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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Words to live by

Last updated at 12:31 AM on 22/05/10  
After a stroke at the age of just 44, Arnold O’Neill of Iris is steadily working toward regaining his ability to communicate with the world

The Guardian

A severe stroke in 
February 2009 set Arnold O’Neill of Iris, then 44, on a path to recovery
 that is continuing at a slow but steady pace as he works toward 
regaining his communication skills and more mobility. GUARDIAN PHOTO BY 
A severe stroke in February 2009 set Arnold O’Neill of Iris, then 44, on a path to recovery that is continuing at a slow but steady pace as he works toward regaining his communication skills and more mobility. GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY

One by one, the words are slowly coming for Arnold O’Neill of Iris.
Since a stroke at the young age of 44 fewer than two years ago wiped his linguistic slate clean, he has been working diligently to regain what he has lost verbally and also physically.
But no words he has said so far have sounded sweeter to his ears than the day he was able to say the names of his wife, Betty, and their two sons, Logan, 11, and eight-year-old Owen.
“Yes. Oh yes,” Arnold says, beaming with the memory of that momentous day which was earlier on in his long journey back to being able to communicate with the world.
Things changed dramatically for Arnold one day in February of 2009. He wasn’t feeling very well and his right arm seemed rather heavy, so after some hesitation he agreed to go to the Kings County Memorial Hospital. Medical staff there thought he had experienced a mini-stroke.
He had another mini-stroke at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Charlottetown the next day.
“We were all amazed because he didn’t have any of the risk factors at all,” Betty says. 
“He doesn’t have high cholesterol. He doesn’t have high blood pressure. He was always active. No smoking. No drinking.”
Then Arnold was hit with a massive stroke that severely affected his motor skills on the right side of his body and the language centre of his brain.
“And all he could say was ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ He couldn’t feed himself,” Betty says.
“(Or) walk,” adds Arnold.
Despite this terrible blow, Arnold was determined to work his way back to as close as he could to his pre-stroke self.
Physiotherapy was essential for the physical side and speech therapy for his communication skills, both of which he pored his heart and soul into.
He was diagnosed with speech apraxia, a communication disorder that can affect stroke patients in which a person has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently.
Although Arnold’s auditory and reading comprehension was quite strong, speaking and writing skills were pretty much nonexistent initially after the stroke.
“Usually about 40 per cent of the stroke patients will have some definable speech difficulty . . . ,” says Rick Burger, speech language pathologist in the department of physical medicine at the QEH, who worked with Arnold pretty much from the start.
“In (Arnold’s) case, because he had speech apraxia, there would be a lot of struggle behaviour. Generally these folks know what they want to say and generally their comprehension is quite good . . . . So that struggle created the frustration and as good natured as he is it was still an immense frustration for him.”
Arnold started with about two hours of speech therapy five days a week. He also diligently repeated audiotape lessons in the evenings.
“Most of the strategies are what we call partner-assisted in the early stages where we provide 70 or 80 per cent of the support in terms of setting up the materials that he can recognize and deal with and then he can answer. In his case, probably by pointing in the first months,” Burger says, citing the example of a board with written words on it that allowed Arnold to make some communication choice options.
“As therapy went along the issue was to get him so he could initiate and control his own communication, which would involve primarily the speech and the writing which were both worked on extensively. With time and with using a multitude of strategies he’s getting his message across.”
For Arnold, pushing past that invisible zone that blocks the easy passage of words from his mind to his mouth is a challenge, to say the least. Imagine trying to have a typical conversation with just one- or two-word responses or questions in your repertoire at a time.
“We don’t realize it until we consider all the times minute-by-minute that we communicate in one fashion or another, whether it’s nonverbal or verbal. We’re doing it all the time,” Burger says.
