NE Oklahoma Man Shares Story of Recovery as part of Aphasia Awareness Month
“Flashlight, this is a flashlight it shines in the dark.”
Flashlight, a word Jerry Killingsworth now knows well, but after a stroke in October, he couldn’t put the object into words.
“My functions were real good. I could push, pull on the doctors, anything. Standup, walk around, do anything except talk, and I could not talk, I didn’t know anything. Basically I knew my name and where i lived and that was about it,” he says.
Jerry suffers from aphasia, a language impairment most commonly caused after a stroke, and the disorder is more common than you may think.
“It occurs in strokes, statistics say up to forty percent of all patients who enter an acute care hospital will leave with a diagnosis of aphasia,” says Speech Language Pathologist Dr. Michelle Christman.
Jerry spent a couple months in speech therapy at Integris Baptist Regional Health Center in Miami with Dr. Christman slowly improving, identifying objects off flashcards and turning in journal entries as homework.
He has since graduated therapy but still has his moments.
“See that’s a tough one there, it’s a ummm…”
Jerry says it’s easy to get discouraged. He’s still not 100%, but he’s getting better little by little every day.”
“I still can get towns mixed up or little things like that. Or you know some things. But I don’t know that, you know when I left here I didn’t know how far I would ever go.”
His wife Gloria says his persistence to get better made all the difference.
“He never gave up. He was always up. he only got depressed a couple of times you know and that’s remarkable considering that this is a daily struggle, you know, when you’re going from not being able to speak at all to bringing back your language skills. You know, I’m very proud of what he did,” she says.
It is very common for people with aphasia to get depressed, but doctors say having a support system and lots of encouragement can help patients regain their independence.