Updated 05/07/2010 05:57 PM
Surviving stroke, one word at a time
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Learning a new language can take years to perfect, but what about relearning your own?
For stroke survivors, communicating coherently sometimes never fully comes back.
"You’ve got to keep working. You’ve got to keep working. Two years and four months and I’m still at it," survivor David Little said.
Two years and four months after his stroke, Little has got a lot to say.
But the ability to say words like "thoracic surgeon" again, was something he never thought he'd do.
"I was embarrassed, but I thought there's no way I can go back and be a lawyer because if you talk to a jury like that or a witness --there's no way," he said.
Little is a lawyer who mainly does medical malpractice and defense. Beyond that, he's a marine, husband and a father of four. He had a stroke at the age of 40, leaving him basically paralyzed on the right side and unable to talk.
"We made it through the deployment and got through that. It was tough but we made it. Then, this happened at eight months pregnant," Little said.
He was back from Iraq with a baby on the way. He never thought he'd be the one in his family that would need caring for.
"It was hard for me, because I was the source of all their struggle."
Little's come back in a big way, and he said he owes a lot of that to Shilpa Shamapant.
"They have their whole life ahead of them. You can't just give them basic therapy and tell them they're done," Shamapant said.
Shamapant is the co-founder of Austin Speech Labs, a nonprofit speech therapy center started in September 2008. She says stroke patients need intensive therapy in speech and cognitive rehabilitation, beyond what's provided at the hospital.
She originally thought her client base would be the elderly, but soon after starting the center, she found out it was a different story.
"Stroke redefined itself completely. Our youngest [patient] is 26-years-old. Our majority are between the 30-50 age range," Shamapant said.
And her patients are grateful for her service.
"I don't know how they changed me. I remember the fog lifted while I was here. I don't know why. I'm grateful, but I don't know why," Little said.
Little said his gratitude grows as he continues to mold more sentences together.
His biggest gratitude toward Austin Speech Labs is being able to communicate with his kids.
"I don't know what their lives are going to be like, when their 20, 30 or 40, but I hope when they come up against an obstacle I hope that they see my progress through this and say, 'well you know, I know how to do it right.' I hope they see that," Little said.