Chris and his Aphasia

Chris and his Aphasia

Chris Balfour suffered a stroke in October 2020 which left him with the language disorder aphasia. His stroke left him initially without the ability to speak and he has severe difficulties on his right side caused by the stroke. Prior to his stroke Chris was a very adventurous person. He had just started training for the three peaks challenge and he was re training to become a HGV driver. Chris’s stroke has meant his future has changed dramatically.

Catherine Coyne has been volunteering for Speak With IT since July 2021 and has been supporting Chris since November 2021. Initially support was being held over zoom but since restrictions have eased Catherine has been visiting Chris at this home in Halifax.

Explaining her reasons for volunteering with the charity, Catherine said: ‘I’ve always been passionate about communication and language and had started to feel a pull to channel that passion into helping others.’

‘I started to explore speech and language therapy as a potential career move and began learning about aphasia – both through my own research, and sadly through my dad’s experience of supporting his close friend who is living with aphasia after a stroke.’

Face to face appointments have been easier for both Chris and Catherine and they have also provided an opportunity for his partner Yvette to gain some respite. When Catherine visits Yvette finds something else to do. Both Chris and Yvette acknowledge that having someone from outside the family provide the support is really beneficial.

‘We don’t get very far when I try and help with exercises. Chris engages better with Cat than he does with me,’ Yvette says.

During appointments Chris and Catherine have been working on Chris saying words and also spelling. Chris works hard to make sure he articulates each word as clearly as he can.

When I ask Chris what the best thing about meeting with Catherine is he says without hesitation: ‘People. Seeing people.’

With his permission Yvette expands on Chris’s thought: ‘Having a dedicated one to one volunteer just focusing on Chris is really beneficial. I would give Cat 10/10. She makes the sessions fun and she has a good rapport with Chris. There is lots of laughter which is good for Chris. When she leaves Chris is always upbeat.’

Catherine clearly enjoys her time with Chris as well.

‘It’s generally just been a pleasure getting to know him and being welcomed into his home. Chris has lots of interests and I learn something new about the rich and varied life he’s had every time I spend with him.’

Her advice for new volunteers?

‘Get to know the person you’re supporting as much as you can – even if that means that sometimes you spend a little less time on exercises and more time talking. Be open, patient, and curious so that they feel empowered and understood.’