Alan Gazlay always has a kind word or two; getting them out is another story. Every syllable is a labor. His mind is willing, but his voice is not.
“He had a stroke five years ago in July. It was a massive stroke and he’s paralyzed on his right side and he can’t speak. He has the aphasia,” says Crystal Gazlay, his wife.
A common after-effect of stroke, aphasia affects one in four survivors. It’s a language disorder that leaves them at a loss for words.
“Aphasia is a neurological disorder and it impacts the center of the brain that controls language,” says Mary Jo Haughey, a speech therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.
“I’ve seen patients that were non-verbal, speaking with one word, and then become fully fluent. But it does depend on the extent of damage on the brain,” says Haughey.
Some people may never fully regain their ability to speak; but it doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Therapists can teach them to use a computer device that simulates speech.
“It’s wonderful, it does so many things. His speech therapist is working with him to be able to learn to push a button of the picture and it will come up with different phrases,” says Gazlay.
“Sometimes that’s hard for people to accept in the beginning because they want the oral language. But I’ve just had a few patients that I’m using it with and it’s like I have this voice, I can speak,” says Haughey.
Technology coupled with desire, is giving voice to a silent population.