Outpatient Therapy Helped Stroke Patient Regain His Voice

Hearing her husband, Norman, singing in the shower is a source of pride for Mary Ann Stange. Three years ago, her husband of 41 years suffered a stroke. The two were attending a play in Bay City when suddenly Norm couldn’t speak – not a single word.

Luckily, he was treated quickly with a clot-busting medication (Alteplase IV r-tPA ) and was only hospitalized for a short time. Norm’s stroke left him unable to read, write, or speak. The couple was devastated. However, Norm was committed to gain his communication back and worked intensely in outpatient therapy at HealthSource Saginaw with speech-language pathologist Katie McDonald.  Norm regained function and was nearly back to normal in six months.

Many people think speech-language pathology is therapy to improve talking. In fact, HealthSource speech-language pathologists (SLPs) help patients overcome numerous communication, cognitive, and swallowing deficits.  Therapy often focuses on treating the patient as a whole and addressing language understanding and expression (written and verbal), breath support and voicing, attention processing, spatial awareness, judgement, and memory as well as motor speech production and swallowing.

Norm’s challenges included aphasia – which affected his ability to listen, read, and think of or use words – as well as apraxia of speech, an impairment of muscle use affecting voluntary control, initiation, and coordination of movement.

During his outpatient sessions with Katie, Norm performed motor speech exercises aimed at training correct placement of  his tongue in the mouth, to improve sound productions and coordination of speech.  He also followed a series of commands of increasing length designed to retrain his brain.

“Singing in the shower was part of his homework”, says Mary Ann, who, along with Katie encouraged Norm to speak in full sentences rather than just one word responses. Norm used a frozen spoon to massage the muscles around his mouth left slightly droopy after the stroke. A great support network of friends, who meet several times a week at Big Apple Bagel, also helped Norm practice his constantly improving communication skills.

Even his grandchildren got in on the action, bringing grandpa their kindergarten and first-grade books so he could work on reading, concentration, and memory.

“I had a lot of support,” Norm says. “But I had to put in the work. That’s for sure.” He calls Katie a gentle pusher. “She is so upbeat. Her personality is easy to connect with. She was patient with me, but determined to bring about progress. It was a great experience being teamed up with her.”

Mary Ann calls Norm’s recovery “remarkable,” thanks to HealthSource. “To look at or listen to Norm now, you would never know he had a stroke,” she explains with a genuine sense of awe and gratitude.

Overall, the Stanges give HealthSource a grade “A+” for rehabilitation. “Most people talk without even thinking about it,” Norm adds. “I still have to think about it. Every now and then I use the wrong pronoun. The other day I caught myself using the wrong word when I wrote out a Valentine’s Day card. But I feel very lucky.”