I have had quite a few therapies during my rehabilitation. The one that I most enjoyed and that I found surprising, though, was Speech and Language Therapy (SALT). I always thought SALT was about how you moved your lips and made sounds with your mouth, so I was really surprised it actually focuses more on rewiring your brain and retraining your thought patterns.
It's hard to describe, but I guess due to my brain being in shock, I just didn't notice things that would be more obvious if, say, you just snapped out of being in a coma and carried on as normal, like happens in films. The change in my speech was one of those things I just didn't notice.
What most people know about being in a coma is what they have learned from films (myself included, i.e., you awake from a long sleep and are a bit confused before resuming as normal), but it just doesn't work like that. Awakening and regaining your awareness after being in a coma is actually a very slow process. Here's a couple of examples of my experience for you: I didn't realise I had double vision for at least the first couple of years; I did things like shutting one eye to read. It never occurred to me to question why I had to shut one eye. If I woke up tomorrow and suddenly could only read by closing one eye, then questions would be asked, but that's because I have a brain that hasn't had a (recent) trauma; I just shut one eye then because it was easier and that was that! I didn't really think about it.
Another being very early on when my mate came to see me in hospital, he jokingly teased me about the fact I was wearing a nappy! They were actually incontinence pants and were there as a perfectly understandable preventative measure as I had just come out of a 16-day coma. My family were extremely grateful to the NHS that I was alive, so they weren't going to question any of their methods. It sometimes takes a mate to tell you you're wearing a nappy and should really sort yourself out before you get any female visitors. I just didn't notice they were out of the ordinary, but I suppose what are friends for!
What I know about it is what I have learned since with hindsight, and hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing; at the time, I basically didn't have a clue what was going on. It was never stressful though because I also didn't have a clue that I didn't have a clue what was happening!
I hadn't noticed that I had started stammering when I spoke, which I had never experienced before. Again, it didn't really register as a new problem, and it was never pointed out to me as I was only ever told I was 'doing great!'. It was just normal not to be able to speak very easily; I didn't even notice it wasn't a problem for anyone else. In fact, it was starting to speak that I found the most difficult, but once I got going, I seemed to be ok. Much like being a kid and going to school in my parents' 1989 Ford Escort, it often had difficulty starting on a morning, especially in the cold, but once it eventually did, it was ok (much to my disappointment as all I ever wanted was a day off school!).
If I wasn't actually told that I needed assistance with my speech from my rehab team, the NHS and others, I don't know what would have become of my speech!
Looking back, I was newly brain injured and just struggling with life. Everything was suddenly very different. I was trying to deal with all this new information, and I was the least well equipped to handle any new information than I ever had been in my life.
I would have described myself as a mess! I was unable to make things better as I didn't know what was wrong with me and so didn't know who to ask or what I even wanted help with. This is where a professional is so helpful in moving forward.
Realising I needed the support of a Speech and Language Therapist really was crucial in my recovery, and I wouldn't have gone on to do public speaking as I do now without the help and support of my Speech and Language Therapist.
Next time, I'll be telling you more about my assessment and how my therapist helped me to understand what therapy I needed and how we could work together to improve my speech after my brain injury.
If you needed the support of a Speech and Language, tell us of your experience in the comments section below!