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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Coping with aphasia

From Washington state to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, Yuman Joseph Boze likes to travel.

But his plans were put on hold after he suffered a stroke in March 2008.

Now Boze has been diagnosed with aphasia, a disorder that affects people's communication skills.

Corinna Atchly, a speech language pathologist with Yuma Rehab, said there are two types of aphasia: receptive and expressive.

Receptive, she said, affects a patient's ability to understand and make sense of what he or she reads, hears or sees. Patients with expressive aphasia, she said, have difficulty verbalizing wants and needs, have trouble writing or making gestures.

Even though aphasia is typically associated with stroke, patients that have experienced brain trauma and injury, as well as some patients with dementia, can also be diagnosed with the disorder.

Boze experiences both receptive and expressive and about a year ago, after his stroke, he was unable to speak.

"In the beginning, he couldn't even say my name," said Boze's close friend, Judy Denny.

After finding a good therapist at Yuma Rehab, Boze plans to continue therapy at the facility.

Even though Boze said he sometimes may not be able to find the word he's looking for, with the one-on-one therapy, he's making progress.

"I just wish I could get more speech," he said.

Boze used to attend therapy three times a week, and now he's down to once a week.

"He's come a long way from where he's begun," Denny said.

One common misconception about patients with aphasia, Atchly said, is people think the patient has lost his or her intelligence.

"It doesn't affect your intelligence at all."

And that's often the root of a patient's frustration, she said. "They know what they want to say, they just can't do it."

She said patients often shy away from activities they used to do.

For Boze, it's not if, but when he'll get back on the road and resume his travel plans. He said his next trip will be to North Carolina to see his son whom he hasn't seen in 30 years.

"We're not done yet," Boze said.
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