TAMPA, Fla. — Aphasia is not something most people knew about before Bruce Willis’s family made the announcement about the actor’s diagnosis. Now a local organization is trying to take advantage of this disorder being in the spotlight to let people know there’s hope.
“We are thrilled to be able to help people who without us would be isolated,” explained Debbie Tones, the executive director of Voices of Hope for Aphasia.
Aphasia is a disorder, most commonly caused by strokes or traumatic brain injuries that impair a person’s ability to communicate. Speech, understanding, reading, and writing can all be affected. But in most cases, intelligence is not.
Voices of Hope for Aphasia has programs that allow for group interaction and activities. There is no fee for the programs. Just like practicing an instrument or a sport, you must keep communicating to see improvements and avoid a decline.
“Speech therapy is an important part of continued progress and regaining speech and communication but participating in life and events is a huge part in continuing to grow,” said Debbie.
Founder Mike Caputo had a stroke in 2009. He said without the group interactions his day-to-day life would be lonely, isolating, and incomplete. Ann English is also here authoring a comeback story. She speaks so clearly, it’s hard to believe she too suffered a stroke.
“If you sit at home and pamper yourself in a corner, you’re not going to advance, you’re not going to get anywhere, you gotta use it, if you don’t use it you’re going to lose it,” explained Ann.
Voices of Hope for Aphasia is all heart. The groups foster social connections which lead to an overall increase in quality of life.
“I think the thing that touches my heart the most is when I get that first phone call, and can hear in the family member’s voice, anxiety, panic and for them to hear we’re here it’s ok we know what this and we can help. That’s why I do it,” said Debbie.
You can learn more about Voices of Hope and how to help the organization here.