Saturday, June 14, 2014


I know that some people who have aphasia find singing very helpful. For me, singing is more frustrating than speaking, especially now.

For instance, the other day I tried to sing the chorus of Yankee Doodle. This is what came out of my mouth:

Yankee doodle wake it up,
Yankee doodle dandy
Mind ta ta ta ta ta ta
And let the girl be handy.

Just so you know, I sang this song before the stroke with my kids, and I have sung it approximately 63 times since the stroke. I have looked at the printed lyrics several times since the stroke. But each time I sing it, different words come out. (Here are the real words.) It's not a big deal except in church, where I worry about my mouth saying surprising things in a hymn.

I have some guesses about why singing is harder than speaking for me. I still have mild aphasia, but I think the motor control issues I have--such as apraxia and dysarthria--come to the forefront when I sing. Sometimes if I slow the tempo down--way down--and have the lyrics front of me, I can get through it without making hash out of the words.

But sometimes I think this what is really going on: I have gremlins in my mouth. Often, they're sleeping. But they like music, and when I start to sing, the gremlins wake up and dance in my mouth.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Just Like It Sounds

I have been driving into Boston once a week and volunteering at the rehab hospital. When I'm done for the day, I have to stop in the lobby and tell the guard my name so that he can validate my parking ticket.

"Carpenter. Just like it sounds," I tell him.

He starts to the write down the name. "C-A-R--?" he says, with a question mark in his voice. He assumes I will rattle off the rest of the the letters in my last name.

I hesitate. "T," I say, "I mean, "P--" My mouth gropes for the next letters. I want to say "T," but I have a feeling that I'm mixing up letters and sounds. After what seems like a long time, I tell the guard,

"I can't say it. I have aphasia," I say.

He looks a little bit embarrassed that he had asked me. "Don't worry,"  he says, "that's good enough," and stamps my ticket.

I can easily write down my name on paper. And if I had an unusual name, I would probably tried harder to work on spelling out loud. But stroke survivors have to chose their battles, or at least, prioritize. So I read aloud to my daughter; I work on my walking; I usually make dinner--these things (and many others) are really important to me. But for now, being able to spell "carpenter" out loud is still way down the list.