Scared Speechless

The following is an account of my brief experience with Speech Apraxia which occurred six months ago.

It was about 2:30 AM on March 4th, 2015. I woke after only a few hours of sleep and after shifting around in bed, trying to get comfortable, I got up and stumbled to the bathroom. I tried to be quiet so I wouldn’t wake Joe, but the past several days had included a dystonic event brought on by catching the flu/cold germs going around, and my gait was still unsteady enough to bump into a few too many things.

I was standing in the middle of the room, when Joe decided to come make sure I was ok. His appearance in the doorway, right in front of me, and “Babe, are you ok?” startled me and I screamed. And screamed. And screamed. I could not stop screaming.

Joe picked me up and carried me back to bed. I was as stiff as a board. I knew it was Joe, but I simply could not stop screaming. When at last I did, I could not talk.

The only sound I could form was, “aaaaaaaa”. Watch this video Joe took to show my doctors. I was trying to say, “it’s ok, you didn’t try.”

We tried to communicate with hand gestures and eventually discovered I could type out what I wanted to say. Poor Joe was distraught. He felt it was all his fault for scaring me and worried that something permanent had been damaged. Bless his heart.

Twenty-four hours later I still could only produce one sound and my means of communication was my ipad. Slowly as time went by I was able to form garbled sounds resembling that of which the English language is made.

I made progress though! Soon I was able to make the beginning sounds of the words I wanted to say and later the ending sound. The middle of a word and the different syllables caused a great deal of trouble.

Here is another video of when my speech had improved.

Speaking was very difficult and trying to get people to understand what I wanted was tiring!

Alex loved to hear me try to talk and laughed and laughed. It really did sound funny.

There was a part of me that felt a bit scared and yet, there was nothing to do but keep trying and why not laugh? It’s much better than crying! Oh and it was kinda fun finding ways to flirt with my husband while my vocal cords were on vacation!

One day I sat in front of the mirror and just worked on the names of my family for practice with the sounds and syllables. E-ri-ca, roz-ma-ry, brad-lyn… the toughest names were Bruce, Aaron & Alex. Bontrager took a long time to master! This was where my experience as a first grade teacher came in handy! In all those times of teaching my students how to use their tongues, teeth and lips to correctly form the sounds of the alphabet, I never thought I’d use those same techniques to give myself speech therapy!

But slowly my speech became clearer and about two weeks after the incident, I was speaking normally again.

Why did this happen? Not exactly sure. One of my doctors feels it was a combination of my body & brain being weakened by the flu and then my brain was overstimulated by the scare. Why I lost my ability to speak? I really have no clue. It’ll be a great story to tell the grand kids though! “One time, grandpa scared, grandma so bad she couldn’t talk for 2 weeks!” (Of course it will need to be exaggerated!)

This event ushered in two more symptoms which have continued to show up whenever they feel my brain is sufficiently stimulated. One: I repeat words or phrases over and over and over. I can be repeating the same phrase for up to a minute sometimes. One thing I’ve learned is if I hold my tongue down so it can’t move for a time, the repeating will stop. And then I just better not talk for a few minutes! Two: in the same way that I repeat words, my motions can also become repetitive. For instance, I may tap Joe on the shoulder to get his attention, and my hand will just keep tapping until he takes it and holds it still. Or I may start rocking back and forth until someone stops me.

We’ve found these symptoms can be quite amusing. I say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry….” Joe says, “it’s ok, you can stop saying it now.” I say, “ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok….” And we are both laughing till I get it stopped.

While we’re on the subject of amusing symptoms, I have also begun this thing where I randomly can’t walk forward. I may be able walk perfectly backward and even at times, sideways, but not forward. Sounds bizarre I know, but that’s the truth of it. Recently on a road trip, Joe was helping me into the car when suddenly I just started going backwards. So he turned me around and I backed into the car just fine. My cousin, Tinslie was along, it tickled her funny bone and she giggled away. =)

I was placed on an anti-seizure med called lamictal and this has helped dramatically in the number of these events and in helping to protect my brain from over-stimulation.

Joe says in the past year, life has never been boring!


7 thoughts on “Scared Speechless

  1. You should be able to write a book about all the things you have learned about your diseases. I’m glad you’re still learning. God Bless! I will continue to pray!


  2. Andrea, I am so sorry this is happening to you. It scares me just thinking about not having control of my speech and yet you remained so strong through it all. I have lyme also but not nearly as bad, however I sometimes forget words and if I get a cold or flu, it makes everything worse. I’m wondering what treatments you’re currently taking and have you found anything that actually works? I found that some anti-malarials seemed to do something for me but then I lost feeling in my leg and had to stop them. It seems that the medicines that work well also come with bad side effects of their own! Next thing I want to do is try the herbal route but I haven’t made the appointment with the herbalist yet.


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