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Recovering Speech

  • Author: Suzanne Wollman
  • Date Submitted: May 31, 2017

“Whitney has helped me so much. She makes me work for it, but it’s paid off. I’m grateful for her help.”

Speech therapy at CCH helps stroke survivor regain independence

It's important to know the risk factors and signs and symptoms of a stroke, but it's also helpful to know the rehabilitation options stroke survivors may need to fully recover. Suzanne Wollman is a shining example of how receiving the right care after a stroke can help a patient regain their independence.

On Saturday afternoon, Suzanne was watching after her youngest granddaughter, when her daughter, Rebecca, started to notice that something was different about her mom—Suzanne was having trouble moving and speaking with them. They immediately called 911. Suzanne was transported by ambulance to Campbell County Memorial Hospital, and then life-flighted to Wyoming Medical Center. There they learned that Suzanne suffered a left-hemisphere stroke—the side of the brain that controls the ability to speak and understand language for most people.

When Suzanne was discharged from the hospital, her doctor suggested that she spend a few weeks in Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Casper recovering from her stroke. While she was there, she and her husband, Craig, realized that she needed additional help recovering, especially with her speech. They began by searching the internet and were pleasantly surprised to learn that there was a speech and language therapist right in Gillette.

“Before I started therapy, I couldn’t even say, ‘cup of coffee,’” says Suzanne. “I could picture it in my mind, but I couldn’t say it. The words just wouldn’t come out right.”

When you don’t have a voice, you feel isolated

Whitney White, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Therapist at Campbell County Health Rehabilitation ServicesAccording to Whitney White, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech, and Language Therapist at Campbell County Health Rehabilitation Services, Suzanne was experiencing aphasia and apraxia as a result of her stroke.

“Suzanne had a double whammy,” says Whitney. “People who have aphasia may have difficulty speaking and finding the ‘right’ words to complete their thoughts. With apraxia, a person finds it hard to move their mouth and tongue to speak. Suzanne could picture what she wanted to say, but she couldn’t find the right words, or physically say them.”

According to the Stroke Association, it’s estimated that approximately one-third of people will experience some level of communication difficulties after a stroke. A person’s ability to communicate includes speaking, understanding what others are saying, reading, writing, and using numbers. Difficulties with communication can make it harder for these individuals to get information, as well as impact their social relationships, independence, and self-confidence.

Suzanne started therapy with Whitney before Christmas 2016—attending three, 60-minute sessions each week. The sessions are filled with drills to help the patient retrain their word retrieval. These drills may consist of the therapist starting a sentence with a prompt that the patient will fill in the blanks, or even a question for the patient to solve. For example:

  • Prompt: “If the kitchen timer goes off, then…” says Whitney.
  • Answer: “It means the food is done,” replies Suzanne.
  • Question: “Pete is taller than Dave but shorter than Chuck. Who is the tallest?” asks Whitney.
  • Response: “Chuck,” replies Suzanne.

After each session, Whitney sent Suzanne home with tools and worksheets to practice with before she returned for her next session. According to Whitney, Suzanne has responded incredibly to her therapy—she’s attending therapy once a week now, and is finding her words with greater ease. Suzanne returned to her job at Joy Global in February 2017, and she’s even back to cooking for her family, something she enjoyed immensely before her stroke.

“She’s highly motivated and does a lot of work at home to improve her speech, which proves if you put in the effort you will see the results,” says Whitney.

Suzanne describes her experience with Whitney as excellent. “Whitney has helped me so much. She makes me work for it, but it’s paid off. I’m grateful for her help,” says Suzanne.

To learn more about the Speech Therapy services available at Campbell County Health, visit www.cchwyo.org/speech or call 307-688-8000. A physician referral is recommended to receive rehabilitation care such as speech therapy.

Warning signs of a stroke

A stroke is caused by an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. Knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke is essential, and can help to save a life. The acronym BE FAST is a great way to help you quickly recognize common signs of a stroke:

  • B – BALANCE: Is the person suffering from a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
  • E – EYES: Do they have sudden double vision, or loss of vision in one or both eyes?
  • F – FACE: Is one side of their face drooping?
  • A – ARMS: Can they keep their arms up, or does one arm drift down?
  • S – SPEECH: Do they suddenly have difficulty speaking or is their speech slurred or strange?
  • T – TIME: If they have any one of these signs, it's time to call 9-1-1 immediately.

Learn more at www.cchwyo.org/stroke, and click here to see a flyer.