“And many people with strokes actually lose all the communication system. You might think someone who can’t speak can gesture (to signal what he or she wants) but all the language systems (can be) affected by the stroke (making even gesturing impossible).”
Being married for 24 years gives Betty an advantage when it comes to figuring out what is on her husband Arnold’s mind.
“But sometimes it’s a guessing game. He’s trying to tell you something so you keep going until you get the right answer,” she says.
“(It’s) hard,” Arnold says.
“Awww (yes),” he adds, shaking his head in affirmation.
Equally difficult was his working situation. 
A longtime lobster fisherman,  Arnold was unable to even think about fishing in the 2009 season. Fortunately, the community banded together to make sure that was not a worry for him and his family.
“Last year 10 fishermen each took 30 traps to fish for us,” Betty says.
“It was good,” Arnold says, who returned home full time in May 2009.
As time passed, the O’Neills knew it would not be possible for Arnold to fish anymore so they made the difficult decision to sell his lobster license and gear.
“That was probably the best idea,” Betty says.
The community also had a big benefit in 2009 that raised more than $18,000 for the family.
“We’ve had to depend more on people. You’re used to doing things yourself, but now sometimes you have to get help (to get things done),” Betty says.
Arnold is getting things done on a more mobile level now. He still has limited movement of his right arm and no use of his right hand, so he is learning how to use his left hand for eating and other tasks. A brace in his right shoe helps stabilize his leg for walking which he does now at a slow but steady pace.
“He walks with a cane, but he can walk, which is good,” smiles Betty.
Each day he runs through at least another hour of speech therapy exercises at home to increase his vocabulary and the ease of which he can recognize and say words.
“(Arnold) is also a little bit unique in that he has stayed on as an outpatient (at the QEH) for more than a year now. That’s quite unusual. We’re not able to do much outpatient therapy. The next phase of the (P.E.I. Integrated) Stroke Strategy is to put in place outpatient therapy, but that’s still the next phase,” Burger says.
“When we have some patients that are particularly (in need) and have good prognostic signs then we will continue on and try to support them when we know they’re changing . . . .
“Most stroke cases usually plateau, and then once they plateau there’s not much else we can do. We can help with maintaining what they’ve got but Arnold was continuing to improve.”
Lately at the QEH Arnold has been working on practical conversational scripts in various social environments, such as ordering a meal at a fast food restaurant.
“Relearning is very (repetitive) in apraxia. It just has to be done over and over again . . . because all the (communication) pathways have been disturbed. All the tracks have to be laid down again and so it has to be done with repetition,” Burger says.
“And so it can be quite boring therapy, but Arnold has risen to the occasion quite well by being willing to do things over and over again until he gets it.”
And no matter how long it takes, Arnold is confident he will succeed in his efforts to one day talk and move with ease.
“Yes,” he says, his eyes brightening and his smile broadening. “Oh yes.”
At a glance
May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month, the one month in the year when thousands of professionals involved with the treatment of speech, language and hearing disorders come together to participate in a public awareness campaign that encourages early detection and prevention of communication disorders and seeks to increase the public’s sensitivity to the challenges faced by individuals experiencing them.
Speaking, understanding and hearing are essential skills in our society. One out of 10 Canadians suffers from a speech or hearing disorder. These people encounter many educational, social, psychological, emotional and vocational issues.
Common types of adult communication disorders include: aphasia (pronounced AH-FAY-SIA), a language disorder due to brain damage or disease resulting in difficulty in formulating, expressing and/or understanding language; apraxia (pronounced A-PRAX-SIA), a speech programming disorder which makes words and sentences sound jumbled or meaningless; dysarthria (pronounced DIS-AR-THREE-AH), a group of speech disorders resulting from paralysis, weakness or lack of co-ordination of the muscles required for speech; dysphagia (pronounced DIS-FAY-JAH), swallowing disorders that are common with all of the above and are treated by speech language pathologists.
Source: The Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists.
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

