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Catherine Bang on her speech language therapy experience

Catherine Bang

Leisha, Biddy and Pip, the speech language therapists, helped me get ready for job interviews. They really got to know me and catered to my needs. I felt spoiled. I have a legal background but was unable to go back to that and they helped me find a job that I could do. I am so proud of myself for getting this job because I didn’t think I would work again.

It started with lots of headaches and migraines eventually leading to a stroke in my sleep four years ago when I was 42. My kids were only 12 and 14.

I was diagnosed with Fibromuscular Dysplasia. This is like a string of beads which means that the blood cannot flow through the artery. This was in my left carotid artery. It is a rare condition and is typically found in people of my age and gender. I lost the ability to speak, read, and write and was in the Stroke Ward at Waikato Hospital for eight weeks. My family were always included in my recovery.

I worked with Natalie, a speech language therapist while I was in hospital. She taught me to sing the words “I love you” because she thought that was what I wanted to say to my kids. These were my first words. After weeks of not being able to say anything I sang them to everyone!

Other staff that stood out were Lynne, the allied health therapy assistant and Dr. Kaplan, a specialist on the Stroke Ward.

Lynne knew I was fit and active so she pushed me going up and down stairs knowing I needed to continue to be active so I appreciated that.

Dr. Kaplan suggested that I volunteer in the Stroke Ward which I really enjoy. I’m able to give back to everyone who helped me and encourage patients and family. Dr. Kaplan has encouraged me and he has a similar sense of humour. I have said, “He’s got my back and he always has”.

After I was discharged Natalie rang regularly to ensure that I was “doing my homework” and introduced me to speaking on the telephone. I still have Speech Language Therapy from time to time.

Leisha, Biddy and Pip, the speech language therapists, helped me get ready for job interviews. They really got to know me and catered to my needs. I felt spoiled. I have a legal background but was unable to go back to that and they helped me find a job that I could do. I am so proud of myself for getting this job because I didn’t think I would work again.

So there have been challenges but I’m young and motivated. And while I’ve lost some friends who didn’t understand what I was going through, I’ve made many more, some who work at the DHB and some who have come from the under 65 stroke group I helped set up which is still going strong.

Elizabeth – Catherine has been really determined with the volunteering and the first card she received from a patient was amazing. Patients tell her, “if you can do it so can we, you just inspire us so much”.

Bryan – Leisha has also asked Catherine to speak at a conference to be held by the Aphasia Association and she has agreed. We have noticed a big improvement in Catherine with all the help she continues to receive and we’re very grateful.

Read Catherine’s powerful article in Stuff about her life after her stroke in 2013: Catherine Bang is not thick, just a slow talker

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