Rochelle Anderson - Stroke and Aphasia in the Time of COVID-19
After Rochelle’s stroke, she had to manage her day-to-day with aphasia. Now, she shares her experience as a stroke survivor during the pandemic. She writes in honor of World Stroke Day.
In 2007, I had a stroke and my brain was hurting. A blood clot traveled from my leg through a hole in my heart into the left side of my brain. I have had aphasia and right sided weakness since. Most people don’t know that aphasia means difficulty understanding and expressing spoken and written language. I had trouble using the right side of my body, understanding what people were saying, and much trouble communicating and reading. After my stroke, I spent almost 2 months in the hospital, and received intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy, which helped me make great progress the first few years after my stroke.
Before my stroke, I worked during the day and took care of my children at night. I couldn’t work anymore after my stroke because I couldn’t read and talk well enough. For a while even walking was very hard. If I just sat at home and watched TV by myself and played with my dog, I would never get better. So I decided to improve my life by attending class at a local school district, meeting with others suffering from aphasia, going to movies, having lunch with friends, and walking. My life was actually becoming ok by 2019.
But all of a sudden in 2020, the coronavirus came and life has gotten very hard for me. I was stuck back in my house with very little to do, except playing with my new poodle puppy. It was all facemasks, bleach and hand sanitizing. I couldn’t see my 2 ½ year old granddaughter or talk to my neighbors. My life was empty again and I couldn’t figure out what to do.
Life changed again as I adjusted to this new reality. My teacher started having class with Zoom, aphasia groups meet on Zoom, and I have Zoom talks every week with several groups of friends. The best things that help me get better are reading books on Kindle and using dictation to email and write stories.
Other things have also changed. My husband and I are worried about money and his job. We have started to eat spaghetti, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but NO ramen. It seems like we are back in college and law school.
In 2020, the whole United States is entering a depression. I talk to my Mom twice daily because she is 99 years old and stuck in her apartment in a senior building. She lived through the Great Depression, and now might be experiencing another one. My mother acquired polio when she was 3 years old. Polio was a virus, and scientists developed a vaccine that has nearly eliminated polio. Now coronavirus itself is killing people and making them sick and scientists are working on a vaccine.
I am still concerned about coronavirus, but at least this summer I can enjoy my favorite place, which is the North Shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota. I will do day trips canoeing into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Stroke and aphasia in the time of the virus is hard but with my husband and my friends I have survived. Sometimes when I think of my stroke and living with COVID19, it feels like 200 years ago when people were more isolated. But now I have a computer, cell phone, Kindle, dictation, Amazon, Zoom, and streaming movies at home. So maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is, but of course I wish I never had a stroke.