Love, Resilience and Aphasia
Cecelia endured two strokes in a year’s time. Her strokes were life-changing events. She now uses a manual wheelchair for mobility and previously attended regular speech therapy sessions to overcome the challenges presented by aphasia as a result of her second stroke.
An Unmistakable and Unmatched Zest for Life
As you might imagine, Cecelia faces many challenges on a daily basis that most able-bodied folks don’t give a second thought to. Faced with dramatic life changes, many people may begin feeling sorry for themselves, allowing their new circumstances to dampen their spirits. Cecelia has taken the opposite approach. During our interview, I couldn’t help but be captivated by our conversation which ranged from family and early life experiences to favorite hobbies and pastimes. It certainly didn’t take me long to notice that she was brimming with positivity and had a zest for life that was extremely evident and downright contagious.
Sharing Her Gifts with Others
Cecelia made a career out of using her personal gifts to enrich the lives of others. Cecelia attended Miss Hickey’s Secretarial School. Cecelia’s first adult job was secretary to the Director of Nursing at St. John’s Hospital. When asked, “What was the best part of this position”, she answered by recounting how much she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about different medical concepts and procedures.
I can’t help but to think Cecelia gave more than she got from this position. Hospitals are places where warmth and a positive attitude can make a tremendous impact on the lives of many. I am certain Cecelia’s wonderfully contagious attitude made her a beloved and treasured member of the St. John’s family.
As a paraprofessional, Cecelia was hired by a school district to be an aid to a student with physical challenges . It was Cecelia’s job to help the student overcome her physical difficulties and prosper as much as possible during the school day. Cecelia’s face completely lit up to the point of glowing as she reminisced about the fond memories she had made while working with this young woman, who now had to be close to 18 or 20 years of age. She remembered the young lady was smart as a whip. She pleasantly took a stroll down memory lane recalling that writing with a pen and paper was initially quite a challenge for her student, however after much practice, her handwriting improved tremendously. Cecelia also eagerly told me that when they first met, the young lady had difficulty walking, but after undergoing a surgery on her legs she was able to get around with the use of a walker. To see Cecelia clearly exude a great deal of joy as she talked about this time in her life was a heartwarming experience that personally impacted me a great deal.
Vitality to Spare
When I asked Cecelia about her hobbies and pastimes I was blown away by her responses. It was extremely evident Cecelia has a tremendous amount of vitality and takes every opportunity to get the most joy out of life.
Cecelia and her daughter Jill are extremely close. I had the pleasure of meeting Jill during our interview. The strength of their bond was immediately evident. The pair are camping enthusiasts. They embarked on trips around the Midwest numerous times for campouts. And, did I mention, Cecelia was in her 70s when these interstate camping adventures took place. How many folks do you know that would go on interstate camping trips in their 70s? My guess is very few, (If any).
While we chatted I learned she was once an avid gardener and a pillar of her book club. Her daughter mentioned she conquered a book which was over 800 pages in length. Unfortunately, these hobbies are no longer accessible to Cecelia since her two strokes have limited the movement on the left side of her body. Additionally, she now deals with aphasia which makes reading nearly impossible.
By now, I had realized Cecelia was going to get the most out of life no matter what. So, I asked what kind of activities she currently enjoys. She told me she enjoys watching a good movie every now and again, an occasional game of bingo, exploring the web on her tablet and most especially visiting with her family.
Her daughter, Jill visits nearly every day. She also has been blessed with two grandchildren and a pair of great-grandchildren. Both her grandchildren and great-grandchildren regularly visit. At two and four years of age, I can imagine, her great-grandchildren steal the show when they come for a visit.
Cecelia’s Experiences with Speech Therapy
When Cecelia began working with a Speech Pathologist, eating was a challenge. The second stroke severely affected the left side of her body. This resulted in the left side of her mouth lagging behind the right side. Cecelia was originally unaware that the left side of her mouth was giving her trouble. The Speech Pathologist placed a mirror in front of her while she ate. This helped Cecelia to visualize her difficulties and make a conscious effort to overcome her difficulties. Through Cecelia’s hard work, enjoying a meal is now much more manageable.
Words that begin with a L were also a challenge. To overcome this symptom of aphasia, the Speech Pathologist gave Cecelia the task of reciting a handful of carefully chosen tongue twisters while watching herself in the mirror. It may have taken some effort, but she is now able to belt out her L’s, no problem.
I am truly grateful Cecelia has allowed me to share her story. Our time together is an experience that has given me great joy. Interviewing someone that has such a wonderful outlook on life helps me realize exactly how people who have suffered a stroke work through the process of developing a more fulfilling life.
Written by Tom Jenkins, B.S., Business Administration/Marketing, Principal of Creative Content Marketing