Sheila started researching to find someone that could help her husband. She did find a therapist that over time had Sir John up and walking with the use of a walking stick. His right arm had little movement. Another speech therapist who used to work with children worked on his communication. He could fully understand, he just couldn’t speak. Later he could speak a few words. He could read the written word and with hard work was able with his left hand write a sentence or two.
Sir John enjoyed walks and his lifelong passion of reading. He retained his sense of humour a form miming so he could be part of the conversation in his own way. He was a brilliant man. Before the stroke words to paper came easily to him. He enjoyed lecturing and lively conversation about art and history. Sir John also hosted history programs for BBC. His whole life about communication either by writing or the spoken word, only to have it taken away from him in an instant.
Just before Covid I met a young man in his 40’s. His stroke left him in a wheelchair and with aphasia. Like Sir John he understood everything, he worked hard and after a couple years accomplished small walks. He was able to speak not in his old voice. He spoke slowly, having to think about the word he wanted to say. He slurred some words and has a noticeable stutter. He told me too many times he tried to join a conversation, people thought he was drunk and turned their back on him. If he asked a stranger or a shop keeper a question, he usually got a look of disgust and terse answer. So, he has decided to keep his conversations to loved ones.
An interview with Robin Jones in the “Speaking Up the newsletter of Speakability said, it must be very frustrating for those caring for patients like me to watch them try to make sentences that are meaningless. But talking in a natural way to help them fit words together again. It is the best thing you can do even if it doesn’t seem much good at the time. It reassures the patient that they are not insane and gives them a sense of normality…
The worst thing for me was when people treated me in a different manner and kept repeating things as though I was an idiot.”
This is also important. “On a recent training day for the Department of Health (England), the officials were surprised to find the aphasics judging them on the quality of their conversation: highest marks for speaking slowly and clearly, exercising patience, not finishing patient’s sentences, recognizing that slow garbled speech does not mean loss of intelligence and patronizing baby talk is insulting and counterproductive.”
Sir John Hale lived another 7 years after his stroke. His wife never stopped looking for that one doctor, therapist or researcher that might be able to help her husband. In her 2009 postscript to the book, she writes of improved stroke care in Britain with more stroke units with properly trained staff, but she adds far more is needed to be done.