For many, Kitti’s holiday message was the first time hearing her voice in a while. She had no fear and practiced before taping – and ended up being a “one-take wonder”! Okay, technically two-takes, since she thought she didn’t smile enough in the first one and I had to move the dead flower arrangement further out of the camera view.
The primary communication challenge that Kitti continues to face is aphasia. It changes the way she communicates – but not her intellect. She works hard daily on reading, writing and speaking to help connect the neural pathways.
I don’t pretend to know how neurons work and what makes something connect. What I do know is that the more words Kitti hears and the more she speaks and writes will likely result in more healing. Kitti is always challenging herself. Every night like two little old ladies, we watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, repeating and enunciating key words and naming vowels and consonants. Our house is labeled with post its (hot pink, of course), as those cues ensure Kitti can write the words when her verbalization isn’t there. We count money, review grocery circulars, read off artist and song names from the car radio display, and more. We use charades for action words. We have a steady rotation of board games, although Kitti tends to pick just the strategic games so she always is the winner. Kitti uses her artistic talent to draw pictures providing context in conversations. We sing. We sing A LOT, as music uses all portions of the brain.
Her visual memory is superior, and she relies on that often to communicate. Early on after hospital discharge, she wanted her hair trimmed (although not shaved bald like the previous 3 haircuts by her favorite neurosurgeon!). She couldn’t tell me the name of the salon where she used to go or where it was located. Instead, she went into Yelp on her phone, pulled up Hair Salons in Rockville, and proceeded to go through the photos of each salon listing until she recognized an interior she knew. She excitedly showed me her phone pointing to the pictures saying “here, here!”. She didn’t know the stylists’ name but was able to say “owner”. A week later, Kitti was back in the familiar salon chair with her stylist from before the accident, who does in fact own the salon.
In the Washington DC area, we are very fortunate to have a large number of resources for all types of brain injury. One of these is the Stroke Comeback Center, which offers communication groups with a “life participation” approach. She started in late summer, and it has quickly become a core community for her.
One of her groups this session is Podcasting. The members talk about a variety of topics and my understanding is they have about 14,000 subscribers. They graciously invited Kitti to share her story. This was literally Kitti’s first day of her 2nd term at SCC, her first time podcasting, and her first time at the satellite location.*
The second link is the podcast taped just 3 weeks later. You will hear the new confidence in her voice, as she deftly switches the discussion topic from football to Dancing with the Stars! In that short time, she has moved from single words to phrases.
Episode 68 - Welcome Kitti! from The Slow Road to Better on Apple Podcasts. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-slow-road-to-better/id1208357373?i=1000458720663
Episode 67 - From Gherkins to Gratitude Listen to The Slow Road to Better on Apple Podcasts. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-slow-road-to-better/id1208357373
*You may notice that every time she had to state a number, she runs through 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, etc. That relates to her “visual” abilities, in that she can “see” the numbers in her head – but being able to spontaneously say “5” doesn’t yet happen. So she runs through the numbers until she “lands visually” on the 5.
*For clarification– her B2 medical visa was approved, and we are now awaiting for notice if her extension request will be approved. That extension is the last remedy potentially available and would expire in early 2020. Congressman Don Beyer has been a tremendous help, and we continue to look for a long term solution at this time.
For some that haven’t heard Kitti speak in awhile, it may be an eye opener. Her gracious spirit continues to shine through her limited words, and her perseverance through adversity is inspiring.
For more information on Aphasia, please visit www.aphasia.org/.