International Aphasia Movement Recommends

Dear Friends and Colleagues.
I am on the host committee for an exciting and innovative classical music concert this Saturday by Symphony.
I hope you will consider joining us. The information is below.

Teresa M. Signore, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Clinic Director
Ruth Sade Communication and Learning Center
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Mary mount Manhattan College
221 East 1st Street, New York, NY 10021
Clinic: 212-774-0728       Mobile: 917-450-7467       Email:
Tweet heart. May 22 in New York City.
Symphony’s Tweet heart concert explores the idea of love in its many and varied forms, taking the audience on a musical journey through an entire life of loves: romantic, sexual, spiritual, religious and filial. Tweet heart is eclectic yet organic, connecting music from many different times, places, and cultures.

In a collaborative spirit, Symphony teams up with multimedia dream team Aytia|Matia, as well as a group of stellar instrumentalists and singers, to present the premiere of Tweetheart.

Wynne Bennett | Paul Fowler | Grayson Sanders, composers and live electronica
Christina Arethas, soprano
Maria Elena Armijo, mezzo-soprano
Eric Jordan, bass
Benjamin Sloman, tenor
Mark Alan Johnson, video installation
Rachelle Beckman, lighting design
SymphoNYC, orchestra
Paul Haas, artistic director and conductor

Sympho’s fan base has an active role in programming Tweetheart, having already sent in suggestions for love songs via Facebook and Twitter contests. The winning entries (Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U, Bjork's Cover Me, Etta James' At Last) will be performed at the concert.

For tickets, please visit Tax-deductible sponsor tickets get you premium seating at Tweetheart plus admission to the exclusive post-concert reception on May 22.

Sympho, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit organization established to revitalize the classical music concert experience for a modern audience.

Sympho, Inc.

“refits the classical experience for a new century"  (New York Times)

“something momentous has occurred”  (San Francisco Chronicle)

"something important was happening, something with emotional stakes" (Symphony Magazine)
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Who am I ? - man with no name

AN appeal has gone out to identify an Asian man who lost his memory after being knocked down in a road accident five months ago.
The victim, whose name and nationality remain unknown, suffered post-traumatic amnesia and cannot recall simple details such as his country of birth.
The trauma of the accident also left him with aphasia, meaning he lost the ability to speak.
He is being treated in the BDF Hospital in Riffa and officials are appealing to public to help identify him after failing to get anywhere despite an exhaustive search for answers.
"He was found on a road in East Riffa on December 25 and we believe it was a road traffic accident," said public relations head Ismail Al Suwaidi.
"We don't have any other information regarding the accident but a case has been registered.
"Nothing much can be done or proved unless he starts to talk.
"There was no CPR or other kinds of identification on him.
"We don't even know his nationality, name, age or where he works or lives.
"Somebody called the ambulance although there is no information about who did."
Mr Al Suwaidi said the fact that no one had come forward inquiring about the patient had also hindered the search for answers.
"He is also not being of much help because he seems to have lost his memory as a result of the accident," he told the GDN.
"He has not spoken a word since being admitted here because of which we don't even know which language he speaks.
"All day he simply lies down on his bed, unresponsive, only moving his eyes.
"Our speech therapists have checked him and think it's because of the shock from the accident.
"We have taken his picture to all the embassies from the south east Asian countries and the Indian sub-continent. None of them could recognise him."
Mr Al Suwaidi said the man may end up at the hospital until someone comes forward with information about him. "We are hoping for his family, friends or relatives to approach us so that he can be discharged from the hospital or even repatriated to his country," he said.
"He will have to stay here until then, no matter how long it takes.
"He is now our responsibility."
Traffic officials were unable to give any immediate details about the case but pledged to look into the matter.
Anybody with information that could help identify the patient is asked to contact the BDF public relations office on 17766804 or 36848487.
Who am I ? - man with no nameSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Paul Berger & Stephanie Mensh’s Stroke Survivor NEWS & ATTITUDE FOR YOU - MAY 2010

Part of Paul's newsletter

Download 3 all-new E-books on Stroke & Aphasia
       Details below and at

*** Register for National Aphasia Assn June Meeting ***

The National Aphasia Association will hold its biennial regional meeting, Speaking Out! Conference on Saturday,
June 12, from 7:30 AM - 4:45 PM at the National Rehabilitation Center, 102 Irving St NW, Washington, D.C.

       Registrations are due by May 28th. For information, visit

Paul will be presenting on the panel session, "Living Successfully with Aphasia/EMPOWER." This conference has
been created specifically for persons with aphasia, their caregivers, professionals and students.

This year's Speaking Out! is co-sponsored by the National Rehabilitation Hospital, DC, and the The Stroke Comeback Center, Vienna, VA:


       Physical Activity, Strain & Pain

I am an active person. I walk every day and exercise on a stationary bike for a cardio work-out 3 times a week. I
have a busy schedule of business meetings, networking, volunteering, socializing, and household chores.

Sometimes I twist wrong, pull too hard, stumble, strain a muscle, bump, bruise, and hurt. My right side is weak from the stroke, so my balance is off and I can trip over the lines on the sidewalk. A long walk or standing for 20-30 minutes can be painful. Here's what I do:

       * If it's bleeding, hurts a lot, is  swollen, or just doesn't look right, I go to my doctor or the emergency room. One time during my afternoon walk I didn't see a hole in the path, tripped, and sprained my right ankle. It swelled to 3 or 4 times the size of my other ankle, so I went to the ER.

       * Another time, I climbed into the car through the passenger door and over the stick shift, straining my hip and lower back. I went to a doctor of osteopathy (DO) for hands-on treatment.

