Lost and Found After 40 Years: An SLP’s Determination Helps a Man with Aphasia Find His Family When state police found 80-year-old Bob Lance wandering along the side of Interstate 90 in Montana last May, he was unable to talk or communicate even the most basic information—his name, where he was from, or where he was going. Not knowing what to do, officers brought him to a ... Features
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Features  |   November 01, 2009
Lost and Found After 40 Years: An SLP’s Determination Helps a Man with Aphasia Find His Family
Author Notes
  • Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.
    Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Aphasia / Features
Features   |   November 01, 2009
Lost and Found After 40 Years: An SLP’s Determination Helps a Man with Aphasia Find His Family
The ASHA Leader, November 2009, Vol. 14, 23. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR2.14152009.23
The ASHA Leader, November 2009, Vol. 14, 23. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR2.14152009.23
When state police found 80-year-old Bob Lance wandering along the side of Interstate 90 in Montana last May, he was unable to talk or communicate even the most basic information—his name, where he was from, or where he was going.
Not knowing what to do, officers brought him to a hospital in Billings, Mont., where he had a brain scan. After doctors determined that Lance had a hematoma and suffered from global aphasia, he was released from the hospital, admitted to a nearby skilled nursing facility, and placed in the care of speech-language pathologist Jonalyn Brown.
“I had worked with other patients with aphasia before,” Brown said. “But he was different. It was his personality that struck me. He was so friendly and so determined to work with me. I’d work with him and he’d go away, but come back for more. He really wanted to communicate and was determined to get to where he was going.”
Luckily for Lance, Brown was equally determined to help and didn’t stop working with him even when his sessions were up. Although Lance’s speech was beginning to come along, much of what he told her was in pieces as he regained his cognitive function. She also wanted him to get to where he was going but needed to gather more clues.
“He kept talking about a tourist destination near the Canadian border, but when I’d ask if that’s where he was going, he’d insist that it wasn’t,” Brown said. “Finally after a few weeks of working with him, the city of Toronto came up and he said, ‘Oh, yes!’”
So Brown looked up phone numbers under the name “Lance” in Toronto and started calling. The first person she reached hung up but the second person to answer the phone turned out to be Lance’s older brother, Arthur. Not able to hear well, Arthur gave Brown the number of his younger sister. She, too, had trouble hearing and passed Brown on to yet another younger sibling.
Finally, after several passes, Brown spoke with a family member who could both hear her and understand what she was saying: She had found their brother, Bob, whom they had not heard from in 20 years. He had been living in Seattle for the past 40 years and now he wanted to come home. The reaction, said Brown, was tremendous. They wanted him home, too.
“I felt like a social worker, but because it was so easy for me to do this research and I was invested in his outcome, I just did it,” said Brown. “I wanted him to find his home.” Once Lance rediscovered where he was going, Brown helped him get his passport and medical records in order, which had many therapeutic benefits.
“We went everywhere in the community to get his documents,” she said. “We filled out all the paperwork, and he made phone calls to confirm who he was. It was actually really good therapy for him.”
And all is well that ends well. Lance has been reunited with his brothers and sisters and has returned to Toronto. As for Brown, she has gone back to business as usual, but she will always remember her determined patient who wouldn’t give up.
“He was unique. Even though he had typical global aphasia, his personality and history were compelling,” she said. “I guess I’ll never meet another patient like him, but you never know!”
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November 2009
Volume 14, Issue 15