My Aphasia Story

My name is Carolina Ulloa. I have aphasia and I am from Colombia. My native language is Spanish. My story begins a little bit before my stroke. I lived in New York at the time. I was studying biology at Stony Brook University.

In December 2009, we flew to Bogota, Colombia for a visited. On January 22nd I was ready to fly back to New York but I felt extremely bad. I had the worst headache and vomited. The feeling was indescribable and I fainted. I don’t remember anything else. My dad called 911 but they were all very busy. It was unbelievable! Anyways, they drove me to the emergency room at the Foundation Santa Fe. We received some awful news! Doctor Fernando Hakim explained my condition to them. I had an aneurysm. Dr. Hakim had to operate on my brain. During the surgery there was bleeding. And since one of my blood vessels was very weak, the doctors inserted a pump that went from my left leg to my heart to help the brain have oxygen. It was a miracle indeed! I remained in coma for 15 days in an intensive care unit (ICU). During that time, the weak vessel collapsed and I had a stroke. I have aphasia!

Aphasia is a language disorder. I understand everything but speaking is really difficult for me. My problem is known as Broca’s aphasia, that is, I have trouble talking, not understanding. My intellect is intact. My left hemisphere was damaged by a brain aneurysm. I had brain surgery and then was in a coma for 16 days. I woke up and I couldn’t speak at all! It was a nightmare. Words were not coming out. The right side of my body was paralyzed too. I had to use a wheelchair at first. After working very hard, I started to stand up and walk a few steps with a cane. Finally, I was cane-free!

My speech was only sounds at first and then vowels. I could write my name. That’s all! I went to a rehab center in Colombia where they helped me to speak a few more words. In Spanish only! I improved enormously with physical therapy. I still cannot move my right fingers.

To receive more therapy my husband and I moved to Argentina for six months. I went to a foundation for aphasia. Finally, I spoke many words. And I could write and read. We returned to Colombia. I kept improving. We decided to return to the USA. For the first three months we lived with my in-laws in Kentucky. Right now we live in Gainesville, Fl. I go to the aphasia book club every other week and the stroke meetings every week. And I joined Aphasia Recovery Connection at Facebook and Oovoo call. Seeing so many resources for people with aphasia in English, we (Jose, Ana and I) decided to found Contacto Afasia, a support group for Spanish speakers with Aphasia, using Facebook and Oovoo Contacto. I still continue to work with three fantastic speech language students. I keep improving more and more.

In the future I might talk about aphasia, and advocate for the lives of people with aphasia all over the world.