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Learning To Speak, Again: The Power of Chinese Medicine for Healing.

Updated: May 10

Bhimdev is a 45 year old male who lives in the local village with his wife and daughter.

Bhimdev has been on blood thinners since he was young due to an untreated streptococcal infection that damaged the mitral valve in the left ventricle of the heart. Two years ago he had an emergency appendectomy and had to be taken off the blood thinners. Whilst in recovery, a clot formed and went directly to his left hemisphere resulting in right sided weakness and an inability to coordinate oral movements needed to create sounds into syllables, syllables into words, and words into phrases.

Slowly but surely he makes his way into the Bajrabahari clinic for acupuncture and physical therapy most days. Despite his limited mobility, his inability to communicate and the sheer sadness of it all... I can actually get him to crack a smile (and I'm not even that hilarious, let's be honest).

When I began treating Bhimdev a mere four weeks ago, I was informed that our primary concern was to get him to learn to speak again! Of course, regaining motor function and mobility is important for independence but communication is necessary for both autonomy & connection.

I have been using electro-acupuncture to stimulate the Speech and left Motor Zones on the scalp. The stimulation of these scalp acupuncture points is thought to dilate the brain’s capillaries and improve blood and oxygen supply to aspects of the brain that have been oxygen deprived.

The speech therapy component of the treatment is laborious and clumsy for both parties involved.

I have been coaching Bhimdev to exercise his tongue and the facial muscles involved in speech production so as to re-create sounds such as- "cha", "la", "ma" and "ba". I've found it challenging to articulate precisely what our tongues and lips do when we make a specific sound. What's more, my poor translator then attempts to convey my convoluted description of how to make a sound to Bhimdev and then I cross my phalanges that it all... translates.

Last week Bhimdev said "cha" for the first time since I've been working with him and today he managed to finally mumble "ma" and I just shrieked with delight which caused Bhimdev to crack an embarrassed smile. I think everyone else in the clinic was just as thrilled, probably because they assumed my shriek of delight would put an end to our speech therapy session for the day. Once Bhimdev masters a sound he will repeat it over and over, "ma", "ma", "ma" until I direct him to change back to a previous sound he conquered.

And here lies our main challenge. When I ask him to interchange between sounds there is a delay as he attempts to recollect how exactly he moved his mouth and lips to replicate that other sound. But he gets there after some prompting then we're off again, filling the four corners of the clinic with "ma", "cha", ma", "cha"...over and over.

The recovery road is a long one especially when prognosis is so uncertain. Ultimately, the commitment from Bhimdev himself is fundamental, along with the handful of other practitioners that have offered their time, expertise (and creativity) in assisting Bhimdev on his journey to recovery.

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