Pen in hand, released to the floor; chicken scratch.
“I. . . I. . . I. . ,” sputtered Vera, summoning strength from the tips of her toes and fingers, as they squeezed the foot and armrest of her wheelchair. A polite and apologetic smile took backstage. Vera forced her thoughts and intentions out of her eyes to the kind woman sitting across from her, giving her all.
“It’s okay, I know you’re in there. I know you’re having a hard time getting your words out. I’ll try to ask questions so you can nod yes or no.”
Vera settled and wiped a tear. She nodded yes.
Tessa breathed in, out, and laid her clipboard aside. This occupational therapy evaluation won’t be as easy as checking the boxes. None are. She quickly regrouped. “Is it okay with you if I ask your husband about things that are important to you so I can make our therapy sessions as meaningful as possible?”
Vera shook her head no. Then her eyes opened widely, she reached for Tessa’s hand and nodded yes. “Yah. . . no. . . . yes.” Eyebrows burrowed in at the sides and raised in the center, she looked pleadingly at Tessa, as if to say, “I can’t even control my yes and no answers!”
It was a left cerebral infarction with expressive aphasia. Tessa understood Vera’s condition from the textbook. Vera’s stroke spared her ability to understand language, but blocked her ability to speak–and to write. Now it was time to understand it from the eyes of a dear woman looking pleadingly to her for help.
Vera understood her condition from the textbook as well. Forty-five years a speech-language pathologist, now it was her time to understand it from the inside, reaching out.
Joan T Warren