Southern New England Stroke Survivor Advocate Shares Important Message this World Stroke Day

Written by Michael Obel-Omia

“Before my stroke, I was an educator, speaker, and writer. When I suffered my stroke on 21 May 2016, I thought my professional life was over. How could I educate, speak and write with the aphasia I had as a result of my stroke?

Today, over 5 1/2 years later, I am improving, always improving.  I have realized I am still an educator, speaker, and writer, all with a new purpose: as an advocate.  In Latin, “ad” means “to” and “vocare” means call, so advocate means “ to call.” I am an advocate for stroke survivors and for people with aphasia. Through the ARC, Boston University Aphasia Resource Center, I participate in many classes: I write and deliver speeches with the Toastmasters group; I discuss literature in a Book Club, especially enjoying Debra Meyerson’s “Identity Theft”, I do creative writing, and I discuss music and movies. I discuss a variety of topics with a group called CHAT: Conversation, Health, Arts, and Technology. 

I have improved my self-expression through daily “musings”, entries I write every day detailing my rehabilitation work, for the better part of the last five years. I began writing poetry about the experience of having aphasia three years ago, and have spent the last 20 months writing, revising, and editing a selection of 52 poems for publication. My book, Finding My Words: Aphasia Poetry, was published in September of 2021. I hosted poetry readings with Middlebury College alumni, Albany Academy alumni, and the CHAT conversation group. In November, I will speak about my poetry with the Stroke Support Group at Rhode Island Hospital, and I will have a book signing at Barrington Books. In March 2022, I will be interviewed for an event planned by the National Aphasia Association. My goal is to support and inspire those with aphasia and to educate the wider community about this common but little-known communication disorder.

And, of course, I have continued to improve physically.  I have cycled many miles and rowed many meters on the ergometer!  Since Thanksgiving, 2020, I rowed over 5,000 meters daily and one day I rowed 42,300 meters, or 26.2 miles, a marathon!  This past spring and summer, I cycled whenever possible, and with David Campbell, my brother-in-law, I cycled 75 miles from Quincy, Massachusetts to Bourne, Cape Cod to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis.

Now, I celebrate World Stroke day. I am a survivor—and I am proud of it— and an advocate. I consider myself lucky, blessed, and humbled. My haiku below expresses my view:”

Struggling with pain

Stroke, I lost my speech and words

Now, I advocate