Editor's Note: Tough to explain

Posted 4/5/22

ast week, an important issue came out thanks to Hollywood. No. I am not talking about Will Smith ridiculously slapping Chris Rock. Instead, I am talking about the news that Bruce Willis has been …

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Editor's Note: Tough to explain

Posted

Last week, an important issue came out thanks to Hollywood. No. I am not talking about Will Smith ridiculously slapping Chris Rock.

Instead, I am talking about the news that Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with aphasia. This hit home for me because just a few months ago I would have had the same reaction that many others did to this news. I would have wondered what the heck is aphasia.

When his family made the announcement that Willis has now quit acting, I knew why because my dad was diagnosed with aphasia several months ago. While the VA doctors are not completely sure what the cause is, they know my dad’s recent issues in communicating are due to this condition.

Aphasia is an inability to comprehend or formulate language because of damage to specific brain regions. The major causes are stroke and head trauma. Aphasia can also be the result of brain tumors, brain infections, or neurodegenerative diseases.

In looking at my dad’s brain scans, doctors showed me a dark area in his brain where speech is impacted. There is no fix for this, which means family and friends must be more patient and understanding.

Getting past all the scans, and Webster’s definition of aphasia, there is a person this condition impacts and it must be incredibly frustrating.

After my dad’s diagnosis I researched it and became a lot more sensitive to the struggles he is going through. The inability to express a thought even though he is thinking it. The struggles to understand conversations happening around him. It must be incredibly tough to go through day-to-day activities with an important part of your brain not functioning correctly.

Another person who has publicly talked about the impacts of aphasia has been former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In my early days as a journalist in Arizona, I got to know Giffords well. She survived being shot in the head, but not without some lasting effects.

One of those conditions is aphasia. Through social media, Giffords often describes what aphasia does to a person. She is open about how the idea is there, but she can’t get the words out to express it.

Giffords will always be someone I admire, and seeing her still speak in public engagements and work as hard as she does to make a difference in the world is impressive. I also love that she continues to bring more awareness to this condition that can impact a range of reading, writing and speaking.

With my dad, we continue to learn patience. We have worked to slow down when we are speaking. We are understanding when he says something that may not make a lot of sense to us, but he is trying.

For those who may encounter someone dealing with aphasia, understand it is more frustrating for the person living with it than it is for us. It is important to practice patience and understanding for this condition just like we would with any other medical condition a person is working through.

Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media

thelma grimes, aphasia, gabrielle giffords bruce willis

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