Irene Sharpham


My name is Irene Sharpham. I was severely aphasic due to a stroke in August 1990. I recovered well after 6 weeks in hospital doing speech-physiotherapy. I regained my use of my right leg and my right arm. I am able to write, think and read but my speech took a little longer.


I was always healthy for 46 years. I had two children and I breezed through my pregnancies. I started to get really sick in May 1990. In 1990 the last part of the summer was extremely hot and humid. On a fateful day in August I woke up and I realized that I could not speak. I have never heard the term before "she had suffered a stroke". But I learned to live with that term. I suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke due to secondary bacterial endocarditis that destroyed my aortic valve and further complicated with necessary replacement of open-heart surgery. It was a "Fool's disease" because it was so hard to diagnose.


Blind faith in the doctors and nurses helped me to recover. But especially my husband, Doug, is the reason for my return to health and through the encouragement by speech and physiotherapists.


I wrote a book on my stroke experience. It was as a personal therapy, rescuing my thoughts from despair and indwelling aphasia to turn it around to positive hope. Someone struggling with aphasia will see that the tunnel is long but the rewards are gratifying and personal. After 13 years, now I feel more at ease with my aphasia. I have come far from being speechless, and have regained the use of my arm and leg. It is not quite as dramatic and final. But I have never accepted the loss of speech. My speech now is not flowery rather straightforward, like to the point, or black and white.


In the midst of my aphasia I always remember saying "Ihavetotellyousomanythings." It came out as a string of unconnected words. After saying that I was tired with the effort. That is the first time that I realized I would speak again. I can't shake the tiredness - I will learn to live with it because feeling tired personally for me is synonymous after the stroke with my heart ailment. I am not cured, far from it!


After the stroke I have been locked in a disability, silent and not communicative, not by choice. I tried and I am still trying. I was plummeted into disability and old age before my time by my stroke. Now I have to take my time doing painstakingly small tasks, writing, speaking, thinking, and reading. My brain gets tired very easily. And I notice getting older the rate of slowness increases. I can't win but I am determined to not give in. I want to interact socially and speaking is the lifeline I wish to adopt. I am willing to learn all over again. But it eludes me.


In the early days after the stroke I desperately wanted to be normal, plain, ordinary again. I did want to work again but it's not practicable. I miss being spontaneous, words slipping from my tongue. Now I realized that it's a pipe dream. I don't entertain that thought any more. It's a matter of adapting. I channeled my energies to new pursuits, swimming, Tai Chi, learning to play the piano, gardening, nature craft. A lot of my pursuits are lonely ones because I fear that people don't understand me. Some days I still have difficulty with accepting my stroke but there is no turning back. I am alive! I struggled on with the hope that some day I am going to get better. I am an eternal optimist!


In 1993 I went to University of Michigan for 6 weeks of intensive speech therapy. I belong to a speech communication group in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I go to my speech group because it offers me support and sense of belonging but outside in the real world they all struggle to survive. They are all in the same boat as me. Before the stroke I took my communication skills for granted. It's a battle now.


There is a program run by my group leader Linda Carey in Halifax (similar to Michigan) called InteRACT put on by Dalhousie University. The program started last year and does not run all year round only in May and in August.


And I have been fortunate having a good man to love me.


Read Irene's book.



From the category:


· 104 images
  • 104 images
  • 152 image comments

Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.