INTERVIEW WITH AN APHASIC PATIENT
Q 1: How old are you Alex? Alex: 73 years old. Q 2: What caused to you the aphasia incident? Alex: I suffered from stroke when I was 60 years old. It happened suddenly when I was at home. I was transferred immediately to the hospital where the doctors diagnosed that I suffered from Broca’s aphasia. Q 3: Do you know, what caused the stroke? Alex: Yes, of course, it was the result of blockage of vessels and it affected the left frontal lobe of my brain. Q 4: What were the main problems that you had to face? Alex: In the beginning I couldn’t talk or articulate anything. Not even a single word. I couldn’t talk because I couldn’t remember and find the word that I wanted to say. I wanted so much to say something but I couldn’t. Nobody seemed to understand that. Q 5: Did you had any physical problems? Alex: Yes, I couldn’t feel the right side of my body. Also I couldn’t walk or move. For that reason I had physiotherapy for 5 years. Now I am fine. I can walk and go outside to my neighbors. But sometimes I need somebody to give me a hand. Q 6: Did you received physiotherapy in the hospital of your island? Alex: At the beginning yes, I also had speech and language therapy. But there was no improvement. That was the most awful and hard period of my life. Q 7: What happened afterwards? Did you do anything to face it? Alex: My daughter proposed to go to the K.A.T hospital in Athens, so I was n transferred there. And apart from the physiotherapy and speech therapy, she arranged for me some meetings with a psychotherapist, because I was very frustrated and disappointed. Q 8 : Would you like to tell me something about that period of your life and the feelings that you had? Alex: Oh, it’s really hard for me. I had lost everything. I didn’t know what to do. Nobody seemed to understand what was it feeling. I tried to talk to them but they seemed not to understand and I was feeling frustrated and disappointed and helpless and sad and depressed. I had lost my life and my liveliness. Sometimes I was feeling that I would never manage to recover and I would continue to live in that nightmare. Q 9: Do you think that your life changed after the stroke? Alex: I believe that it changed completely. Q 10: Could you give me some aspects of your character before the stroke? Alex: You mean my old self? You can see how I am now and you will understand my personality because I achieved to regain my old character in many aspects. Generally, I was very active and I wanted always to be occupied with something. I was happy and I loved to meet friends and go for long walks. All of my friends considered me as a sociable and cheerful man. Q 11: When the stroke happened, did you realized any differences in your character? Alex: Well, you should better ask my wife that question. But, I can tell you that all these negative emotions that I was feeling made me more anxious and bad tempered with result to behave badly sometimes especially with my wife. I remember one grey period where I was very jealous of my wife and I talking to her embarrassing. But she is a great woman and she helped surpass all these problems with her love and continuing affection. I know that I wouldn’t have managed to achieve my goals if she wasn’t by my side Q 12: Which therapeutic method do you consider as most important? Alex: As I told you previously, no improvement was obvious with the Physiotherapy and the speech therapy because I was in a bad mood. When The psychotherapy started everything changed. I had a very good relationship with my psychotherapist. I was meeting him for one year. He helped a lot with the counselling and I am feeling really grateful that I had the opportunity to meet him. He encouraged more than the ordinary. I could count upon him more than anyone else and I didn’t want to disappoint him. I could see that this man had faith in me and I wanted to prove that he was right. He helped me understand that in order to become well I should help myself first. Q 13: So, do you consider psychotherapy as the most important part of your recovery? Alex: I believe that the combination was successful. But I tried really hard and I did great efforts to reach here. Q 14: Did you received any medicine or any other treatment? Alex: Yes, my psychotherapist suggested to try some anti-depressant pills, the Seropram which helped a lot, because after being in Athens for 6 months I started losing my balance and falling down. My psychotherapist advised me to start immediately this medicine. I also changed my diet and I was following a certain nutrition with dairy and healthy foods. The bad thing was that I was not allowed to eat chocolates and sweets, that I love. Besides, we tried together another technique called visual imaginery. Q 15: Could you please tell me about it? Alex: When I had a nightmare one night: I dreamed that I was in a valley full of flowers which were grey and black and I was in the middle of the valley kept locked in a tiny cage. I was so shocked that I was crying all the night. When I met my psychotherapist the next day he asked me to imagine the same valley full of multicoloured flowers where I was running, laughing and feeling very happy and free. That made me feel immediately