       * My physical therapist gives me exercises to strengthen and stretch my right arm and leg, and the muscles in my back, side, and stomach.

       * Before I came home from the hospital, the PT showed me how to get up from a fall by moving my legs into position.

       * For pain, I take the over-the-counter pills that my primary care physician approved. Always talk to your doctor about what pain pills to take and how often, since these pills can interact with other medicine.

       * Sometimes for back and hip pain, I use a ThermaCare Heat Wrap under my clothes on a busy day. After dinner while watching TV, I use an electric heating pad.

       * Sometimes using the exercise bike hurts, so I reduce the time or skip a session.

Being active after a stroke is like the old escape artist, Harry Houdini. But I don't let the challenges or the pain stop me from enjoying life. If I can do it, you can do it, too!

Other insights and tips for coping with life and taking control of your recovery after stroke are available on my
website at

Do you have a tip to share?  Send it to me at for a free gift if we use it.


       Hard-to-Reach Places
       Update on Reading

I can only use one hand, so in the shower I use a long- handled soft brush to reach my back and left arm. These are available at drug stores, bath shops, and online. To see one similar to the wood bristle back brush I use, visit:

       A few months ago, I purchased a Kindle from I downloaded Tom Friedman's "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," a very intense non-fiction book about the world economy. I used the Kindle's read-aloud function (with an earplug) to help me read it. I'm proud to say that I just finished this 450 page book, and am ready to download my next book!

       Best of all, the Kindle solves the one-handed problem of holding a book open and trying to turn the page, especially when reading on a sofa or in bed--you click a button with one finger. It is small, and its battery lasts a long time. It's not cheap, but you can save over time because the e-books are less expensive than the print version. To learn more, visit:

For details on other Paul-tested helpful books and products, visit: and

6. Stroke/Aphasia Reading problems?

After a stroke, many people have reading and other language problems, known as "aphasia." Hearing a sentence read aloud helps to understand it. You can hear this newsletter read aloud while each word is highlighted on the computer screen
with the FREE text reader software described at:



Stroke survivors, family, friends, professionals...anyone seeking inspiration, motivation, and more!

       Find books, audio-books, e-books, tapes, and special tools created for stroke recovery by stroke survivor- expert, Paul Berger at:


       ***Excerpts, details, ORDER your copies: ***

Make every day better for stroke survivors and caregivers with these great practical solutions & motivational tips available NOW to download ANYTIME, ANYWHERE !



       "I loved it! Paul's E-book is practical, informative, and easy to read.  An uplifting, must-read for all stroke survivors with aphasia. It 's just terrific and I think it fills an important void in the post-stroke literature." --Susan Ryerson, Neurological Physical Therapist, PT,  DSc, Alexandria, VA

       "I have been asking people for 30 years what helps and what doesn't work. I have recommended Paul's materials to my clients for years. This E-book adds new ideas and suggestions that are so very practical and useful." --Bill Connors, Founder and Director of the Pittsburgh Aphasia Treatment, Research and Education Center

       "The parts on getting out in the community were some of the best parts. It is important that stroke survivors try to live as normal a life as possible. This book lets stroke survivors recognize that they can have a quality life which is full and fulfilled." --Samuel Aylesworth, Stroke Survivor, Manassas, VA

       "Stephanie's E-book is well written, logically organized, easy to understand, and full of practical suggestions that should be helpful and encouraging to caregivers of stroke survivors. I particularly liked the examples of Stephanie’s real-life experiences."  - Janet M. Gritz, MA, CCC-SLP, founding member & consultant to Montgomery County Stroke Association

       "This E-book gives useful, practical advice from someone who's lived it. We're all overwhelmed a times, and Stephanie shows you, one step at a time,  how to get through the day and make the next day better."   - Gwen Flanders, partner of a stroke survivor
Paul Berger & Stephanie Mensh’s Stroke Survivor NEWS & ATTITUDE FOR YOU - MAY 2010SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Aphasia Awareness Month Poster Packets Available

National Aphasia Awareness Month 2010

You are receiving this email because you are a stroke, brain injury or aphasia community group leader or other professional that works with persons with aphasia.  As you all know, June is National Aphasia Awareness Month.  This year's host group is the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's Aphasia Advocacy Group, and they have chosen a great theme and designed a beautiful poster for Awareness Month. 

