I was working as a paramedic in Long Island and preparing to go to medical school. My father has a condition called Mitral Valve Prolapse, which resulted in him having a surgical procedure. Because the condition is hereditary, I opted to have a voluntary surgical procedure on my heart to preserve my overall health.
95 percent of patients who go through this treatment (possibly less) have a uncomplicated recovery. However, in my case it resulted in a stroke.
Everybody went to the hospital to visit me.
At first I was anxious, would I ever come out of this? Was this my life now? I was was nervous that I could no longer pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.
But then, I found the strength to keep going.
I decided that I had no choice but to get better.
In the year 2007, the only word I was able to speak was “Michael.” I have no idea why this word was exclusive to my brain.
A lot of people who have aphasia can only communicate in one word. This is relatively common. It’s ironic that I was diagnosed with this condition, considering that I had studied it myself as a paramedic.
It has been nine years since my surgery and I am still working diligently to regain fluid speech. I attend O.T. and P.T. four days a week and I am still hopeful that I can pursue my previous goal of attending medical school.
In my spare time, I volunteer and visit stroke patients in hospital settings and disability sports groups to share my story with them.
Everybody is different. Diagnoses are different.
Some people have Global Aphasia – this means that they will never talk again. They can understand everything that you’re saying but they cannot respond.
Others have the type of Aphasia where they are talking and believe that they are making sense but others cannot understand what they’re saying. This is called Wernicke’s Aphasia (receptive)
Everybody’s different and has their own path. I encourage you to find yours.
Avi Golden is a practicing EMT and former Critical Care and Flight Paramedic with North-Shore LIJ and NY Presbyterian EMS. Avi holds a Bachelors of Science in Biology and has extensive experience as a practicing paramedic both in the US and with Magen Adom David in Israel. After experiencing a stroke in 2007 and experiencing resulting aphasia, Avi now educates the medical and lay community and advocates for aphasia awareness.