Sunday, March 6, 2011


I remember my grandmother's stroke.
Almost like it was yesterday, and not 12 years ago.
A memory so vivid that I can recall the finest details; the heat of the day, my mother hanging the washing on the line.....washing left in a moment's panic after realising that this was no ordinary day of ordinary chores....
Something had changed, and we were never going to be the same again.
Most importantly I remember the day before, because this was the last day I had a conversation with my grandmother, at least one which made sense.
We talked and joked, and she imparted words of wisdom, taken for granted at the time, but which became so cherished after that.

I remember that phone call, which didn't quite make sense. I was greeted with words, but that's all they were.
Just strings of words carelessly thrown together, flowing from nowhere
No sense.......nonsense.
"Gran, you're not making sense, what's going on?"

"Mum, talk to Gran-Gran, something's wrong"

And so began a whirlwind of events, of tears, of confusion.
A new string of words which made no sense being thrown at me: stroke, hospital, damage to brain...
When all I wanted to hear was the conversation of the day before....words of wisdom, never to be uttered again.
I remember watching her become a shell of herself.
Struggling to say things, to remember things and people, and moments, but nothing coming out right.
I remember wondering what was going on inside her brain.
Where were those pieces that made her who she was?
That made her able to sit and talk and laugh with me and tell me stories about the 'old time days.'
How could all that be lost in a moment?
She was there sitting in front of me, yet I had lost her forever.

On reflection there had never been any mention of a speech therapist.
No one to come and explain language centres, and talk about words like 'aphasia'.
No one to try to help with her comprehension or expression......
To put her back together again.
It was just accepted that this was who she was, and that nothing more could be done.

When my grandmother died a year or so later there wasn't that overwhelming grief that would have been expected, for it was like she had already died on the day of that phone call. I had already lost her then.

Funny enough this wasn't the driving force to make me want to become a speech therapist. It was actually what made me shy away from wanting to work with adults. I felt that every patient who came in with an aphasia would make me relive that moment again, would bring back that feeling of loss I felt on that day.
I can't say it wasn't difficult initially, but after a while it did become a motivator for me.
If I could be that person to bring some clarity to a 14 year old girl about why she could no longer share the same conversations that she used to with her grandmother.
If I could help a grandmother, a grandfather, a parent regain some language skills, or create some bridge to the gaping communication gap in this new, confusing life......
........then I would have made the difference I may have needed 12 years ago.