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APHASIA IS A REALITY!!

LIFE AFTER A STROKE

Reviews

BOOK REVIEW – by   Ruth Tatham M.D.
 
His book begins in April, 2008, or a "great day". Frank was a young, healthy man with a lovely wife and a little son. He had picked up his son from preschool and as they trotted off to have haircuts, Frank thought cheerfully about a phone call he just received that day confirming a new job, a job to work with kids with mental and physical disabilities.
That night, Frank had a stroke, and his life changed forever: the stroke robbed him of the ability to communicate. Frank Austin was now a victim of Aphasia, which varies from an inability to speak, to read, to comprehend what is said to you, to being unable to read or difficulty understanding numbers. Frank learned the hard way that while aphasic people may have lost the ability to communicate with words, most are perfectly bright mentally and now face a hostile world which
often believes that lack of normal speech means you have lost the ability to think as well.
Austin uses a variety of ways to relearn communication. His inherent optimism helped him overcome his loss of self-worth; gently, he introduces the reader to himself, and now and then to his previous belief in a powerful, loving God who has never failed him. However, this is not a religious book but a story of a man's rise up and over terrible adversity. Many different approaches are used as he tells of his personal story...with a growing awareness of how  alone an aphasic stroke survivor
really is.
When Frank couldn't find speech practice conversational groups to help him, he started one, as a coffee and conversational group, in Elmira, ON. Frank gives great credit to his wife, Jennifer, whose life was also turned upside down. Unquestionably, the degree to which Frank Austin rehabilitated was in measure due to her help, her sensible, practical help...which made
Frank's life as the father of a young child, and a giver of help to other stroke survivors, a possibility.
I recommend the book highly - to any family member or friend of any one with aphasia, and communication problems, whether from a stroke or other brain injury. This book would be a regular morale booster.
 
It should NOT be read in one sitting. It should be read a few pages at a time. The help it gives is best digested in small pieces. Right now, I'm thinking how useful this book would have been to me over 60 years ago when I was a young medical student, encountering aphasic patients for the first time, feeling helpless when trying to communicate with obviously intelligent people who were separated from me by the wall of silence that had resulted from a sudden, catastrophic loss of some brain functions!
 
 
 
 BROADWAY WORLD BOOKS
 

It’s 2008 and Frank Austin is an average family guy having a good day: he confirms with a phone call a job offer he’s received, then picks up his son from preschool and the two get haircuts. Later that night, he wakes up in bed, completely disoriented. He can’t talk, can’t see, can’t seem to move. Is this a nightmare? Or is he just dreaming of a person’s worst nightmare?

Then it comes to him: He can hear, and his wife is saying,” I have called an ambulance . I think you are having a stroke.”

Yes, Frank is having a stroke all right, a Cerebral Vascular Accident that will change his life, and not for the better.  He suffers an assault upon the brain, an interruption or blockage of the blood vessels that nourish his cognitive and physical capacities. As time passes and some of the symptoms diminish, he is left with the devastating realization that he can`t talk, can`t read, can`t write. He hears and comprehends everything, but can do little in response. He is a prisoner locked up in his own mind. He has aphasia.

 But Frank is no quitter.  Overwhelmed as he is by his greatly reduced state, he has two things going for him: a belief in God and a strong will that makes him determined to overcome the obstacles that life has thrown in his path.

When The Milk Sours is a highly personalized, tangential  collection of notes  from Frank and others,  appropriate anecdotes from history, philosophy and novelists, all serving to put a frame around the labyrinthine rabbit hole that an aphasiac`s life can become.  No two strokes are the same; some come and go quickly, leaving little evidence of damage, others debilitate for life.  Frank`s job is to figure out how badly he is damaged and how much he can recover.

Once the letters have stopped dancing on the page, Frank takes to reading with a vengeance.  In what turns out to be a brilliant gambit, Frank teaches himself to regain his speech by reading to his son.  The sheer frequency of matching words on the page to those coming out of his mouth gives him a blueprint to move forward. Sometimes with one step back. But he perseveres and wins the battle, if not always the war.

Along the way he learns that there is great deal of ignorance and little support for those who have suffered a stroke that leads to aphasia. Frank becomes an advocate for those people, and remains one to this day. If you are wondering why he choose the title, When The Milk Sours, you will find it in Frank Austin`s own words: ``Make Cheese!``

One gets the feeling from reading this book that nobody will be moving Frank`s cheese anytime soon.

Author Bio: Frank Austin founded the Expressive Café, a support organization for stroke survivors with aphasia in Elmira, Ontario. He became a hospital visitor with Linking Survivors with Survivors in Guelph and Kitchener, and continues to volunteer at aphasia workshops . He and his family live in southwestern Ontario, Canada.