A stroke can affect an individual in many ways, from paralysis of one side of the body to impaired vision and difficulty swallowing. For stroke survivor John Norcross, aphasia, an impairment of language affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write, has been the biggest challenge and motivator. While aphasia does not hinder the individual’s intelligence or hearing, it is often misunderstood by individuals who have not experienced it.
On December 11, 2015, John had surgery to unblock a corroded artery following a stroke on November 23. Things quickly began to unravel as he experienced a second stroke during the operation. In recovery, John knew something was not right, but couldn’t communicate it.
“I remember the last word I said, ‘ugh.’ I was thinking this is not good,” said Norcross.
Confused and frustrated, John could not speak, and because the left side of his brain was being affected during the stroke, his dominant right side was not functioning for him to use hand gestures. Luckily, a nurse recognized he needed to be irrigated immediately due to a puncture in his bladder.
On December 16, 2015, John began his rehabilitation journey at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Toms River. Through intense physical, occupational and speech therapy, John was able to find his voice and practiced his speech therapy by singing Christmas carols to patients, even inspiring another aphasia patient to join in with him. Eight days after arriving at the hospital; John was strong enough to return home in time to spend Christmas Eve with family and friends. Before leaving John was given the opportunity to speak with a younger stroke patient across the hall needing encouragement. It was at that moment he knew he wanted to help other people through stroke and aphasia awareness.
“I feel I had a stroke for a reason and that reason is so I can help others through speaking despite my aphasia,” said John. “I would have never spoken in front of people before, but I spoke in front of 60 people just last month at HealthSouth Toms River.”
John now looks forward to sharing his experience with stroke and aphasia wherever he gets the opportunity and being at peace through work with his furniture, roses and some 30,000 bees, activities he feels fortunate to be able to do thanks to the rehabilitation he received at HealthSouth Toms River.
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