03 May 2010

I Speak Aphasic . . . En Français!

I thought I had written a blog post many months ago about meeting a man at church who has aphasia, but I can't seem to locate it.  Hmm, maybe I made a comment about it on my facebook status once.

Anyway, I know I've blogged before about thinking I have aphasia . . . you remember . . . when I asked the woman in the toll booth for the recipe instead of the receipt.  Sure you remember.  You laughed heartily at my expense.

But that old post is not the point.

When I worked at Temple Hospital in Philadelphia, I had a colleague, KBM, who was fluent in French and English, and probably several other languages as well.  One day were working together on the Neurology service (majority of our patients had suffered from strokes) . . . I don't remember all the details (oui, je sais!  Ce matin tu a mangé un pomme!  Hold on, I'm getting to the point!) but we must have had a patient with aphasia. The patient must have made a demand for something, I was clueless, but K. went straight for the supply room and came back with whatever it was.  I was dumbfounded.  "How did you do that??" I asked.  "I speak aphasic.  I'm going to have t-shirts made."

I've always loved that line.

And now, I am officially a member of the club.  And I think mine should have a little extra razzle-dazzle on it, because I now speak French aphasic!  That's right, ladies and gents, madames et monsieurs! 

So back to my opening thought about the guy at church with aphasia.  Some months back, pretty sure it was within a few months of arriving here, a man approached me on a Sunday morning and said a whole bunch of words at me.  I noticed how he slightly slurred his words as a result of not moving his mouth in such a way as to articulate sufficiently.  And just the way he carried himself made me think that he might have had a stroke some time in his past.  He spoke at me again, and while I couldn't understand any of the French he said (in part from my lack of vocabulary in part from the aphasia -- okay, maybe it's really dysarthria, but you non-therapists out there really don't know the difference) it really threw me off!  I realized then what a great feat I'm in the middle of!  Not only do I have to try to treat patients in French and Hausa (which I haven't even thought about learning yet), but what about the ones I come across that have aphasia or dysarthria or . . . the thought was very overwhelming!

But a few Sundays ago, this same man approached me in the kitchen (the church that shares our school building).  "Wjalk jsdfai aklsjdfj aasjf asljdfa kjd?" He said.  "Pardonne?" I asked.  "Wjalk jsdfai aklsjdfj aasjf asljdfa kjd?" He repeated.  "Vous voudriez du café, monsieur?"  ("Would you like some coffee, sir?")  He nodded, very pleased that I understood.  I made him a cup of coffee.  After he left the kitchen it occurred to me: that man speaks only French . . . and he has aphasia . . . and I understood him!  VICTORY!!!

This may not seem like much to you, but after my first day back to class after a two week vacances, being slapped in the face with all the grammar I've forgotten, yeah, my ego needs a little boost.

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