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Bill’s Journey: A Devastating Stroke, Despair, and Remarkable Turnaround with Neurofeedback

Bill's Journey: Stroke, Aphasia, & A Remarkable Turnaround with Neurofeedback

SUMMARY:

I’m no dummy. I’m no dummy,” Bill* kept uttering. And a “dummy” he certainly was not.

He and his wife Donna* had co-founded a thriving Christian church 46 years earlier that he still presided over as a pastor who passionately led his flock with eloquent sermons and serene guided prayer services. Now, however, he had suffered a stroke (his second in five years), and “I’m no dummy” was the only lucid sentence that came out of his mouth. Everything else was an incoherent jumble of words and phrases.

After three weeks in rehab following his first stroke, which affected his right side mobility, Bill had recovered well enough to go back to normal life. This second one, however, had profoundly affected his speech and his ability to process information.

Not willing to settle for just speech and occupational therapy, which the doctors recommended as their only recourse, Donna brought Bill, 75, to the Center for Brain Training twice a week. Within a week, his progress shocked everyone and continued doing so.

Bill’s first stroke five years before knocked him down but not out. His left side mobility was compromised, but after being in rehab for three weeks and “with the help of God, he came back full swing,” said Donna. He continued preaching three days a week at his church in a small rural town in Florida and going to the local hospital parking lot every evening from 10-11 p.m. to pray for patients and staff.

After the second stroke, he wasn’t so lucky. Overnight Bill had trouble using his right hand (he’s right-handed). He couldn’t properly interpret anything he was told, and spoke haltingly, when he could speak at all, emitting a tangle of unrelated words (“word salad”) that communicated absolutely nothing intelligible.

The day of the stroke
The day of the stroke started out normally around 8 a.m. when Bill got out of bed and headed to his home office for a scheduled weekly Zoom meeting with a group of fellow preachers in Texas. He’d made that call dozens of times, but this particular morning he couldn’t figure out how to use Zoom and had to call Donna in to do it for him. She thought that was strange but went on about her day.

When he ended the call an hour later, he felt tired. He went back to bed before suddenly remembering he was supposed to pick up someone and drive them to a coffee shop he frequented for a meeting, so off he went.

“He started feeling odd at the coffee shop and tried calling me but couldn’t figure out how to use his phone,” remembered Donna. “Some people in the coffee shop who knew him noticed and expressed their concern to one another.

“A nurse who was there who goes to our church checked him out and immediately called the paramedics, who took him to the emergency room,” she continued. “When I got there, I discovered that he wasn’t able to say my name, or his. The doctor in the ER ordered a CAT scan and said he didn’t think Bill had had a stroke but nevertheless admitted him for observation.

The unhappy diagnosis
Over the next three days staff determined he had, in fact, suffered a stroke caused by a heart problem, but one they couldn’t identify. They diagnosed him with visual-motor dysfunction** and both receptive and expressive aphasia*** and sent him home, recommending he have a workup at a major metropolitan medical center to definitively identify the stroke’s source.

Life at home drastically changed
While waiting for him to be admitted to the medical center, Bill came home for the weekend.

It was immediately obvious to everyone that life for the family was going to profoundly change.

Donna noted that Bill wouldn’t stay in bed. He started calling for “Mommy” and repeating the phrase “I’m no dummy.” Donna intercepted him trying to go outside to use the lawnmower. Then, when no one was looking, he left the house and took a rambling walk through the pasture behind his house onto the neighbors’ property, prompting his panicked granddaughter to hunt for him to bring him back.

“We were scared he was going to do something impulsive and harm himself,” Donna said.

Little hope for improvement
Two days later Bill went into the other hospital where the source of his stroke, an atrial flutter, was identified. Doctors there gave little hope that Bill would improve. Their only suggestion was for him to have occupational and speech therapy. After being released he went into rehab for ten days.

Once he was back home, two nurses (a relative and a family friend) came to the house to see how Bill was doing. The family friend, who had been a nurse for 23 years, told Donna that after examining him she went outside to her car and cried.

