March 3, 2010

Word Count in the Land of Aphasia

The sun is shining; my husband is singing songs with made-up words. He and the dog are both sunning themselves in the strong light filtering through the windows in the dinning room. Hopefully, the snow will melt this week and spring will flirt its way into our lives.

It’s been a long winter and a long time since I’ve cataloged all the words Don is able to get out in a day. I do it with the changing of the seasons as a gauge of his aphasia and apraxia issues. For years the count was around 25 unprompted words per day. It’s not much higher now if you don’t count repetitive phrases and his songs without real words. He’s good at both in these days nearly 10 years post-stroke.

A couple of hours a day he sings his moods in syllables like: la-la-la, bom-bom, dedum-dedum, woo-woo-woo over and over again to melodies that are sometime recognizable but usually not. I call it his Celexa Happy Hour. Yesterday we ran errors plus got haircuts and stopped off for lunch and everything the hairdresser or waitress said was greeted with a song. A happy song that made us all laugh. As I often do at times like that I joked that I need to cut Don’s anti-depressants down. Not that I'd actually do it. Singing is so much better than crying and those of us in the aphasia community all know a few stroke survivors who can’t stop the inappropriate tears.

Here’s the list of Don’s unprompted vocabulary from yesterday:

Oh man! (Said 23 times; one of Don’s favorite phrases.)

Man! (3 times)

Willy Kins (5 times; a phrase he says often and is suppose to be Gee Willikers.)

Yes (51 times)

No (7 times)

Oops (3 times; another common word in Don’s vocabulary, often used to narrate other people’s mistakes.)

Ten minutes (1 time; he was trying to buy time before starting a sponge bath.)

Five minutes (1 time)

Oh Shit! (5 times; and it has several meanings from happy to outrage.)

Six, seven, eight, nine (Said 6 times. He counts the number of tries it takes him to get up from his wheelchair to transfer to the car, toilet, lift chair or the bed. One through five is often counted silently in his head.)

What? (23 times; occasionally said with humor when he gets caught doing something he shouldn't be doing, but usually it’s a hearing issue that makes him say it.)

Hamburger (1 time)

Come over (2 times; Don asks everyone he meets to come over---this time it was our insurance agent.)

Signs, signs, signs (2 times; theses words are used to with gestures to describe Don’s collection hanging on three walls in the garage.)

Teaks? (1 time. Suppose to be antiques. This is what Don says when he wants to know what channel Pawn Stars or American Pickers is on TV. His latest favorite shows.

Dog! (2 times. He wanted Levi to come help him get his socks off at bedtime.)

That’s it----one day’s worth of 'conversation' with a person with severe aphasia and apraxia. But those of us who live with someone with a language disorder know a word count only tells half the story. The other half is the gestures and endless games of ‘Twenty-One Questions’ we play. Enough already, I sometimes think at times like that, my brain hurts! But of course I don’t say that because some words are better left unsaid, especially on the Planet Aphasia. ©