Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Precious words

After learning to communicate again, stroke survivor an inspiration to others

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EMILY CUMMING / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sandra Rubin, who suffered a stroke in 2012, sits in her kitchen.

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EMILY CUMMING / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Sandra Rubin, who suffered a stroke in 2012, sits in her kitchen.

Sandra Rubin is chatty and quick to smile, but speaks slowly and deliberately, carefully choosing each word.

Two years ago, she was an active, independent senior, managing a small business and volunteering with several organizations. But on the morning of May 14, 2012, when Rubin's husband, Hal, asked her a question, the only response she could muster was "10, 10, 10."

Rubin, 76, had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.

"I could see what I wanted to say, but it wouldn't come out," she says.

As a result, Rubin lost the ability to communicate and developed two speech disorders: aphasia, a language problem, and apraxia, a speech problem.

"An individual with aphasia knows what they want to say, but they just can't come up with the word in that moment," says Caitlin Buchel, Rubin's speech therapist. "It can be immensely frustrating, and even more frustrating because they worry that people will then think that there is no one home."

However, Buchel stresses that "having difficulty with speech and language, such as aphasia and apraxia, does not affect intelligence."

Rubin initially didn't tell anyone other than friends and family about her stroke out of fear of being judged. She's since learned that when she explained her condition, members of the public were more patient.

Rubin spent more than two months in hospital. In the beginning, she was unable to communicate at all. During occupational therapy sessions, she had to begin with the basics, reviewing the alphabet and relearning how to count.

"I was crying and I was frustrated. I didn't think I was ever going to talk again," she says. "I felt like I was in kindergarten."

The lack of communication can feel isolating, Buchel says.

"The part about communication I think we forget is just how important it is to communicate our thoughts and our feelings and by doing so, that allows us to create and maintain relationships," she says.

Rubin is back to living a active life, volunteering, driving and running a small business. She now speaks about her experience to inspire other stroke survivors. "If I can do it, then so can you."

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2014 D16

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