Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Math, strokes, and aphasia

One of my favorite professors when I attended Boise State University was Pat Shannon.

He was a business professor and taught “Statistics.” I took two semesters of his class. As the saying goes, “he wrote the book on 'Statistics.'” 

Literally he wrote a noted Statistics textbook. He used HIS textbook for his class.

Years later, I joked with him saying that “I did not think that it was fair to use your own textbook. How could I argue about bad examples when YOU wrote the book!”

He laughed, and said, “Well, at least you got ‘A’s’ because you were a math whiz.”

And I was.

Math was so easy for me. All math inducing calculus, algebra, trigonometry, statistics, geometry, etc. was so simple.

Several years after my conversation with Pat, I had two massive strokes. My son was in the 1st grade, and I could not even do his homework at all.

After my strokes, I had lunch with Pat, and I told him that “I should get a refund for my math classes now because I cannot ‘do math’ anymore.” 

He laughed, but said, “Really? What does that mean for you now?”

I explained that I certainly understand “math.” For example, I completely understand financials like the College of Western Idaho financials. I am on the Board of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, and I read and review  very complex financials all of the time. 

understand everything. However, I cannot “express” or “say” when I try to ask a question about math and financials.

I cannot calculate at all. That's the biggest frustration. I feel just stupid.

To explain further, Patricia Montemurr, Detroit Free Press, wrote an article that illustrate that I have to deal with everyday.

ABC newscaster Bob Woodruff, a Michigan native and Cranbrook school graduate, also suffered a brain injury that brought on aphasia when he was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in January 2006. Woodruff returned to the air in 13 months, but he says he still deals with the aftermath of aphasia.

Aphasia doesn't affect a person's intelligence. People with aphasia can form thoughts and words in their minds, but they cannot always get the words out.

"It can affect your ability to listen, to write, to read, to do gestures, to do math," says Mimi Block, clinical services manager of the University of Michigan program. "Anything that's language-based. And you don't realize how much is language-based until you lose it." 
It is still very difficult for me. So sad.

When tried to do our son’s 1st grade math, I could not do it. Now, he is in the 5th grade, and my aphasia is very frustrating for me. I cannot help with my son’s homework. That is a devastating blow for me.

I just feel so “useless” which is common for a stroke survivor.

Luckily, my wife is a math wizard, and she helps with our son’s homework. I listen in another room. Again, I “miss me.” 

There is a television show called "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" I am not.

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