The theme is all of the "C's" of aphasia: Confidence, Community, Collaboration, Communicating and Cooperation.  A sneak peak of the poster is below.  The Awareness Month Packet will include posters, a list of activities that your group, center, or hospital can do to advocate for aphasia as well as celebrate Awareness month, and other aphasia materials. 

If you are interested in receiving an Awareness Month Packet, please reply to this email with your name and complete mailing address.  Also, please let us know if you would like more information on how to get a Proclamation in your city or state declaring June as National Aphasia Awareness Month.

One more thing - PLEASE let us know how your group, program, hospital, etc celebrated Awareness Month!  Please send us pictures and short summaries so that we may include them on our website and Newsletter.

NAAM 2010 Theme

Happy National Aphasia Awareness Month!

Ellayne Ganzfried, M.S., CCC-SLP, Executive Director
Amy Coble, Info & Admin Coordinator
The National Aphasia Association

Aphasia Awareness Month Poster Packets AvailableSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, May 17, 2010

Experts advise transient aphasia may be the harbinger of stroke

Posted by: yunnly on: May 17, 2010
Xinhua Wuhan, May 16 (Xinhuanet Li Changzheng) had to speak very fluent, are suddenly developed transient aphasia is likely to be a sign of stroke, we should quickly to the hospital. Experts advise, transient aphasia is caused by transient cerebral ischemia, such a transient ischemic stroke symptoms are often an important signal that patients do not ignore.
The 65-year-old Mr. Lee suddenly six months ago, transient aphasia, left with numb limbs, and frequent attacks recently, each attack time, attack frequency is not fixed, duration of symptoms ranging from a few minutes to 30 minutes after their own relief. As the duration of symptoms is short, Mr. Lee did not take too much notice. Recently, he suddenly left limb paralysis, severe dizziness, his family rushed to Union Hospital in Wuhan, was diagnosed with a stroke.
Associate Professor of Neurology, Union Hospital, Wuhan, Xing Hongyi, said the incidence of transient aphasia, there are two reasons: First, severe stenosis on the basis of blood pressure fluctuations caused by remote transient cerebral ischemia, when blood pressure symptoms; Second, micro-embolism into the cerebral arterial system caused by blood vessel blockage, due to micro-embolism is the body or on its own acidic decomposition caused by the movement to restore local blood circulation, cerebral ischemic symptoms disappear.
Xing Hongyi, said the number of transient ischemic attack more, the shorter the time interval, the greater the risk of stroke, severe life-threatening. If repeated aphasia, speech is unclear, the side of the limb numbness, sudden dizziness, gait disturbance and other symptoms should seek medical care immediately. Mr. Lee if a brief six months ago, when aphasia is to treatment, it may not appear stroke.
Experts advise transient aphasia may be the harbinger of strokeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Knowledge transfer approach builds a community of communicators

