Friday, January 26, 2007

Lost for words By Margaret Chrystall

leonard Bowden (32) who can’t speak uses a speech device to communicate. Pic: Ewen Weatherspoon.

Exactly a year ago, the life of the 32-year-old Inverness dad of four changed in a couple of seconds.

Suddenly, he couldn’t speak.

Leonard explains what happened with the help of his constant companion, his Lightwriter – a keyboard he can type words into and a computer voice speaks them out loud.

Last January on Friday the 13th – “lucky for some!”, Leonard writes – he suddenly found words failing him.

Talking on the phone to his mum in Florida, Leonard discovered in the middle of the conversation that he wasn’t able to get any more words out.

He could only make a noise – the same noise – again and again.

Distressed, he started to cry, then laugh, then he tried again to speak and made the same noise, finally managing to shout ‘Help!’ to his mum.

She was upset by what she was hearing, and told Leonard to phone the hospital.

But after a week-long stay in Raigmore Hospital for tests, Leonard was told he might be helped at hospital in Aberdeen. By the end of his time there, he could say some words, but three at a time was a struggle and they weren’t the ones he was trying to say in his head.

The hospital was by then suggesting he had had a small stroke, but there was no evidence of stroke damage.

He was sent back to Raigmore Hospital for speech therapy and tests at an Edinburgh hospital are still ongoing.

Leonard has aphasia which means he can’t communicate verbally.

But because of his ability to read and understand the spoken word, he is thought to have verbal apraxia – that means a difficulty planning the movements necessary for speech....