Anna and Ryan Teal of Canton are offering hope to others dealing with the debilitating health condition that upended their lives nearly five years ago.
“We are very passionate about encouraging our aphasia community that progress is possible years after the event that left them with aphasia,” Anna Teal said. “Doctors will tell you that you cannot get better after two years, but that’s not true.”
Ryan was 34 when he fell out of bed on Feb. 6, 2018, after having an ischemic stroke. He could not speak or stand and was quickly diagnosed with aphasia, a condition that typically develops from a stroke or brain injury. Although it doesn’t alter a person’s intelligence, aphasia makes speaking difficult, if not impossible.
At the time of his stroke, Ryan was in his 10th year working as a government intelligence analyst, and Anna, 33, was starting a promising new job in marketing.
Today, Ryan can drive and continues to progress despite doctors’ two-year plateau prognosis, Anna said. Most recently, he has been a little bolder in communicating with people in public, asking restaurant wait staff for water rather than defaulting to Anna to make the request.
“Ryan is doing good,” she said recently. “He is so sweet and still stays positive.”
Speech therapy is a regular part of Ryan’s life, as are research studies dealing with speech and aphasia. Ryan receives what’s tantamount to free therapy in the studies, and the couple is able to help in research that could one day benefit all aphasia patients, Anna said.
“It’s really a win-win,” she said.
Since Ryan’s stroke, Anna has started her own marketing company in Canton that’s drawn some accolades. She also is completing the third in a series of “Aphasia Readers.” The books are designed to help aphasia patients as they work to regain their speech.
These books take an adult approach to re-learning speech and life skills, unlike other practice guides that the Teals found are mostly geared toward children. Anna said that part of the proceeds from the book sales will help raise awareness of aphasia and assist those who cannot afford intensive speech therapy.
A 2016 national study found that 84% of Americans had never heard of aphasia, even though it is more common than cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or muscular dystrophy. Google searches for aphasia were off the chart in the days following the announcement in March of this year by Bruce Willis’ family that the well-known actor has the condition and was retiring from acting.
Anna wants people with aphasia and their caregivers to know that “you can make progress for years into your recovery.
“Keep hope and keep practicing,” she said.
HOW TO HELP
Learn more about aphasia at https://www.aphasia.org/.
Find out about the Teals’ books and how to purchase them at https://aphasiareaders.com/.
WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT
This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.
Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.
We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead. We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.
And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.