Then there was the loss of emotional display within her speech. When we talk, our speech intonation rises and falls, and voice tone shifts with emotional content. For Ann, immediately after her stroke, this display of emotion within speech was gone. I found this one of the most devastating outcomes. He voice was robotic and flat. There was no liveliness, no sense of affect. It was like listening to an automated recording. The human part of her voice was missing. She would report being angry or frightened, but her voice would not display anything indicating this affect.
A final oddity for this discussion was the loss of her ability to do long division. The other mathematical operations remained intact.
Recovery from a stroke is a long, frustrating and grueling process. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are crucial. Medical and rehabilitative advances are being made all the time. My wife gradually relearned how to walk, and now walks on her own with a brace and uses a cane. Sadly, her left arm and hand never regained much in the way of functioning, although she is able to bend her arm and slightly move her fingers. On a very positive note for me, her voice regained its ability to express emotional inflections.
At the time of her stroke, my wife was one of the country’s leading early childhood exceptional education experts. She was truly a rock star within this domain. One thing that surprised all of Ann’s physicians and therapists was her spontaneous ability to begin using special education strategies normally taught to kids with cognitive and language delays or learning disabilities. She would routinely implement certain interventions when faced with the relearning of certain perceptual and cognitive tasks. For instance, once Ann became aware of her left neglect, she prompted herself to examine all aspects of her environment in trying to perform a task. The result was a significant improvement in this area and a virtual elimination of this problem. In a similar manner, she was able to address her long division issue – at least to some extent. Truth be known, however, math was never her strong suite. So, I am not exactly sure what role the stroke played in this disability.
My wife loved being a researcher, a professor, and an administrator. It soon became clear to both of us, however, that the rigors and demands of being an academic would be too much for her to resume. So, after much weighing of options, she decided to retire.
Unfortunately, the horrors weren’t over.