only speak English, and I understand a little Swiss-German. My career has been working at NASA as a system engineer. I married Des in 2004. Our careers required lots of travel; sometimes alone and sometimes together.

My goals shifted….I had a stroke in April 2012. I fainted and fell to the floor. I don’t know what happened next, the blur was significant. From Washington Adventist Hospital, I got a helicopter ride to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. There were three crewmembers on the helicopter; the pilot was good looking! We landed on the roof of the University hospital. Then, I don’t remember anything until I was in the ICU and saw my husband who is also good looking!

Des had been a Lt. Col. in the Air Force and he had looked into an intensive aphasia program at the VA hospital in Pittsburgh. But I was not eligible! So he looked at other intensive aphasia programs, in Halifax, and Florida. I went to five intensive speech therapy sessions at The Aphasia Center and Yones Therapy in St. Petersburg, Florida and INTERact in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Speech Therapy was five hours a day, five days a week for Florida. I also went to the gym two times a week working with a trainer, occupational therapy two times a week and massage therapy. It was tough work! In Halifax, there were three speech therapists, interns, a recreational therapist and two physical therapists. It was a busy schedule!

Since my stroke, Des and I have traveled extensively for work and to visit family. I started working half-time in December 2013 at NASA. I am working as a special assistant to the person who took over my job after my stroke. I am going on business trips! I have gone to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and twice to Northrup Grumman Space Park in Redondo Beach, California.

My strengths are auditory comprehension (but sometimes I have to ask people to slow down), and reading comprehension. Many tools help me with my challenges. WordQ and SpeakQ help me write on the computer, the iPhone speech-to-text helps me write email and text messages. Writing out words helps me to say them.

I am building my confidence through the people around ME. People are patient with me, because my talking with aphasia may be different for them. My advice to people with aphasia is Don’t give up, keep trying!