Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Speech

In 2002 I had a severe brain bleed that left me in a coma. Five weeks later I opened my eyes. I couldn't talk or move. I was labeled PVS (Persistent Vegetative State) and it was left at that. Nobody kept track of anything. I now talk. When did that happen? Was it now or 3 years ago?

I will address talking.

Before talking was breathing. I had to breathe on my own in order to talk. I'm not talking about just the tube in my throat. I was intubated before that. The diagram shows why I couldn't speak at that time. It went into my vocal cords. A second surgery was performed after to put the hole in my neck. I still couldn't talk. This may have to do with weakness and not that I was on a ventilator.

I say weakness prevented me from talking because when I was off the ventilator, I could only make sound if the hole in my trache tube (the tube in my neck) was plugged. As I developed lung strength, I did not need this plugging of the hole. "My Hole" covers the trache tube and even has pictures of it.

My first sounds were vowel sounds. Later, maybe a month or so, I added consonant sounds. I remember 'M' which may have been the first consonant. My first word was "mom." This was still in my first year after the bleed. I had kept my work insurance under a special ruling called COBRA. At that time, insurances had caps. I kept it until I reached the cap. I had speech therapy under this insurance. I did not get speech again like that when I switched to the government program.

I had been using a communication board. Here is one being used:

At first, I would blink "yes/no" for letters pointed at. As I got movement in my arm, I touched the letter I wanted. When I started vocalizing, I'd say the letter sound as I touched it. As I got better at saying a word, I only needed to touch the first few letters.

I then had to leave that hospital. Insurances had caps at that time and I had reached mine. I did not let the new place use the communication board. This is the big environmental change I will talk about. I forced myself to use spoken words. (Education is familiar with this technique.) It was common for me to say a word over and over until it was clear and could be understood.

My bleed was in 2002 and by 2006 I was using single words and short strings of words to answer questions. I still did not talk on the phone. Talking on the phone didn't happen until after 2009. (I did say "yes" and "no" on the phone to some family, but they knew I couldn't converse.) 2009 is when an article I wrote for Stroke Connection Magazine was published,  p.8  They could probably tell something unusual was happening. I use this as a marking point.

Fully speaking, the way I do now, is more recent. By 2011, someone came to video me speaking. I published something myself in 2014:  

Remember that communication board I talked about in the beginning? What I am doing now is similar. I find a letter on an electronic communication board...the computer keyboard. I touch the letter and press down. I just have the extra cognition to formulate sentences and put them together in a story that makes sense. I don't have a problem with my cognition, just my speech.
(Not all brain injuries are the same. Some could have cognitive impairment. Mine didn't.)


  1. Made device for reading human thoughts / human mind reading machine / Brain Computer Interface. Discovery is not published. I invite partnership. About the problem look : Jack Gallant, Tom Mitchell and Marcel Just; John - Dylan Haynes, human mind reading machine etc. Russia.

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