FARMINGTON — Ernest Brown, of Kirtland, had a stroke in June 2009 and stopped understanding words. Richie Knauss, of Cortez, Colo., had a stroke in January 2007 and lost his ability to speak.
The two men and their wives meet monthly as part of an aphasia support group at San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. They are close friends who encourage and inspire each other during the lifelong recovery that follows a debilitating stroke.
"I encourage Richie ... I say, Don't give up,'" Brown said. "You have to start somewhere."
The aphasia support group started two years ago as a spinoff of a larger support group for stroke patients, said Beth Rabourn, a rehabilitation nurse at the hospital.
Aphasia is a medical condition when people lose their grasp of language. Most aphasic patients have either had a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
There are different levels of the disability, Rabourn said.
Some patients speak, but the words are nonsensical and they can't comprehend words. Others can understand speech but can't form their own words, she said. The worst-case scenario is when the different forms of aphasia overlap.
Knauss has expressive aphasia, said Joyce Lameire, a speech therapist at the hospital who worked with both men. After his stroke, he could follow instructions and understand written directions, but he couldn't put together his own words.
Brown has receptive aphasia, she said. He could speak words but he couldn't understand speech.