Aphasia Finally Takes a Back Seat
My husband was flabbergasted when I started to talk. You see, it had been almost two years since my stroke.
My Husband Says I Can’t Take Morphine
It was a beautiful, sunny day when I decided to go out for a jog. I had almost hit my stride that afternoon when suddenly I jogged through rough, disintegrating pavement. I tried to right myself but fell to the ground with an agonizing “thud.” I didn’t think anything was wrong. I stood up unsteadily and noticed that my right elbow wouldn’t bend. Uh oh. I had dislocated it. I began walking back home when I realized that I had my phone. I called and asked my husband if he could take me to the hospital.
When we arrived for treatment, he took care of the paperwork and then they hurried me into the Emergency Room. That’s when things went wonky. I received a shot of morphine and suddenly my whole world went right! I could speak again. The words I wanted to say rolled out of my mouth!
Why is that important? I had expressive aphasia. I could understand everything that was said to me. My mind immediately decided what I should reply. The problem was that those words wouldn’t come out of my mouth.
Sometimes I could say something, but it was conversational in nature. I could talk at a very high level to greet someone, talking about what they wore and what the day looked like. If the conversation went deeper and we talked about the details associated with getting a job done well, I froze up. The telephone was particularly bad for me. How do you find a job nowadays? It usually starts with a phone interview. Unfortunately for me, I froze up every time I tried to speak to interviewers.
Ok. I admit that I only had two interviews because it was clear that I couldn’t get past the introduction in the first one. The second interview lasted for a few questions. Then I froze up. I had to find a better way to connect with people.
It was like I had two people talking in my head at the same time. I first had all the thoughts that I wanted to get out of my head. The second was a string of much simpler terms that I mostly could say, but they meant something different from what I wanted to convey.
When the morphine wore off, so did my ability to talk. Aphasia was back in full swing. My husband insisted that I could not take morphine again so I could talk. While I agreed with him, I did want to find a way to talk normally again.
Neurofeedback to the Rescue
I started low-level light therapy and had some success. But I still struggled with words. Three-and-a-half years after my stroke, a miracle happened. Dr. Fuller told me about Micro Current Neurofeedback and invited me to investigate IASIS Technologies to learn more about the technology. What I read sounded fantastic.
Apparently, MCN can help with many of the symptoms related to ADD/ADHD, addiction, anxiety, autism, dementia, depression, stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder, and much more. Most exciting was reading that MCN has been effective in helping mild/moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) over eighty-five percent of the time, and the results are sustainable. In addition to the website, I read several books and did other online research on neurofeedback, and its predecessor, biofeedback.
“All the aforementioned conditions have a common denominator: The brain is “frozen” in a dysfunctional homeostasis that leads to dys-regulation. IASIS Micro Current Neurofeedback causes brief micro-stimulation to the brain that results in a temporary fluctuation in brainwaves. This temporary change allows the brain to reorganize itself. Thus, IASIS does not train the brain like traditional neurofeedback, but instead “disentrains” the brain by allowing it to reorganize itself and release itself from frozen, stuck patterns. This is analogous to rebooting a frozen computer.”
What Micro Current Neurofeedback is Like
Dr. Fuller said we wouldn’t know if MCN would help until I tried it. His patients who’d used MCN had received impressive results to date, and he thought I was a good candidate. Plus, I wouldn't get worse if I tried it. I was skeptical, but there seemed to be no downsides and a huge upside if it worked.
Dr. Fuller rubbed my face and neck with something that felt like a cat’s tongue: wet, sticky, and rough. He explained that the skin needed to be cleaned and exfoliated to provide a smooth contact surface for the EEG leads that would be placed on my head and neck. No lotions. No sunscreen. The “gum” that he put on my skin needed a clear connection for the electrical circuit. He laughed a little as he put bobby pins in my hair to keep it out of the way, and then we got down to business.
Dr. Fuller placed five electrodes around my skull. He launched the IASIS device, and we began. I didn’t feel anything, but as we watched the screen, it showed my brainwaves. The application stopped, and Dr. Fuller moved the electrodes to a different area. We started the process again. By the time we finished, I felt good, euphoric even. I know that some people feel fatigued, spacey, wired, or anxious. I mostly felt giddy. After that first session, my aphasia diminished slightly. I eagerly made my next appointment.
IASIS doesn’t treat disease, but it does help the brain to reorganize and reboot to a more normal brain pattern. While it didn’t feel like anything was happening to me, clearly something material occurred in the background.
After finishing sixteen sessions, I dramatically improved in both the physical and speech areas. My gait follows an even path when I’m walking. I no longer walk toward the left side of the sidewalk. Best of all, my aphasia is almost gone. I used to struggle to get the right words out, but now I can think, and express, my thought succinctly because I speak with one voice, not two. My aphasia makes an appearance now and then, so when I find words jostling in my head, it’s time for an MCN refresher.
Dr. Fuller is always researching new treatments in his downtime. When a new technique pans out, he’ll try it. If he likes the results, he’ll invest in the training so that he can offer the new treatment to his patients. Neurofeedback is one of those instances where I benefited. I’m grateful to Dr. Fuller and the IASIS MCN team for the courage to try new things.
For more information about low-level light therapy and neurofeedback, check out my book, Stroke Forward: How to Become Your Own Healthcare Advocate . . . One Step at a Time.