Twenty years ago, Gordon Mathezer woke up to find himself trapped in a nightmare.
He couldn’t move or speak after suffering a stroke overnight. At the hospital, the doctors said he had aphasia as a result of the stroke, which is a chronic language disorder that takes away a person's ability to communicate.
“It’s an overwhelming sense of helplessness,” he said. “You have to depend on other people to do things for you.”
Luckily, Mathezer’s case of aphasia was mild and he soon fully recovered his speech – but he never forgot what it felt like to lose his voice.
For the past 15 years he’s facilitated a free weekly community chat groups in Calgary, connecting adults living with aphasia with each other, and helping them communicate through trained volunteers.
“Having aphasia is like living in a solitary cell,” said Mathezer.
“There’s an intelligent mind in the head, but it can’t get out … these are grown-ups who have been through many years of working life, and then, all-of-the-sudden, they can’t read or write or add up numbers or speak. I’ve experienced some of it myself, so I wanted to do something to help.”
Today, approximately 40 people are a part of the New Voices Chat groups across the city. Though sharing stories and helping people find the words they’re searching for, the meetings intend to help people to cope with their disability while finding solace in one another.
According to Mathezer, the health care system offers speech therapy to aphasia patients while in the hospital. After leaving, they have approximately six to eight months of group therapy before their help runs out.
“After that is over, they are just left on their own,” he said. “And this disability is chronic, it’s life-long, so we’re just trying to fill that huge gap between the short term help and the rest of their lives.”
Read more at: Metronews.ca