I had my stroke on February 2, 2007. It was my 20th anniversary at work. Everyone was expecting me to show up at work for our annual “Pre Season meeting” for our practice. Of course, I did not show up. Instead I was on a stretcher in the emergency room at Saint Luke Hospital. The doctor performed a clot removal procedure. This saved my life!

I stayed in the critical care unit at Saint Luke for about a week, then I was released. There was a big problem. I was not in a healthy condition since my pre- stroke (physically and mentally). Peter, my husband suggested that I make an appointment with my cardiologist, Dr. Chu (no relation) to seek guidance and assistance for my condition. Dr. Chu recommended that I would need therapy after my stroke. He contacted the Visiting Nurse for some Physical, Occupational and Speech therapy.

As the months passed, I was improving on my movement and coordination, but somehow I was still having difficulty with my speech. The Visiting Nurse suggested that I search for a speech specialist who could provide extensive therapy for stroke patients.

After many interviews with various speech specialists, I learned that most speech specialists were focused on working with young children, not adults. Then one of the specialists suggested that I make an appointment with the New York University (NYU) Medical Center, where adult speech therapy is offered. I attended NYU for nine months to cope with “APHASIA”.

This would be the first time I heard of this word. For me, Aphasia is a result of my Stroke and it affected my ability to communicate. I am still a competent person, I know what I want to say but hard to say it out loud. I attended two weekly individual sessions with a therapist and one group session at NYU. At home, I studied second and third grade workbooks to brush up on my grammar and sentence structures. Gradually, I was reading newspapers/short stories and retold the stories to my NYU speech specialist.

Eventually, my insurance company would not provide any assistance with the therapy after nine months.  One of the patients at the group therapy session heard about a program that offered free classes for aphasic patients on bimonthly basis. I went to the group session at Saint Vincent Hospital to help me with my disability. After a few sessions, I felt comfortable with the setting; the help from the graduate clinicians was tremendous to building my level of confidence.

At the group session, there was a man named Harvey Alter, he was the President of International Aphasia Movement. Not only does he facilitate the program, he was also an active aphasic. Harvey advocates that no person should be charged for the therapy that’s in need. Harvey seeks out graduate clinicians under the direct supervision of licensed and qualified Speech Language Pathologists and faculty. That’s an ideal win –win situation. The aphasic receives their therapy and the graduate clinicians receives their experience credit.

The program provides a safe and comfortable environment where the aphasic can learn and understand their abilities and limitations. The clinicians can assist the aphasic to learn certain techniques to improve on or use other “work-around” methods to get the communication across to others.

Gradually, the program grew. Now the program is held in five different sites- Beth Israel, Columbia, Saint Luke Church, Hunter and Institute of Music and Neurologic Function to assist the aphasic with the help they seek. The goal is to provide daily sessions for aphasics who seek the supervision and direction they need. With the help of the graduate clinicians, I’m on the right path and I know that I no longer sense that my speech impediment would dissuade me in the future.

 

June Chu

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