First Person on the Last Page: Living with Aphasia I have lived with aphasia for more than 30 years, after experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm in May 1978. Kathy Clark, my speech-language pathologist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, described the extent of my communication impairment in her August 1979 initial evaluation after my brain surgery: “In addition ... First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   January 01, 2011
First Person on the Last Page: Living with Aphasia
Author Notes
  • John Liechty, MSW, has been an advisory board member and volunteer with the National Aphasia Association and helped form a local aphasia support group. Contact him at jliechty@frontier.com.
    John Liechty, MSW, has been an advisory board member and volunteer with the National Aphasia Association and helped form a local aphasia support group. Contact him at jliechty@frontier.com.×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Aphasia / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   January 01, 2011
First Person on the Last Page: Living with Aphasia
The ASHA Leader, January 2011, Vol. 16, 39. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.16012011.39
The ASHA Leader, January 2011, Vol. 16, 39. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.16012011.39
I have lived with aphasia for more than 30 years, after experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm in May 1978.
Kathy Clark, my speech-language pathologist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, described the extent of my communication impairment in her August 1979 initial evaluation after my brain surgery: “In addition to severe aphasia crossing all language areas including severe reduction in auditory comprehension ability, reading comprehension ability, verbal expression and writing, the patient also appeared to have a complicating apraxia of speech, visual perceptual involvement, and motor planning problems with his left upper extremity,” her report stated.
I was in pretty bad shape. When an occupational therapist handed me a bar of soap, I put it in my mouth because I thought it was something to eat.
That summer a friend had tickets to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game, so a nurse and an aide from Good Samaritan accompanied me. I could not speak, but when the “Star Spangled Banner” started, I could sing. This led to music therapy, which greatly improved my communication ability.
An SLP at Cincinnati General Hospital suggested I contact the Communication Disorders Clinic at the University of Michigan, where I spent a year and a half in intense treatment before moving back to Goshen, Ind., to be closer to my family. Just before my injury, I’d received a master’s degree in social work, but I knew that I would never be able to pursue my intended career. Instead, I found a job as a housekeeper at a psychiatric hospital where I’ve worked for the past 20 years.
In the early 1990s, my sister read an article about speech recognition software and made connections for me at the vocational rehabilitation office, which provided me with a computer and a voice recognition software program. These tools opened up my world!
I began responding to inquiries on the National Aphasia Association (NAA) website. I could dictate e-mail messages and play back the responses. Then I was invited to make a keynote presentation at an NAA conference. Since 2000, I have made presentations on aphasia to many regional and national health-related organizations, as well as to dozens of state speech-language-hearing associations. In the past five years, working with several collaborators, I have published articles about aphasia in a variety of journals and periodicals.
Living with aphasia has its challenges, but I am always looking ahead. I am moving on, despite the language barrier.
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January 2011
Volume 16, Issue 1