Thursday, June 28, 2007

Man suffering dementia reported missing in Valley Center

VALLEY CENTER -- A man suffering from dementia and aphasia -- or speech and comprehension impairment -- remained missing Wednesday night more than 16 hours after he disappeared from a Valley Center home, authorities said.

Michael Burt Day, a 63-year-old man visiting from Tucson, was last seen at about 5 a.m. Wednesday at a home in the 14000 block of Sturnella Way, sheriff's Sgt. Mark Moreno said. Day was reported missing about four and a half hours later, and sheriff's search and rescue personnel were subsequently called in, he said.

A search was under way as of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, sheriff's Lt. Sylvester Washington said.

Day is described as a white man with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 5-foot-6 and weighs 180 pounds, and was last seen wearing white shorts, a khaki jacket, a blue baseball hat and white tennis shoes with black stripes.

Day's only means of transportation is on foot or by public transit, Moreno said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's communication center at (858) 565-5200.

Aphasia: A world beyond words

CJN Intern

Jack Geller has been active in the Jewish community for decades, but he couldn’t tell you about it.

He is an honorary life president of Holy Blossom Temple, was the youngest president of Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada and was involved with Canadian Jewish Congress, among other activities.

Geller also had two successful careers – as a lawyer and as chair of the Ontario Securities Commission.

But he can’t speak about any of his accomplishments.

Five years ago, Geller had a stroke during the second Passover seder, and he has lived with aphasia ever since.

Aphasia is a communication disorder caused by injury to the brain, usually as a result of a stroke or head injury. People with aphasia are intellectually competent, but have difficulty with language. Aphasia can affect the ability to speak, understand, read and write, and can thus mask a person’s true intelligence.

An estimated 20 to 25 per cent of stroke sufferers develop aphasia, and at least 100,000 Canadians live with the disorder. Aphasia can be mild, manifesting itself in slow speech and searching for words, or extremely severe, to the point where a person has no speech at all.

Geller’s aphasia is severe. He makes a lot of sounds, but few of them are recognizable words.

“He can’t speak, but he can communicate,” says his wife, Sybil, who calls aphasia an “invisible disorder” that few know about. People with aphasia rely on pictures and other tools to help express themselves.

After the stroke, Jack was comatose for several days and completely paralyzed on his right side. He was told he would never walk.

“He recovered, amazing everybody,” Sybil said. While his speech will never be the same, Jack has seen improvement over the last five years.

“He can put some sentences together but not consistently. Aphasia is inconsistent. Just when you think you’ve got something, it’s gone… You think, ‘Oh wonderful, there’s progress,’ and then it’s gone,” she says.

“You don’t know what the trigger is because it doesn’t depend on being tired or being confused – this is one of the horrors of aphasia.”

She says Jack’s involvement with the Aphasia Institute has been a major factor in his improvement over the last half-decade.

“It absolutely saved our lives; it made sense of everything,” says Sybil, who describes her husband’s stroke and the period after it as a “very low time.”

The Aphasia Institute is a Toronto organization that focuses on training, education and outreach about the disorder. It also offers programs including conversation circles and recreational activities for people with aphasia, through its Pat Arato Aphasia Centre.

Sybil and Jack attended the 12-week introductory program for families. Since then, Jack has been a member of the Toastmasters International Aphasia Gavel Club.

“It’s unique, there isn’t another one in the world for people with aphasia,” Sybil says of the public speaking club.

She still attends the family support group. Both Gellers have sat on various committees at the institute and have been involved in fundraising. They founded the Jack Geller Fund. “We do everything we can to fundraise for it,” Sybil says.

Jack was 72 and had just retired when he had his stroke, but this is not the case for many others.

“Just think of young people, people who have a family and they’re a wage earner,” she says. “What do they do? Think of what it does to a family.”

She says their own family’s support was crucial to the healing process.

“I must emphasize the importance of family and friends in recovery, in quality of life.”

The Gellers’ seven grandsons continue to visit Jack for lunch regularly as if nothing has changed since 2002.

Sybil worked in health-care services all her life, and had an aunt with aphasia, but didn’t know what it was until Jack’s experience.

