As part of International Aphasia Awareness Month throughout June, Peter from Ravenshead in Nottinghamshire, is telling his story of living with Aphasia.
Aphasia is a condition caused by damage to the language areas of the brain that affects speech and language. It is often caused by a stroke but can also be caused by brain injury, brain tumours, and less common forms of dementia.
It affects 1 in 3 people who experience a strokebut is often known as a “hidden disability” due to a lack of public knowledge about the condition.
Peter was 61 when he had two strokes within four days, leaving him with Aphasia.
Before the strokes, Peter worked as an engineer, travelling all over the world developing coal, gas and nuclear power stations. His last role was as Head of Construction for EDF Energy.
“Having Aphasia ended my career, which was a huge part of me. I miss my work and relationships with my colleagues. I miss driving my car and having my own independence.”
Peter didn't speak for 14 months after his stroke. Today, he communicates using gestures, drawing, writing and some speech; he describes his progress as “slow…but there is progress!”
“My speech is limited and writing is affected. I've had to strive to be outgoing; there is a danger of becoming isolated and losing self-confidence. Friends find it difficult and, sadly, you lose contact.”
Peter lives in Ravenshead with his wife Carol. They have two children, Ben, 29 and Katherine, 24.
“A stroke doesn't just affect the stroke survivor; it changes the lives of the whole family. My wife's teaching career ended as she became my carer. Our children live in different parts of the country and find it difficult as we can no longer chat on the phone.”
But in spite of all this, Peter has an inspirational, positive attitude.
“Initially, I was sad but I can't afford to be bitter. Life is different now but it beats the alternative! You have to work hard at rehabilitation to rebuild your life, to make it worthwhile and fulfilling.”
“I enjoy watching football, reading, jigsaws, Sudoku, visiting the countryside, food. I've skied twice since my stroke – adaptive skiing – it's a great feeling to have the freedom of being back in the mountains. Since having Aphasia, I've found an enjoyment of art which I wasn't interested in previously.”
“Aphasia has brought me and Carol closer together; we have to try harder to have conversations and to find a new normality to our lives. Our children are more aware of the fragility of life, take less for granted and make more effort to keep in touch. They are proud of my progress.”
“Speech and Language Therapy has helped enormously. I have developed techniques to improve my communication with others and increase my confidence. I am determined to improve my communication skills, especially my speech. I want to get back into playing golf, there are still many places in the world I'd like to visit and I hope to be able to walk in the countryside, rather than using a wheelchair.”
“Aphasia is a disability that not many people have encountered before and it's important to realise that a loss of speech is not a loss of intellect! Conversations can still continue, you just have to be more creative and use different strategies.”
Speech and Language Therapists from County Health Partnerships, part of Nottinghamshire Healthcare, are hosting the Trust's first ever Aphasia Awareness Event on Tuesday 23 June at Mansfield Community Hospital. Drop in 10-3.
Attendees can hear from people with Aphasia; understand what Aphasia is and its impact; learn ways to support conversation; talk to Speech and Language Therapists; and discover local support for people with Aphasia. Join the conversation with #RecogniseAphasia.
Our therapists provide a service to the Newark and Sherwood and Mansfield and Ashfield areas and work with patients with swallowing, voice and other communication difficulties. If you would like to be referred to this service please contact your GP.