The Treasure Hunt
by Shiree Heath on November 9, 2011
Entering the Society for Neuroscience video contest was a wonderful opportunity to provide information about aphasia, particularly for children. The video tells the personal story of people with aphasia and their families, and the poem allows the power of words to bring the whole story together. It is called ‘The Treasure Hunt’ because we wanted to help people understand how something so precious could be lost and what it might be like to try and find it again.
I’ve always loved hearing stories, my Grandpa told them best.
He’d tell me of pirate adventures in search of a treasure chest.
But then something weird happened, out of the blue one day.
He couldn’t tell me stories because his words had gone away.
They told me he had aphasia, it’s a funny word, but not a joke.
My Grandpa got aphasia because of something called a stroke.
You see, blood flows through little vessels like water through a drain.
But if that blood flow stops, you can get damage to your brain.
I can show you what it looks like.
Here grandpa’s scan is on the right.
You can see the difference; his brain is dark at the damaged site.
So we know about a stroke, and how areas of the brain can die,
Now listen to Grandpa, he makes mistakes, no matter how hard he tries.
“No, I can’t say it….. Sword…..kr kr kr krake, no……Dolphin……peakin…… No, I know what it is too
I know that one, it’s easy…..k, kar…. Kar…. Yeah, no I can’t say it”
Because it’s so hard for him to name people, objects, and birds,
I set off on a treasure hunt to find what happened to his words.
I imagine I was a pirate and a captain of a great, big boat
Searching for what had become of the stories I loved most.
To find out what was wrong with Grandpa’s words and make him proud,
I had to understand how we get from just a thought to speaking out loud.
Luckily, I had a map to follow and I could learn things along the way.
So what happened from thought to talk, something we all do every day?
When we see a picture of a parrot and look at it with our eyes
This activates the brain at the back of the head, now that’s a surprise!
From there we process features, like it beak and brightly feathered rear
All this information becomes active at about the level of your left ear.
Nearby in the brain we find “parrot” and the sounds that make the word.
Then that passes to another section and we can finally name the bird.
So I’ve learned that just to say one word, in the brain, there’s many stages.
And for Grandpa one stage is broken like a book that’s missing pages.
For now the hunt is over and although my journey has been long,
I’ve learned about stroke, aphasia, and the things that can go wrong.
The treasure that I have found isn’t diamonds, pearls, or gold.
It’s the story of grandpa’s aphasia and I’ll make sure that it gets told.