Ron Garcia - Midland, MI
"Jessica brought out the best in me that I almost lost. She kept encouraging me when I didn't feel confident."
After Speech Therapy, He Is Able to Preach Again
After suffering from a stroke and multiple transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), Ron Garcia of Midland had difficulty in speaking, reading, writing, problem solving and visual processing, as well as other challenges.
Garcia's 32-year calling as a preacher and minister, and also his job as a project manager for a local home store, depend on abilities that were disrupted by the strokes.
After the first stroke, he began a solid recovery, working with Speech-Language Pathologist Jessica Babcock, M.A., CCC-SLP, at MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland, and with lots of help from his wife, Inez. Then came the other TIAs, followed by a brain artery bypass surgery.
The surgery restored the blood supply to affected areas of Garcia's brain and saved his life. It also set back his speech and language recovery.
"I'm used to preaching the gospel, but suddenly I couldn't put two words together," Garcia said. "I couldn't read, write or articulate anything. I couldn't tell time or even draw a clock face. I did not know my left from my right. I couldn't do math. I couldn't make sense of paper money or coins. It was very hard and very, very frustrating."
The Garcias started his therapy again, meeting with Babcock three times a week, as well as working diligently at home. It helped when the therapist was able to give a name to the problems Garcia was struggling with: apraxia and aphasia. "She explained it and told me, 'This is what you're going through,'" he said.
Babcock said therapists get the best results when they individualize their approach to the patient. Certainly her ideas for personalizing Garcia's therapy were his turning point. "I told him, 'Bring in your Bible and we'll work on reading it,'" she said.
Garcia, who had not opened his Bible since his first stroke, had feared he would not be able to return to preaching. "When Jessica had me bring in my Bible and my notes, it helped me tremendously," he said. "She saw a spark in me."
At first, just reading a sentence would take him a long time, maybe most of the session. He would also sometimes say long words, but stumble on short ones.
"Jessica was trying to teach me to say 'I,' and I got frustrated,' he said. "I'm Hispanic, so I said, 'Ay ay ay!' We both laughed when she said, 'Do you know you just said the word 'I?' On the other hand, words like 'articulate' came easily to me."
"The room where they met had an adjustable desk that Babcock would raise and say, 'This is your pulpit. Preach to me for five minutes. Start any way you want.' She would give him homework on his reading: Outline the section, read expressively and work on problem solving and fluency. I did all the homework," Garcia said.
When Inez mentioned that her husband couldn't recognize or calculate coins or currency, Jessica made play money so they could practice and get back those skills.
After a few more weeks of progress, Garcia shared his story at his church.
"I did it," Garcia said. "I got up and preached and it went okay." Now he is excited to continue improving. "People are calling me and saying, 'Whenever you're ready, we're ready for you.' I thank God that He brought me through this surgery and spared my life. I know that He is going to use me to preach again."
Garcia said, "Jessica brought out the best in me that I almost lost. She kept encouraging me when I didn't feel confident. I would come into her office and be encouraged, because I noticed things getting better. I would recommend this type of therapy to everybody who has strokes and similar problems."
Speech-language pathology can help children and adults with impaired speech intelligibility, language or cognition problems to decrease their frustration level and their ability to communicate and live independently. Speech-language pathologists at MidMichigan Health evaluate and treat a wide variety of communication, cognitive and swallowing disorders. Speech therapy is available on an outpatient basis at MidMichigan facilities in Alma, Alpena, Clare, Gladwin, Midland and Mt. Pleasant. Those who would like more information about speech therapy or any of MidMichigan Health's rehabilitation services may visit www.midmichigan.org/rehab.