Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Reading is Fundamental

Remember this?

Circa 1973

Okay. I apologize. Some of y'all are much younger than I am. RIF (Reading is Fundamental) is the largest nonprofit organization for literacy in the US and it was founded way back in 1966. Yes, I remember back that far too. Their goal was to put a book in every child's hand to encourage reading. It's a fabulous group. So what does this have to do with stroke survival? Well, I was getting to that.

One of the areas I was hit hardest by my strokes was in the ability to read written words and follow it through with comprehension. This may boggle your mind because I'm writing and editing this blog. The brain after a stroke or other insult injury is a curious thing. Yes, I used the word "insult" on purpose. According to my dictionary it means...

    1.   a disrespectful or scornfully abusive remark or action.
      2.   Medicine                                                                         
                       an event or occurrence that causes damage to a tissue or organ.
To me it also means an insult to my intelligence. I was a published author prior to my second stroke with hopes of being one again. So yes, I consider my strokes as an abusive action and a medical event also. So instead of calling my stroke a CVA (cardiovascular accident), I call my "events" CVI (cardiovascular insults). Make sense?

But I digress.  ((My poor, damaged brain. It's too young in recovery to be alone in the dark)) 

I've actual got it better than some folks living post stroke. I at least have my phonetic spelling. I can read a word list all day long. The problem is comprehension. I'm slow as a tortoise crossing the road. (I actually had to look up how to spell tortoise correctly) Comprehension comes when I read something written three times or sometimes more. That's an improvement over just a year ago when it was five or more times.

I have both receptive (comprehension) and anomic (word finding) aphasia in varying times and degrees. Even over three years after my strokes. I have to say that I work harder on recovering this skill than any other. Why? Because, it's actually easier for me to do than any other loss I have (physical). When I went from creating text at a rate of 50,000 words a week (pre-stroke) to  struggling to do 600 words (post stroke) is a hard blow for me. Typing (physical) one handed is secondary. 

My reading comprehension being what it is, is another hard blow. Since I was first old enough to read, reading was my best friend. It was communicating with the world around me. It was escapes into different lives (even just for a moment). It was educating my thirsty mind. It fed my soul to the point of me being a glutton.

Now, it affects every day of my life. Being the granddaughter of a librarian who instilled in me a love of reading, sure doesn't help. It also made people gifting me trouble too. Reading recipes to cook. There is a major difference between a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of salt. Even reading the newspaper, or letters (emails) is a major chore. I do it, but the joy of reading has simply died in me. This is cause for a major depression and grief to strangle me into asphyxia.  

Stranger to me is that my medical terminology is intact, but everything else I struggle with. Different part of the brain, I guess. Go figure. There is no rhyme or reason to understanding how the brain works. That's what makes stroke recovery so difficult to standardize. It's worse than an shallot with all the fine layers.

I  often say that, in regards to my stroke, I miss my mind the most, but let me fine tune that. I miss my reading comprehension But there's hope that I will recover what I lost, because...
Nothing is impossible.


  1. Hi Jo - I admire your tenacity and strength of mind to keep pushing forward - and the brain is an extraordinary thing ... it can heal and re-learn .. though I'm sure is slow. Good luck .. and with the goal of writing a post and letting us know what is happening in Murphey Saga land .. all the very best - and as you say ... nothing is impossible - cheers Hilary

  2. {{{{hugs}}}} Though I don't have your disability, I can imagine the lost of my life-long passion of reading.


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