Press Release – Aphasia NZ
Many of us know of the crippling effects a stroke or head injury can have on the physical abilities of a person. Few are aware of that damage to the language centre of the brain can leave a person trapped inside their heads, struggling to express thoughts, fears, feelings, or even the most basic of needs. This is known as aphasia. The chances of you knowing someone affected by aphasia are high – you just may not know what to call the problems with their speech and language.
Stephen Gibbs, AphasiaNZ’s Wellington Community Aphasia Advisor (CAA), has been providing support services, resources, education and information to those living with aphasia in the Wellington region since June 2016.
At 6.40am on the 21st January 2015, Stephen’s life changed forever when a clot lodged in the left hemisphere of his brain. A previous teacher of maths and music, a journalist, musician and composer, Stephen was lucky – his wife, a nurse, realised what was happening, and he had prompt clot-busting treatment in Wellington Hospital.
Stephen is still working on his aphasia, and feels that he is in a privileged position to understand what people with aphasia and their support people are going through. He has travelled their journey and can be an advocate and resource for people who are new to the world of aphasia.
Emma Castle, AphasiaNZ’s Executive Director, says that alongside raising awareness about the effects of aphasia on individuals and families, the AphasiaNZ CAA service is critical to helping those with aphasia reintegrate into the community. She says that Stephen has had a positive impact on hundreds of people affected by aphasia in the Wellington, Hutt Valley, Kapiti and Porirua regions.
‘Aphasia can be likened to the state of a library after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. All of the books (information) are still there, but it’s all mixed up and you can’t find what you’re looking for.’
‘Roles and relationships within families are thrown into disarray by the difficulties that aphasia causes. For the person with aphasia, the ability to work, manage finances, and do an ordinary task such as buy stamps from a post office can also be affected. This puts pressure on spouses and family members to both care for the person with aphasia and provide for the family.’
Ms. Castle says that there is help available for those affected by aphasia from the Aphasia New Zealand (AphasiaNZ) Charitable Trust, which provides the CAA service in a number of locations around New Zealand, including the Wellington region.
However a lack of funding means the Wellington service may not be available beyond March.
‘As a charity which does not receive any government funding, AphasiaNZ has struggled to secure grants and donations to enable service delivery in the Wellington region in particular. We have applied to many organisations but been turned down again and again. We are now in a position where unless we can find funding in the next 4 – 6 weeks, we will have no choice but to discontinue Stephen’s role.’
If you would like to support the Wellington Community Aphasia Advisor (CAA) service, you can donate to AphasiaNZ at their Givealittle page here.