I don’t remember much of my time in hospital following my accident that caused my brain injury. But I do remember my mouth and throat were so dry as I was “nil by mouth”, for a while. I kept making lots of complaint like noises, but that wasn’t getting what I wanted so I had to try to tell them. But I couldn’t think of the words!!! So I tried to make a sound that would better convey what I needed.
“Glug, glug, glug!!!”
My partner James, understood immediately, and he asked a nurse to come round with the soaking sponge they would put on my lips so I could just get enough liquid to answer the dryness.
I hadn’t lost the ability to speak all together but I was struggling to find the words, or when I found one I didn’t know how to put it into a sentence. This was when it became clear I was suffering from Aphasia.
Aphasia comes in different forms depending on the brain injury, some people are not able to speak at all. (When I was shouting the house down at night about whatever nonsense that came into my head, I’m sure some people wished I couldn’t speak.)
Message in – it can make it difficult to understand what is being communicated to you. I still find that I might not be able to follow a conversation properly if I’ve done too much that day, or they speak too quickly. Also reading can be affected which it was for me also, but luckily I’m 90% there now.
Message out – even thinking can be a strain, let alone finding the right word or constructing a sentence. I still struggle to find words, and I get so frustrated because I know it’s in there. But sometimes I confuse the meaning of words and pick the wrong one, but someone has to tell me and then it feels obvious. I suddenly remember they are right and wonder why I made the mistake. It’s similar with spelling. I always used to be the person you would use as your verbal dictionary, but even now post brain injury, there are times I can’t even think of the letter a word begins with.
My speech was very slow and at times slurred. This made me even more self-conscious . I’d taken ages to find the word, then it came out like I was in slow motion, and to top if off it was slurred. I felt the need to keep telling people I wasn’t drunk.
As you can tell from the fact that I write a blog, my reading and reading has improved a lot. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. My mum taught me to read and write long before I went to school. I barely remember not being able to as a child. But suddenly to be in my early 30’s and barely able to make sense of the written word was terrifying and depressing. I’d always imagined that it must be so hard for those who were never taught properly to read and write. And yes, I can confirm it’s a nightmare!
So if you know someone who has a brain injury, remember to take your time and don’t rush. Try to be more succinct as long rambling stories can be hard to follow. And if they are searching for a word don’t just jump in, as that can be really annoying. By all means ask them to describe it’s meaning. You can try to find it together, but don’t just assume you know without asking. They might agree without realising that your suggestion doesn’t really convey what they were trying to say. You could accidentally change the meaning of their point all together.