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8 Celebrities Who Have Suffered From Aphasia
Aphasia is a cognitive health condition that impairs your ability to understand or process language. The most common cause of Aphasia is a blockage of the blood vessel that connects the language center to the brain. This may happen if you experience a sudden stroke or acute trauma like a brain injury. Alternatively, Aphasia may also develop from an insidious neurodegenerative disorder such as Alzheimer's disease.
Imagine how devastating the feeling would be when someone experiences difficulties in processing or expressing verbal or written communication to the people around them. According to the National Aphasia Association, this cognitive disorder is fairly prevalent among people and needs immediate medical attention. Some celebrities too have experienced this health condition and have spoken about it widely. Here are the experiences of eight celebrities who have dealt with Aphasia.
The Oscar-nominee actress Sharon Stone was rushed to the hospital when she collapsed in her home at the age of 43 due to a brain aneurysm. She was in the hospital for nine days and also endured subsequent cerebral haemorrhaging. She had lost her ability to read and used to stutter while talking, when she was discharged from the hospital.
Difficulty in reading and memorizing lines as well as the development of speech issues brought her career to a standstill. She had to deal with Aphasia for two years which she recalls now as a humbling journey. She had a hard time but has worked hard to open up other parts of her mind. She truly feels that she is much stronger now after the experience of struggling to read and speak as it changed how she functions in the world. Presently, she has been a passionate advocate of stroke awareness and hosts events to raise money for the U.S.-based Women's Brain Health Initiative.
Bruce Williams (Actor)
The action-movie star popularly known for his role in the Die-Hard movie series, Bruce Williams, was diagnosed with Aphasia when he was 67 years old. His ex-wife Demi Moore reported the same for the first time through an Instagram post and conveyed to his fans that Williams had decided to step away from his career.
Aphasia affected the cognitive abilities of Bruce Williams which led him to take one of the most difficult decisions of his life and that was to retire from acting. The family did not disclose the cause of his aphasia but imparted positivity through William's words which say 'Live it up'.
Randy Travis (Singer)
This Grammy-winning Singer was hospitalized in 2013 when he suffered a stroke. Travis had a stroke due to a viral cardiomyopathy which was a virus attack on his heart. Unfortunately, he lost his ability to talk and understand language. Even today, his ability to speak is severely limited. In 2019, Travis published a memoir titled 'Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life' in which he described his struggle with aphasia.
Travis highlighted the difficulties he faced when he was not able to understand what his wife would say to him and how he spent three months in speech therapy before he could say one letter 'A'. After about a year and a half, he was able to speak a few words like 'yup', 'nope' and 'bathroom'. Randy Travis and his wife Mary have started the Randy Travis Foundation to support the victims of stroke and cardiovascular diseases.
Mark McEwen (Former Journalist)
Mark McEwen has worked as an entertainment reporter with the American commercial broadcast television and radio network Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for 16 years. Moreover, he has covered many award shows, and Olympics as well as interviewed five U.S. presidents till 2005. However, in the year 2005, he suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with Aphasia. He documented his struggle and recovery in his memoir titled 'Change in the Weather: Life After Stroke'.
Additionally, he has written on his website about how he battled with Aphasia and how singing songs from the Beatles and Stevie Wonder helped him speak fluently in the recovery stage. In a TEDx talk, he also highlighted how he became a stroke awareness activist. He has used his celebrity status to showcase people who have suffered from this cognitive condition and raised awareness about the same. He has hosted the National Stroke Association’s Raising Awareness in Stroke Excellence (RAISE) Awards and honored many support groups like a Las Vegas-based Aphasia Lunch Bunch support group that work endlessly to create awareness among the people about Aphasia complexities.
Michael Hayden (Former General)
Michael Hayden suffered a stroke in 2018 and lost his ability to read and write. This four-star general who once served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) went all over again and learnt the alphabet from his four-year-old grandson. Thankfully, his intelligence was not affected and his therapists helped him to recover. Hayden has openly discussed his inability to speak fluently and how his therapists and speech pathologists helped him to come to a stage where he can now clearly articulate his criticism towards protesters denouncing systemic racism and police brutality across the U.S.
Emilia Clarke (Actress)
In 2011, the Game of Thrones star, Emilia Clarke was working out with her trainer and she experienced a painful headache. She suffered from a subarachnoid hemorrhage which is a rare type of stroke caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain. As an aftereffect of the hemorrhage, she was not able to remember her name and went into a blind panic. She recalled the experience as a sense of doom closing in when she spoke to The New Yorker magazine. Her aphasia disappeared after a week but the feeling of being unable to express herself in language lingered for quite some time.
Clarke has started a charity by the name ‘Same You’ through which she helps young people to get access to neurorehabilitation facilities after a brain injury or stroke. The charity also funds research for therapies and trains advanced brain injury nurses as well as raises awareness about brain injuries and their complexities.
Gabby Giffords (Former Congresswoman)
In January 2011, when the then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was hosting her first 'Congress on Your Corner' event in Tuscan, Arizona, a gunman opened fire on the crowd and tried to assassinate her. This caused aphasia in Giffords and she was not able to articulate more than a few words in response to any question for many years. The left hemisphere of her brain was damaged which is responsible for language, while her right hemisphere was intact and was able to process tunes and songs.
As a result, she had difficulty speaking words but was able to sing songs she had learned before the shooting incident. Giffords worked hard to recover and was able to deliver a prepared speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention's dramatic fashion show. After her retirement, she started an anti-gun-violence organization with the help of her astronaut husband Mark Kelly to promote sensible legislation for the address of gun violence.
Late Dick Clark (American Television and Radio Host)
The legendary host of 'American Bandstand', Dick Clarke suffered a stroke in December 2004. This stroke paralyzed his right side and caused aphasia. He lost his ability to deliver his signature sign-off. He returned to the New Year's celebration in 2005 after a year of developing aphasia and continued to co-host the celebrations until his death in 2012. Dick Clark showed the world that people can continue to function despite suffering a stroke. The Los Angeles Times newspaper noted in its obituary for Clark that he was fearless and refused to shrink back from life after suffering a stroke. He has been an inspiration for people and has shown how hard work can pay off.
Some notable people have experienced a sudden loss in processing or expressing verbal and written communication due to a cognitive condition called aphasia. The most common cause for this condition was stroke or acute trauma. However, their experiences give us hope that if they can fight over this disorder, we can do it as well. Let us take inspiration from these celebrities who have dealt with aphasia and have recovered after consistent efforts.
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