“I couldn’t pronounce it, I couldn’t even spell it,” says the former president of the Ontario Red Cross, who also sat on the board of the Ontario Cancer and Research Foundation for six years and was involved with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Sybil cites Wheel Trans as an example of why she refers to aphasia as an invisible disorder. Jack is not physically limited and therefore is not a candidate for the assisted transportation system. But since he can’t read much more than headlines and can get confused, using public transit is usually not possible.

“There’s just a myriad of things he can’t do,” Sybil says.

She says life can “never be normal,” but the Gellers do what they can to live it to its fullest. They have travelled worldwide and attend some theatre productions and concerts.

But aphasia continues to present challenges, Sybil says.

“When you have a powerful person you’ve lived with, who could take initiative – now he has to have his routine, and anything out of the routine confuses him. For someone who has been in control of not only his life… but contributed tremendously to the community, [it’s difficult to adjust].”

The Aphasia Institute is hosting an afternoon for Aphasia Awareness Day on June 14, 2:30 to 5 p.m., and the Gellers will be attending.

“Anything we can do to bring awareness to the public is important so that there is understanding,” Sybil says.

The institute’s event is geared to health professionals, people with aphasia and anyone who wants to learn more about the disorder. Called A Partnership of Hope, the afternoon features a prominent neurologist, Dr. Sandra Black, as the keynote speaker, as well as demonstrations of aphasia-friendly resources and programs, a speech by a Gavel Club member, a performance by the Aphasia Institute Drum Circle and a workshop for health professionals.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Michelle Christian at 416-226-3636, ext. 20, or by e-mail at

The Diary Of A Mad Spinster

Are you an Indonesian citizen, around thirty something and knew this teen story on a teenage boy named Lupus, created by Hilman? I remembered I looooveeeedd that story very much. Never missed a single story when they were published on a teen magazine at that time.

Anyway, when we reading his story, we were like, oh just like this? We can write this story? Why the heck not? It is only about our daily life in school, at home , everything were just about the life of a teenage boy. Or was it?

In one of the story, I remembered, the writer mentioned about the illness called: APHASIA. At that time, I seriously thought that the writer just made a joke from the Indonesian sentence : APA SI YAH? Or in English sort of like : Wonder what is it? He did explain the illness is about how the brain is not connected with the mouth. Whatever the brain wish to say, the words came out differently. Again, I seriously thought he was just joking. Until about 20 years later I saw this tv series called : HOUSE, and found that APHASIA is really a disease. As I quote from Oxford dictionary, APHASIA is inability to understand or procedure speech as a result of brain damage.

It took me 20 years to found that was true. So, I guess I was suck to become a writer. I did not even try to find out whether APHASIA really an illness. I just accepted my own explanation about the strange word. If I was really have the talent, I would have been trying to find the meaning of that word. But I guess, I have never really been a serious reader, not even close to become a writer.

Research, learning, watching, memorize. All of that are all the qualities I do not have. Imagine that it took me 20 years to find out something. No wonder I am totally suck in this life. And no wonder I end up with nobody to be with. With a job that I totally hate. With a life that I am not really sure want to be this way.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Event to focus on communication disorder called aphasia

June 1, 2007

KALAMAZOO--June has been designated National Aphasia Education Month, and faculty and students in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology will help members of the public learn more about the disorder at a special event on Thursday, June 7.


Column: Coping with dementia

The latest of the many films dealing with the subject of dementia has come to Boston. Some of us have seen “Away From Her,” drawn from Alice Munro’s short story, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.”

Canadian actress Sarah Polley made her debut as a director in this portrait of a woman, Fiona (Julie Christie) who is slowly “losing it” and her patient, perplexed husband Grant (Gordon Pinsent). Ty Burr, writing in the Boston Globe on May 18, called the film, “tragic but not depressing, because Polley is curious to know what happens to love when memory is gone.” And of course, we find out.


Joe Kay rides his bike at Stanford, looking for 'normal'

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The incurable dementia that strikes younger people

Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tragedy may be looming, but love set up camp long ago in this Schaumburg home.

The simple pleasure of letting Mary Beth, his wife of 34 years, know how he feels about her is something Steve Riedner cherishes.

“How many more opportunities am I going to have to tell her, ‘I love you’?” Riedner says, hinting at the sad silence in their forecast.