By Mark Evans, Alberta Health Services, Freelance May 17, 2010 3:06 AM
Connie Mauer now has hope that her mom will continue to regain her ability to communicate with the support of a new Alberta Health Services' Integrated Community Living (ICL) program.
Mauer's mom, Gladys Hoknes, has aphasia, dementia and has had a stroke, making communication a challenge. Hoknes was living in Prince Albert, Sask., but moved to Edmonton's Rutherford Heights Retirement Residence last fall to be closer to family.
When Mauer heard about the Integrated Community Living program she was excited about its potential to help her mom.
The Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) in Integrated Community Living provides SLP services in the community with integrated home living, facility living, and supportive living programs and facilities. The program also provides opportunity for University of Alberta students to work with Alberta Health Services staff as part of clinical placements.
The program endeavors to target communication and swallowing needs of individuals. Theservicetargetscommunication accessibility, improving swallowing abilities and helping people live more safely with swallowing disorders.
Rhonda Kajner was the first speech language pathologist to be hired for the program last year. Another was hired in late 2009 and a third earlier this year.
"It's really exciting because we're filling a gap where there really wasn't SLP service before and we're interacting with students," said Kajner.
The program takes a new approach to provide speech language services.
"We're taking a knowledge transfer model. We're looking at sharing whatever information we can with communication partners," she said.
Rather than the client going to meet with the speech-language pathologist, the SLP goes to the client's home and works with not only the individuals but the people they have contact with on a daily basis such as friends, family members or staff in a facility setting.
"Communication happens in almost every aspect of a person's life and we're able to give other people ways to help communication in that person's environment," said Kajner.
"It's a whole community approach. It's not just one-on-one," Mauer said.
It's also more accessible, said Mauer. Having the program come to her mom's home addresses transportation challenges and the sessions are less formal so her mom is more comfortable and can concentrate better, she adds.
After starting with the ICL program in January, Mauer noticed the difference in her mom right away.
"With the home care speech pathology it isn't just about learning to speak and write again, it is all about communication. I think it gives everyone a better understanding of Mom's condition and that helps with the communication," said Mauer.
Mauer has realistic expectations about her mom's abilities to speak again and each little step forward in her communication is an improvement.
"I can see good things," she said. "She's worked hard at it. It's been a long journey."
Mauer has learned a number of new skills and tips to support the communication with her mom. The staff at the facility where Hoknes lives has also benefited from the support and is better able to communicate with her.
"It makes her feel better," said Mauer. "When people understand you, you feel better about yourself."
Depression and isolation is common for people with a communication disorder so providing the skills to others to maintain the ability to communicate is important, said Kajner.
"People tend to isolate themselves because no one around can talk with them or they can't talk with anyone else," Kajner said.
The ICL program increases opportunities for conversation, which prevents that sense of isolation, she said.
"If people have the tools to approach a person who can't talk, it makes a big difference for that person's life," Kajner said.
There are a few other places in the country that are using this approach, said Kajner. However, it's new to Alberta and gaining prominence in the field of speech and language services.
"I think this is a change that's coming," said Kajner.
The program has exceeded Mauer's expectations.
"It's hope," she said. "I just really think it's forward-thinking, I think it's wonderful."
- - -
Alberta Health Services Speech and Language services promote communication, feeding, and swallowing abilities for individuals of all ages. Learn more about Speech and Language services at www.albertahealthservices.caor call Health Link Alberta 780-408-LINK (5465) in Edmonton and area or toll-free 1-866-408-LINK (5465)

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Please join us at the                   
Masquerade Ball             
to Benefit the
Smadbeck Communication & Learning Center
Marymount Manhattan College
Free Admission     
Donations Welcome                                                   
Costumes Optional                         
Light Fare, Wine, & Entertainment
Food Provided by Cipriani                                                                           
Wednesday May 12th, 2010
6 to 9 in the Evening
in The Great Hall
Please RSVP                                                
Thank you for the consideration,
The CSD Faculty, Staff & Students &
the Patients of the Smadbeck Center
Teresa M. Signorelli, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Clinic Director Ruth Smadbeck Communication and Learning Center
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Marymount Manhattan College
221 East 71st Street, New York, NY 10021
Clinic: 212-774-0728       Mobile: 917-450-7467       Email:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Martin County teacher leave policy may help other families in need

By Lisa Bolivar  Posted May 3, 2010 at 5:44 p.m.

PALM CITY — Six months ago, Robert Gangi of Palm City lay in a coma after hitting his head on pavement while skateboarding during a Christmas visit to this family in North Carolina. Today, he is walking and talking, giving hope he will be able to return to Florida in the near future.
Now at his parents’ home in Morganton, N.C., after being released from a rehabilitation hospital where he underwent physical, occupational and speech therapy, he has dropped all therapy except speech, said his brother, Rick Gangi, who lives in New Jersey.
“I would say the speech is going to take awhile because he has aphasia, and that takes awhile to work through so the brain can reconnect objects with words again,” Rick Gangi said.
Through the ordeal, Robert Gangi’s wife, Karen, who teaches at Palm City Elementary, has tried to remain by his side, but afraid of losing her job and the only health insurance the family has, she was forced to return April 12 after exhausting her sick leave. Colleagues have tried to come to her rescue by offering to donate their leave time so she can return to her husband.
In response, the Martin County School Board voted April 20 to consider creating a new policy that, if approved, would allow employees to donate accumulated sick leave to co-workers with a spouse or family member experiencing a catastrophic illness or injury.
While the School Board approved the policy in a 4-to-1 vote with board member Laurie Gaylord dissenting, the board has asked the language in the policy be reviewed and changed before the final vote sometime in the future.
Either way, since Robert Gangi is improving and school will soon be over for the summer, freeing Karen to return to North Carolina, the leave bank may be created too late to benefit her. Still, said Rick Gangi, creating the policy is a good thing.
“You know what, if Rob’s case helped other teachers down the line by giving other educators an option to help their co-workers if they are ever in need, I think it’s a good mark that they (Rob and Karen Gangi) left,” he said.
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