CPSR research helps restore communication loss after stroke
Scott Ardiel was 43 years old, a senior analyst with the Royal Bank and the father of two little boys, ages two and five, when he had a stroke while shoveling his Toronto area driveway.
To look at him, the impact of that life-changing event is not apparent. But when Scott begins to tell the story of his recovery, the challenges become clear.
Scott has aphasia, or communication loss, a very common stroke outcome that affects more than a third of people living with stroke. Six years later, Scott continues to regain speech and language as part of a research study with the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery (CPSR).
The study, led by CPSR-Investigator Dr. Jed Meltzer at Baycrest Health Sciences, uses sophisticated imaging technology to determine the type, intensity and duration of speech-language therapy to improve connections and activate speech centres in the brain.
Initially after his stroke, Scott lost the ability to understand language, remember words and to speak coherently. He says involvement in the study, intensive speech-language therapy — breaking down words, using rhyming techniques and symbols — helped him assemble words and speak with some fluency.
It is obvious that he has come a long way.
Scott recalls when he first awoke after his stroke, his wife leaned in, looked at him in disbelief and told him that she couldn’t understand a word he was saying. When shown a pen, spoon or fork, he was unable to identify the word for one or the other. “That was hard,” he says, recalling how he lay in bed for hours trying to think of the word for the floor or the wall.
Through therapy, Scott is now able to communicate without using an erasable white board when he leaves the house, a trick he employed to get his message across when he first ventured out to the store. However, he is unable to return to work because his communication skills remain impaired and Scott needs to relearn math skills (when you are a computer programmer “you should know that,” he says.)
He says he finds recovery slow – and describes how the impact of the stroke reaches from parent to child. Recently, Scott and his family were watching home videos taken before his stroke. While his older son, now age 11, remembers his father speaking to him and reading bedtime stories, his younger son does not. As Scott and his sons were watching the video, the younger boy asked who was speaking from behind the camera. “That was me,” Scott says.
Further research is needed to help the thousands of Canadians who face a hidden and little-known consequence of stroke, Scott says.