British Columbia·Our Vancouver

Courage to Come Back Award recipient lost her entire vocabulary after stroke

Christy Campbell of North Vancouver is now a spokesperson for a condition not many people know about, because often times those suffering from it literally can't speak at all.

Christy Campbell of North Vancouver now works to raise awareness of aphasia

Christy Campbell Courage to Come Back Award

6 years ago
Duration 5:03
From a devastating stroke in her early thirties to advocate for recovery care

Christy Campbell was in her early thirties, had a rewarding career and a loving partner, but in 2005 the North Vancouver woman had a stroke which wiped out her entire vocabulary.

"I went to a chiropractor, then shortly after I was at a conference downtown for work and I went to the bathroom. Suddenly I couldn't do up my belt. And I thought, 'Well that's kind of weird'. So, I washed my hands and I missed the garbage can with my paper towel and I thought, 'Well that's also weird.'

"So, I sat down in the waiting room at the hotel and I called out to my friend and my speech was gone."

Relearning how to talk and walk

Campbell discovered she suffered from a condition called aphasia — a communication disorder that results usually following a stroke and damages parts of the brain that contain language.

Now 41, Campbell — who, in addition to relearning how to speak, also had to learn how to use her hands and how to walk again — has been named as the 2016 Courage to Come Back Award recipient in the physical rehabilitation category.

Campbell didn't lose every single word however.

"I had one word and it was 'yes'."

With that, she began the process of recovering, attending a GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre to undergo intensive therapy.

"By the time I left GF Strong, I was walking slowly and could still say that one word which was yes."

"It was six weeks, [with] five hours a day of speech therapy and it was very draining," she said.

Since then, an intensive therapy centre for aphasia named iTAWC has opened in Vancouver, which serves Western Canada.

A voice for the voiceless

Eleven years later Campbell has regained her vocabulary but still struggles with her condition.

She is now an advocate for those suffering from aphasia.

"Every year it affects 15,000 people, it's kind of the same amount as breast cancer and everybody knows about breast cancer and nobody talks about aphasia because the people who have it can't talk about it.

"This is why I think it's important to talk about it, because now I can."

Campbell, who received her award at a ceremony on May 5, wants to encourage others who are struggling with aphasia by sharing her award with them.

"It means a lot ... I'm very honoured and humbled. I started a camp with my husband and colleague from UBC — the Sea to Sky Aphasia Camp. I'm going to take my award there to show the other people, that this is for you guys too."

In the video above, Campbell tells Our Vancouver host Gloria Macarenko about what it was like learning to talk again and why it's important to raise awareness for aphasia.

Note: Images shown on the monitors behind Gloria Macarenko and Christy Campbell are courtesy of iTAWC.