“I’m going to know anyway,” his wife says.

A critical thinker with strong opinions, Riedner has contributed to several of my columns over the years. When moments of confusion and being tongue-tied became more frequent in his mid-50s, Riedner chalked it up as “a sign of getting old.”


Make Like a Tree!

There’s a Monty Python sketch where John Cleese plays a detective with some kind of aphasia. He enters a room and tells the occupants:

I’m afraid I must not ask anyone to leave the room. No, I must ask nobody … no, I must ask everybody to… I must not ask anyone to leave the room. No one must be asked by me to leave the room.

After a few more sentences that get less and less coherent, he finally manages to produce a string that conveys the desired meaning, or at least something sufficiently close:


NCCU, Chinese in joint venture

DURHAM - Communication therapists at N.C. Central University are forging relationships with Chinese universities to provide formal speech training to college students half a world away.

Faculty in NCCU's communication disorders department, in the School of Education, plan to use distance education to offer formal speech therapy to English-speaking Chinese students.

This training would fill a huge void, said Thomas Layton, one of the NCCU speech pathologists involved in the program. China has far too few speech therapists; there are only about 50 in Beijing, a city of 20 million, Layton said. By comparison, there are more than 1,500 in North Carolina, which has about 9 million people. All of China has about 500 speech therapists, he said.

"Our little state has more than in their whole country," Layton said. "There is an unbelievable number of children and adults who need speech therapy."

Layton is working with NCCU professor Jianping Hao, who received two medical degrees in China before coming to the United States and obtaining a Ph.D. in speech science from Kent State University.

Now, just one Chinese University offers an undergraduate speech and language pathology program, and it is not as formal as it needs to be, Layton said, likening much of China's speech education to "on-the-job training." NCCU's program, strictly a graduate venture on campus, will offer a more structured set of courses. Officials hope to offer four or five courses beginning in the spring.

Courses will tackle various speech-related sub-disciplines associated with children and adults. Treatment for autism will be one focus, as will aphasia, a speech condition afflicting stroke sufferers.

This fall, NCCU expects to get its first Chinese faculty member as an exchange scholar as well as Chinese professionals who will train NCCU students to use Dr. Speech, a software package developed by them that has universal application. Eventually, Hao and Layton expect to send NCCU students to China to work with scholars, professionals and patients.

Mastering the mounds

By Donna O'Neil/
GateHouse News Service

Baseball is not just a sport to Matt Cook. It’s a passion, a passion that was almost taken away from him less than two months ago.

Yet there he was last Thursday, the Hamilton resident and baseball pitcher, passionate as ever about the game he loves and ready to shine. After a trying month and a half, Matt made it to the show. At age 15, the freshman Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School varsity pitcher, took the mound at the mecca of all baseball parks, Fenway, like a seasoned professional.

ss_icon Mastering the mound

“He threw a strike. He threw a strike,” proclaimed his proud nana, Emily Cook, of Hamilton, as she watched from the warning track as her grandson throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Red Sox versus Detriot Tigers game last Thursday. Nana’s observations were further confirmed when Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo said, “Nice throw,” as Matt walked off the field.

Adorned with a Fenway logo and the words, “Matt Cook, Ceremonial First Pitch, May 17, 2007,” he got to keep the official Major League baseball he threw out.

His adventure to the Fenway mound was a nice reward for a very complex journey.

Throwing out the first pitch was an item at a recent charity auction and the anonymous winning bidder donated it to Children’s Hospital, instructing them to donate it to somebody worthy of the honor. A representative from public affairs at Children’s Hospital called Ann Connors-Cook, Matt’s mother, and said, “There’s no one more worthy of this honor than your son.”

See, since late March, Matt has been an unwitting participant in a life altering experience.

“Matt suffered a blow to the left side of his head from a line drive hit back at him while he was pitching batting practice (for the high school team) on March 30,” said Ann. “Matt suffered expressive aphasia, which is the loss of a previously held ability to speak spoken or written language, due to disease or injury of the brain. He also lost sensation on his entire right side. In the ER that evening at Children’s Hospital, we were told that it would only get worse before it got better because the brain continues to swell for the first 72 hours, causing a great deal of pain. He was sensitive to light and noise so he spent the first several days in a dimly lit, quiet room. He was on strong pain medicines, but as they were wearing off, it was so heartbreaking to see him in excruciating pain. It’s a parent’s nightmare. Day by day, this all got a little better.”

