The full impact of the stroke on her life was masked by her outward appearance. She recalls that, “when acquaintances saw me shortly after I returned home, they were surprised at how good I looked. After all, I wasn’t physically affected. But for me, I was profoundly affected by my aphasia, as mild as it was. Language was my trade, my skill, my talent, and my strength.”
The Importance of Family Support
M. credits her mother for helping her through those difficult early days. “My mother kept me on track, making sure I was not delving into self-misery or despair. She became my speech therapist and my coach – without making me feel like she was doing it for my sake. She managed to make me feel as though we were just spending much-needed quality time together.”
M.’s recovery process was very different from that of Assemblyman Cymbrowitz. Even though she had suffered a stroke, since it was not considered to be life threatening, her private insurance company was unwilling to pay for an extended hospitalization, and only agreed only to cover the cost of her therapy on an outpatient basis. With the help of BINA and family connections, she was finally able to secure a spot at a highly regarded outpatient rehab clinic.
M. also received constant support and encouragement from her husband and family. “Keeping busy with my kids served as the best kind of therapy possible. Even reading them simple bedtime stories is actual therapy – and they could not care less whether I needed to repeat a word 3-4 times to get it right. They laughed with me when I made a silly word substitution or pronounced a word in an amusing way,” she recalls.
M. sees other significant changes in herself since suffering her stroke. She is now less likely to share her opinion with others, because communicating takes so much more effort than it used to. She has also become “more sensitive to how people talk over each other without listening to each other.”
Several months ago, M. put her rehabilitation on hold to help her daughter through a complicated medical procedure of her own. But she is now working once again to recover her language skills and redevelop the distinctive writing “voice” that she lost due to her stroke. With all that has happened to her over the past year, she views her life now as a “work in progress,” but is clearly looking forward to better tomorrow.
Yossie Federman also lives in hope that experiments in stem cell research and cloning technology will someday lead to breakthroughs that will restore the abilities he has lost. In the meantime, he says that he sees no point in looking back. His primary goal is to start off his children on the right Torah derech. His stubborn optimism and good cheer is a constant source of inspiration to his wife and and family, and his many friends in the community.
After going through “rough times” at first, A’s parents say that they have come to terms with their daughter’s situation. Nevertheless, they admit that it is painful to see other children her age who can do so many things which are beyond A.’s current capabilities, and likely to remain so for a long time. In the meantime, they have learned to appreciate every small milestone of progress that she achieves. “If she is happy, then we are happy. Our family life goes on, one day at a time,” A.’s mother says.
Stroke and brain injury victims and their families are not alone. Assemblyman Cymbrowitz is on a personal mission to inform the public about stroke and brain injury by forthrightly sharing his own experiences. There are dedicated community organizations, like BINA, to provide victims and their families with sound information, advice and emotional support. Prestigious hospitals, talented therapists and medical researchers are all working to provide hope for a better future for the victims and to save more lives from these deadly and debilitating conditions.
In the meantime, it is our responsibility to support those among us who will spend the rest of their lives recovering from stroke and brain injury with our compassion, understanding and prayers.
How many people have strokes?