“She said she was certain that the state Bill was in was the state he was going to be in for the rest of his life, that he wasn’t likely to ever get better,” Donna said.

Donna arranged for the recommended therapies, but that wasn’t all. Disheartened but having faith there might be more that could be done, the family embarked on a quest to find what that might be.

Discovering neurofeedback
A relative had been going to the Center for Brain Training for chronic pain and suggested the center might be able to do something more for Bill.

Three weeks after his release from the rehab center they began making the 100-mile round trip twice a week to the center where Bill had a brain map and did brain training with neurofeedback, PEMF****, and transcranial stimulation*****.

“Amazing” progress
“Before he started the brain training, Bill had trouble reading, speaking or understanding conversations,” Donna said. “He still could say little more than ‘I’m no dummy.’”

Within a few sessions those abilities, though diminished, began to return. Today he reads and comprehends well, though he still has difficulty reading out loud, and he’s able to speak full, coherent sentences.

“His speech therapist was amazed,” Donna continued. “She called him a ‘walking miracle.’”

His occupational therapist was similarly impressed.

“I’ve noticed profound changes in Bill since he’s been going to the brain center,” said Andrease “Reasie” Laws.

“In the beginning, he had no idea what commonplace items were or how to use them. For example, if I showed him a hairbrush, he couldn’t distinguish between that and a toothbrush. He knew it was some kind of brush but had no idea what it was for.

“He couldn’t put a three-piece puzzle together. He couldn’t name letters of the alphabet. When he talked, it sounded like he was speaking Klingon. I’d show him a common object and he’d call it something like ‘finagle.’”

In less than three months of occupational therapy, Bill was able to do puzzles, correctly name most of the letters of the alphabet and have a simple conversation.

“It’s the most remarkable improvement I’ve ever seen in a client in my 26 years of being an occupational therapist. — Andrease “Reasie” Laws, occupational therapist

“I never dreamed that Bill would be able to come so far, and in such a short period of time,” added Donna. “I’m grateful to God and to the Center for Brain Training for his progress.”

UPDATE

Seven weeks after this story was published, we revisited Bill and Donna to see if Bill had made any progress. Here’s what Donna had to say:

Since our last conversation, Bill started working with John LeMay and has made great progress. (Dr. LeMay, a licensed therapist, administers neurostimulation technologies for complex clients based on their brain map profile.) He’s also been using the David Delight machine five days a week. (The David Delight is an audio/visual entrainment device for home use that stimulates the brain.)

His processing has improved considerably. Before, you would tell him something, and he often couldn’t figure out what you were saying, or he would read a passage from the Bible and not know what it meant. Now, that happens much less often. His understanding of Bible verses is much better now, though he still has trouble speaking them out loud.

He struggles a bit for words if he becomes excited or nervous, but his ability to make conversation is so much better than it was. He’s started putting longer sentences together and has gotten some of his personality back. Bill was always a jokester, and recently I saw him talking to a woman at church who kept cracking up over what he was saying. Sometimes he even tells me to stop talking so he can say something!

Last weekend several members of other churches and their preachers came to our church, and Bill mingled and talked to them and had a great time. He couldn’t have done that three months ago.

I know God had a lot to do with Bill’s recovery, leading us to the Center for Brain Training and helping us to keep affording his training there. It’s truly a blessing to be getting my husband back.

*Name changed to protect confidentiality
** Visual-motor dysfunction refers to impairment in the coordination between visual perception and motor skills. It can affect hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and may manifest as challenges in activities such as writing, drawing, or manipulating objects accurately.
*** Receptive aphasia is characterized by difficulties in understanding language and processing incoming information; expressive aphasia is characterized by difficulties in expressing thoughts and ideas through speech or writing. It’s sometimes called “word salad,” which manifests itself as a jumble of random, disconnected words and phrases that do not form coherent or meaningful sentences.
**** PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic fields) uses electromagnetic fields to improve health and well-being. It has been shown to stimulate cellular repair, improve circulation, and promote overall healing.
*****Transcranial stimulation is a non-invasive neuromodulation technique that involves applying a low electrical current to the scalp to modulate neural activity in the brain.

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