Matt spent a week at Children’s Hospital in Boston following the injury and then was sent to Spaulding Rehab for three and a half weeks where he had physical, occupational and speech therapy.

His neurosurgeon said that he has “made a remarkable recovery” and his mom says that he is speaking now with very little hesitation. He returned to school, Friday, May 11, and is continuing his therapies on an outpatient basis at Shaughnessy-Kaplan Rehab Hospital in Salem.

“Every doctor and therapist has described Matt as a ‘very determined and motivated kid’ and that’s one of the key reasons that his recovery has been so remarkable. He’s worked very hard at it,” said Ann.

His reward was a spot on Fenway’s hallowed grounds, pitching again, and living out his passion.

Grateful for the way Matt has progressed in his recovery, Matt’s parents offered a few words of advice to every parent.

“Appreciate even the annoying things that your children do, spend lots of time with them and tell them every day that you love them because things in your life can change in a heartbeat,” Ann said. “As serious as Matt’s injury was, he was the healthiest child on the Pediatric floor at Spaulding. Matt’s roommate had to have a section of his brain removed due to a disease that was causing seizures, several children had brain cancer, while another teenager was paralyzed after being hit by a car. The average time spent at Spaulding is two to three months – Matt was one of the lucky ones, having to spend only four weeks there.”

Not just a game
The love of the game appears hereditary in the Cook family.

Tom, Matt’s father, was drafted by a major league team out of high school, but chose to pursue a college education prior to entering the big leagues. Unfortunately, he was sidelined with an injury, which rendered him unable to take up baseball as a career.

But Tom and Matt, and what seemed like the entire extended Cook family, as well as a number of Hamilton residents, including a contingent from the Hamilton-Wenham baseball team, watched at Fenway as the self-proclaimed nervous and excited Matt practiced his pitch with a Red Sox ball boy, while Julio Lugo tossed a few to warm up with his teammates nearby.

“Every ball player’s dream is to play professional baseball,” Matt said when asked if he ever dreamt of playing baseball professionally. “I just want to play for as long as I can and hopefully that includes playing in college.”

Although he didn’t get to personally meet any of the players, he did say that the Red Sox players who are in the throes of a winning season are among his favorite in the major league.

His favorite pitcher is Jon Papelbon. “I love the way he can close a game,” Matt said.

When asked who he would want to pitch to if he had a choice of any player past or present, he stated with certainty, “Ted Williams.”

His favorite catcher? Jason Varitek, who didn’t catch the game Matt was at, resting in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. But someday, Matt certainly wouldn’t mind firing a fastball to the Red Sox favorite.

A steely debate

Matt’s injury sparks renewed interest in the use of wooden versus aluminum bats through high school baseball play.

Although his parents, Ann and Tom Cook, are proponents of wooden bat usage, Matt has no opinion.

“The game is too dangerous with the power of these aluminum bats,” said Ann, who also referenced the case of 13-year-old New Jersey youngster Steven Domalewski, who suffered a long-term injury when he was hit by a line drive off an aluminum bat last year.

After eight months of recovery, Domaleski returned home to continue his recovery. Ann Cook said Joe Domalewski, Steven’s father, called to say how sorry he was about Matt’s injury. The elder Domalewski tracks metal bat-related injuries.

Hamilton-Wenham athletic director Don Doucette is also looking at ways to make the game safer. Ann said that helmets are now mandatory for anyone pitching batting practice. Doucette hopes the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association will mandate the change.

In the meantime, it won’t be long until Matt makes a return trip to his favorite ballpark.

Varitek and his wife sponsor a program at Children’s Hospital that donates a number of tickets to games during the season for patients and their families. Matt and his family have been invited back to Fenway by Children’s Hospital as part of the Varitek’s generosity to attend another game this summer. He’ll watch pre-game batting practice and will get to go on the field to speak with Jason himself.

With any luck, Matt will have an opportunity to pitch to his favorite catcher. No doubt it’ll be another strike, just like the pitch he threw last Thursday.