Father of two, Steve, 39, has aphasia as a result of a stroke in December 2020. The condition causes difficulties with language and speech.
Steve had a cardiac arrest at home in Essex with his wife Vicky and two young children, Bailey (8) and Molly (16). He then went on to have a stroke a few weeks later. Vicky woke up one morning to find Steve unable to speak or move his body. Steve woke up in hospital with severe aphasia and right-sided weakness.
Because Steve's stroke occurred at the height of the pandemic, he was only able to see Vicky a few hours a week and their phone calls were limited because of his speech. It was the longest they'd been apart since they first met.
Returning home after stroke
Vicky remembers the day that Steve came back home ‘like it was yesterday'. The whole family was so excited. The kids were beaming with happiness. But they quickly realised that things wouldn't just go back to normal. Vicky went and had a shower, sat on the end of their bed and suddenly everything came crashing down...I thought to myself: ‘how are we going to do this?’ Steve couldn’t string a sentence together, the kids couldn’t have a conversation with their dad, and my partner of 15 years is a different man. In that very moment, I pulled myself together and told myself I couldn’t give up… Steve is my rock, and I wasn’t going to include ‘can’t’ into our vocabulary.Vicky
Learning to say "I love you" again
Since then, Vicky has been supporting Steve in every way she can. He has been doing physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and counselling to help his mental health - slowly getting more articulate and more confident and getting back to being the parent he wants to be. His kids have become experts at guessing what he's saying - even when he gets the wrong word - and Steve has learnt how to say "I love you" to them again.
But it's not all been smooth sailing. Recently, when picking up their youngest child from school, Steve was accosted by an angry motorist who thought he was drunk. As the motorist got more aggressive, Steve froze and couldn't say anything. He felt helpless to defend himself or his child and suddenly realised how vulnerable he had become. His mood plummeted and Vicky had to call the mental health crisis line for advice.
Preparing to say "I will"
But the family itself has never been stronger. And to celebrate this, Steve and Vicky have decided to finally get married this year. But with the wedding ceremony comes a massive challenge for Steve: to say his vows. They won't be legally married unless he can say ‘I will'. The prospect of this is bringing out a lot of anxiety and fear, so over the next month they are going to do all they can to prepare for a wedding rehearsal.
Vicky will be supporting Steve in the preparation for the wedding - choosing a ring and buying a suit, as well as preparing to say his vows in sessions.
Our spring campaign "Let’s talk aphasia" aims to raise awareness of aphasia and its impact on stroke survivors, their families and friends. Watch our documentary film, featuring Steve and Vicky, now: When the Words Away Went.