released of the nightmare. I found a way to transform the bad dreams into good ones. Q 16: Did he talked to you about the role of positive thinking? Alex: Oh , yes. From the beginning, I realized that he was trying to built a new ego in me, stronger than before. Almost in every meeting he was referring to some of his patients who managed to overcome their diseases because they had faith in their inner powers and they were optimistic. He tried to make me feel happy that I was still alive and have positive expectations for the future. Sometimes I was crying and I was really embarrassed about my attitude and the sad feelings of disappointment, anger, anxiety and frustration, but after a couple of minutes he could make me feel released and relaxed. Q 17: Did he taught to you any trick to face a difficult situation? Alex: Oh, yes he asked me to repeat a phrase when I wasn’t feeling well: Alex be happy all the time in order to remind me that I should never give up. Q 18: Did it work? Alex: Yes, it was very effective. Q 19: In which way do you think that the positive thinking has helped you recover linguistically from your problem? Alex: It has helped me regain my lost self-esteem with result to be more willing to talk and participate in social interactions. Even though the fact that I had word-finding difficulties (which made me be silent and avoid meeting my friends), positive thinking made me see the things from another point of view. Q 20: Could you please explain this? Alex: I mean that although it might be hard for me to find the appropriate word, I never gave up and I was always trying to describe it or explain it with humour. For example, in case I couldn’t remember the name of a friend, I might be saying: the man who lives in Venizelou street and works as civil servant. Q 21: So, you mean that positive thinking worked as a tonic in your case? Alex: Definitely, yes. I was more reluctant to talk and practice my language. Even sometimes, when I was watching TV with my wife I used (and sometimes even now) to repeat what I have already heard. That helps me a lot to improve my fluency. Q 22: In which stage of your recovery did you started thinking positively? Alex: When I went to Athens and I started the psychotherapy. Generally I was an optimistic person in my life but since the stroke occurred I had lost the faith in my powers and I needed somebody to fix my ego. Q 23: Do you think that the optimistic patients have advantages in comparison with the depressed and anxious patients? Alex: Yes, of course, I can ensure you about that because experienced it. But apart from having an impairment or a disease I think that everybody should think positive because it’s a good way of confronting the problems. I believe that it should became a life philosophy for anyone. I also use to go to the hospital and talk with the patients who suffer from aphasia, because I want to encourage them and make them believe in the power of positive thinking. Q 24: Do you think that positive thinking could lead to false hopes? Alex: No, no, of course not because I tried a lot and I could see that there was improvement in my condition. Q 25: How important do you consider the support and the positive thinking of your family and your wife? Alex: I know that I wouldn’t have managed to recover without their precious help. Especially my wife stood by my side all these years and help me a lot. Although I had speech therapy she was helping me to do my exercises daily and make a lot of practice and revisions. Q 26: How difficult is for a patient with dysphasia to think positive when he has to face so many problems? Alex: In the beginning it might be difficult. But people have to realize that we are not handicaps, we are like anybody else. We can think positively and have an active life. We just need to believe in ourselves and make others believe in us. Positive thinking is a strength power that exists inside everybody and although many have managed to bring it in surface, some others ignore its’ existence and need some kind of motivation to reveal it. Thus, it is not so difficult for a patient with dysphasia to think positively although his impairments, as most people believe. Q 27: When you have to face a problem and you realize that it’s difficult to be solved, what do you do? Alex: I just laugh. I know that after some minutes I will have the answer, I just need some time. Q 28: Has your psychotherapist ever suggested you to try any drugs? Alex: No, never. He only suggested to take the anti-depressant pills that I told you before. Q 29: How would you describe your experience of having a stroke? Alex: If you had done me this questions many years ago I would have given you a different answer for the one I will give you now. Although, it might me strange, a stroke doesn’t have only disadvantages. It helped me see things from another point of view and realize how powerful a human being can be when he has willingness, hope and positive thoughts. Q 30: Could you please describe me your daily programme? Alex: I wake up at 8 p.m., I go twice a day for a walk in my neighborhood and I talk with my friends, I watch TV with my wife and some afternoons I go to my olive tree farm and take care of my beautiful plants.