The Day My Life Changed

by

Harry Wheat

 

Presented June 18, 2015 at the stroke support group meeting.

 

My name is Harry Wheat. I had a hemorrhagic stroke on June 17, 2014.  I have aphasia.

Prior to the stroke,  life was good. I owned a computer company called A Plus Computers and a cell phone company called Cell Phone Medic.  I have been in computer work for thirty years.    I started my company in 1991 and it was the only company on the coast that did computer work.   It was a great company. I was so busy with work that I had not taken a vacation in 3 years.  I was very driven.

I was also a member of a fishing team with my good friends, Ben and Tearl.  The team was named the Reel Team. We went fishing several times a week.   We enjoyed the fellowship and snacks even if we didn’t catch any fish.

When the stroke happened, I was working early in the morning at the kitchen table.  I fell out of my chair and my wife called Mobile Medic.

 I couldn’t speak or even move. I was only able to grunt.

 I didn’t know that I had a stroke.  I was able to show a response about 2 weeks later in the form of eye gaze and grunting. I was in ICU for at least 2 weeks and in the hospital for a good 2 months. I thought I was gone.  I couldn’t talk or move my right leg and arm.  I couldn’t feel the right side of my face. I had tubes in my arms and my nose.  I felt like my world had ended. I couldn’t do anything.   I couldn’t talk or walk.  I had no words to say. I couldn’t even say my wife's name.  I called her “wife”.   I had never heard the word aphasia.

I was in the hospital for 2 months for rehab and continued outpatient rehab for a year.  I received physical, occupational and speech therapy.

When I went home, I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t communicate; it was a guessing game with all my family and friends.  One time I said I needed my boat and nobody understood what I meant.  I finally said “I’ll show you”.   I went to the bedroom and pointed to the dresser drawer.  It turned out it was my socks I needed, not my boat.

I have come a long way.  I’m not completely dependent on the wheelchair.  I often use  a cane to get around. I can drive short distances.   I can use my cell phone and my computer. I can stay by myself and take myself to the bathroom without help.  I can fix a simple meal.  I still have trouble finding the words I want to say even though my thoughts are in my head.  I am as intelligent as before but I have trouble communicating that intelligence.

It has been a long road and I still have a way to go.  I still get frustrated at times but I know there are others who are worse off than me. I am determined to get better so I push myself each day to make small gains.  I have a lot of faith and support from my family and friends.  Without God I would not have made it this far.  I have a good attitude.  I see a lot of humor in my aphasia.

What I would offer someone else is don’t give up.  Keep working hard.  Everyone can get better if they keep working at it. Take time to laugh about things that don’t go right.  Be thankful for life.

I have recently developed a website that focuses on stroke rehab in the home. It is called Stroke Network. Although I have use of only one hand and arm to use on my computer, I am very determined. The website targets word retrieval and memory.  I hope it will help others recover from aphasia like I have.