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View Diary: Gabrielle Giffords, and the horror of aphasia (92 comments)

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  •  Shortly after Rep. Giffords was shot, and (30+ / 0-)

    survived, people were ecstatic over her condition and seemed to really believe she'd be back to "normal" in no time. Having had a skull fracture (much, much less severe than Rep. Giffords' experience) I was less optimistic.

    Yes, she can recover, but maybe not 100% and for sure not quickly. My thoughts and prayers are with her, because it is a long, hard slog to function at one would consider 'normal' levels' after such a severe wound.

    Yes, aphasia is frustrating. Congratulations on your recovery, Jensequitor.

    If life gives you melons, you may be dyslexic.

    by glorificus on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 02:33:29 PM PST

    •  I Never Thought She'd Recover Enough to be a (18+ / 0-)

      politician. The damage all seemed to be in areas that need to be high functioning for that kind of work.

      Knowing that brain recovery is a diminishing upward curve where the biggest gains come early, I felt I wasn't hearing any of the right things in the first weeks and month.

      I wish her the best, this is hardly my specialty so it's pretty easy for me to guess wrong, I certainly hope she does recover enough to be an effective politician again.

      My aging mom in assisted living has lost most of her speech and it's really hard to be sure what's on her mind. I don't know if you'd call it aphasia because she doesn't seem to use wrong words or have trouble understanding questions about how she feels, what she wants etc. But she has just almost no capacity to converse.

      The outward evidence is that mercifully she's quite cheerful, and she responds well with face and body language, laughs appropriately for humor.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 02:49:20 PM PST

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      •  Aphasia from dementia is different (13+ / 0-)

        My kid had a brain injury as an infant. Left side of her brain was traumatized. She didn't speak ("spontaneous utterances" and "multi-syllabic phrases" were the markers for how we defined "speak") until she was 54 months old. In addition to significant side-to-side gaps in development, even once she mastered the task of moving the tongue around she wasn't able to retrieve the sound she wanted to make. Classic aphasia after injury.

        She is reading The Odyssey (in translation) right now, at 12. Top 3 finish in the state spelling bee. Algebra. All of these accomplishments were reached in spite of her injury, which made fluency in English and abstract concepts "not realistic for this patient".

        That's why I believe that Gabby may well recover some version of fluent expressive speech. We know so little about the brain. Whether she will choose to apply that skill in politics again, assuming the best for her recovery, is another question entirely.

        Parent. Entrepreneur. Cancer patient. Moose tracker.

        by PhoenixRising on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 03:25:39 PM PST

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      •  The brain is plastic (8+ / 0-)

        It can rewire injured areas with therapy and work. It was once thought that any recovery came in the first few months and anything else was lost forever, but research and many many cases have proven the old theories wrong. There was a case with a child who had to have half of his brain removed due to severe life threatening seizures, who later learned to do most everything with the other half of the brain that the lost half had done.
        Yes, some seems to depend on age someone who's elderly is less likely to make as full of a recovery as someone younger, and there are some things that are rarely recovered still, but the Congresswoman is young and determined and receiving the therapy she needs. I don't know what her official prognosis is, but I would think with care and work (lots and lots of work) she could recover most if not all of her prior function.

        The good thing about only using a fraction of the brain is that it leaves a lot of redundantcies and room for new growth and connections.

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 03:41:50 PM PST

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        •  Plasticity of the brain (7+ / 0-)

          is far more pronounced in children than adults.  That's not to say that it is not possible to retrain areas of the brain for adults, it's just that young children do it much better and much more quickly than an adult.

          He died with his potential intact.

          by bajadudes on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 05:46:12 PM PST

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        •  Actually, there are dozens (at least) cases of (4+ / 0-)

          hemispherectomy now with amazing recovery.  At the same time I was studying some of these cases in a "brain and language" class while working on a master's degree in linguistics, I was privileged to have a chance conversation with a young woman who'd undergone a hemispherectomy following a gunshot wound. It happened to be the first week of a new semester and she was a new student at the same university I attended. She was obviously lost on campus and I stopped to offer directions. When she turned toward me and I could read her name tag. I recognized her name from the newspapers and because she was a prior patient of a neuropsychologist with whom I was working. Otherwise, I'd never have guessed her history. That was approximately 18 months post trauma, and almost 20 years ago.

          Now, I've experienced for myself the symptoms Jensequitur has described and have a similar MRI report. The neurologist in my city who treats almost exclusively MS (the preferred go-to guy here) tells me he believes my condition is MS; however, subsequently I've had some positive anti-nuclear antibody test results that suggest something else to the equally highly-regarded rheumatologist I see (neurologic lupus). Statistically, it's unlikely that I have both, although I'm told they're "cousins," and I hope to get definitive testing within the next few months. In the meantime, I'm taking some of the medications common to either condition (methylprednisolone, Plaquenil, baclofen) and I'm doing better, but because of my age (65) and my late diagnosis, I don't expect to have the dramatic recovery I saw in the young gunshot victim.

          Daily Kos has been wonderful for me as a place where no one hears me halt mid-sentence when I've lost the thread or can't remember a certain word. Thanks to all those who read without ever saying "hurry up."

          Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. -- Blaise Pascal

          by RJDixon74135 on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:31:54 PM PST

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        •  It's a myth.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          glorificus

          that we only use a fraction of our brains.

          The whole brain is functioning all the time, with different areas concentrating on different tasks and apparently seamlessly.

          But it is true that the brain in adaptable and able to recover from serious trauma.

          Seeing Gabrielle Giffords in that documentary was inspiring.
          This is a person who had a bullet go through her brain!!!! To be able to function at all is simply incredible.

          "Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom. " - Death (Terry Pratchett character)

          by Thorby Baslim on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 10:46:23 PM PST

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    •  To say Rep Gifford's 'injury' (4+ / 0-)

      was 'traumatic' is a severe underestimation.

      I won't get graphic here, but I am amazed that she can even walk and speak after such an insult to her brain.

      And bravo to that fine lady, that she wants to let someone else take over. She might feel overwhelmed about now, and it must be especially difficult to sacrifice personal life when she has such a wonderful spouse waiting at home for her.

      And they all lived happily after.

      "I don't need a script to tell the truth" Ed Schultz, Feb. 4 2010

      by BusyinCA on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:22:56 PM PST

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      •  Word. The only case I can think of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BusyinCA

        that's even remotely similar is that of Phineas Gage.  Both are amazing.

        Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

        by Ice Blue on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:43:40 PM PST

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      •  Agreed. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        glorificus

        That type of injury is usually not surviveable, and, if survived, usually leads to very severe impairment.
           In videos, she walks as though she has some loss of function on one side of her body, as well as having the speech mpairment.
          A lot of things had to go right for her to survive that assault. It's a credit to the first responders, the ER, the surgeons, and the rehab staff that she is still with us.

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