Jonathan Garthwaite

Everyday, everywhere, we see America’s families under attack. From the pedophiles and drug pushers going after the kids, to prostitutes and pornographers going after the males, to society’s mixed messages to women about what should make them happy, it’s no wonder that America’s families are in trouble.

With America’s families under siege by so many sensational forces, we all too often forget about the silent hardships that take their toll without all the fanfare and media attention.

A recent tragedy reminded me that many of the struggles faced by American families don’t get the attention and action they deserve.

On Christmas morning last year, a friend’s husband suffered a pretty serious stroke. He was a young guy in his 40’s and in great shape. In an instant, a family that most of us would have envied, was facing a battle that none of us would wish upon even our worst enemy.

The wife was instantly thrust from Girl Scout leader and neighborhood volunteer extraordinaire into the role of at-home caregiver. The physical effects of a stroke are well known -- often causing paralysis and mental impairment – but often after recovery, a different battle commences. Her husband who had been an award winning television producer for shows you probably watch regularly, had a new battle to wage along with his family – the ability to communicate. The diagnosis is aphasia.

a•pha•sia (uh-fay'-zhuh) n. An impairment of the ability to use or comprehend words, usually acquired as a result of a stroke or other brain injury.

Aphasia is caused by strokes and other brain injuries, and can happen to anyone at any age. It affects the production and comprehension of speech, often making the affected person unable to communicate beyond two or three words at a time. Because it affects the communication centers of the brain, the afflicted person can’t even write or type their thoughts. They will have perfectly cogent thoughts in their mind, but no ability to get them out – a thought-prison of sorts that won’t let any word out.

Communication is often the biggest challenge in families and relationships anyway, but it is especially tragic when it seems there is nothing one can do about it – and there is nobody at fault. Men may be from Mars, and women from Venus, but when two people in the same room can’t communicate like they always have been good at, it is heartbreaking.

Aphasia doesn’t get the press that Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or AIDS get, but it is just as devastating to the families it affects. And it’s actually more common than Parkinson’s.

Jonathan Garthwaite

Jonathan Garthwaite is General Manager of