Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A different Jan? The same Jan?

After the rupture of her aneurysm, Jan became a different person. After her aneurysm ruptured Jan is still the same person. Who really is Jan?

Jan is both.

Deep down, she still is the same girl with an iron determination to do her best and some more in every task she takes on. She is the artistic and creative spirit many came to know. She is the musician that can hear when someone among dozens has gone out of tune or out of step with a song. She is the same passionate and sensitive woman, also the one who will not put up with anybody's nonsense with a big smile. Deep down, Jan is the same; the same Jan still lives in her body.

Closer to the surface, where we get to interact with Jan's feelings, ideas and her physical presence, Jan is not the same.

Aphasia is more than having some broken links that make more difficult to go between ideas and words. She says that when we talk, my brain connects almost effortlessly my ideas with the choice of the right words and then tells the muscles in my mouth and throat how to make the sounds to produce the words. Speaking has always been so easy for me that I never stopped to consider how much it takes to do it.

For her, the task is a lot harder; she formulates her ideas just like me, but then, the speech program in her brain goes frantically running through all the files in her head, looking for the right word, sometimes she can't find the word; sometimes when she can, her brain has trouble sending the orders to the muscles in her mouth how to form the sounds to produce the words.
So she will often stutter sounds without meaning, even though the word is clear in her mind, or in her effort to say what she has in mind, she will use words that are not the ones she wanted to use... so, instead of saying, "wait, give me a minute", she may say "shut up, go away".

The message is the same, but the listener will likely react in a different way. This is what I often do.

Then, aphasia is also broken intake of information. It takes more time for her to understand completely what is being said to her. Oftentimes she asks for the message to be repeated. This is an essential need for her to really get what people say.

But most people can't understand that when talking to her. Most people just go on at the same speed they use with others, and when asked to repeat, they feel frustrated. She, then, feels sad and then frustrated because of her limitations.

Technically, that is aphasia. She has aphasia and I live with aphasia. Communication, to say the least, has an added layer of complexity, tension and pain.

However, as CS Lewis hinted "the pain now, is part of the happiness then" So, we both continue holding on to the hope that one day the Lord will restore her.


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