Aphasia Nova Scotia was founded by Judy Arbique, a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Until October of 2008, Judy was a medical laboratory technologist and the supervisor at the HLA tissue typing laboratory at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, NS. Then just two months before her 50th birthday, she suffered a stroke.
Judy remembers the experience: “When my friend asked me what was wrong, I didn’t understand what she was saying. I knew she was upset by her tone and body language, but when I tried to tell her that everything was okay, I couldn’t speak. I tried…no sound. I tried again and pushed air through my vocal chords and successfully said “uh.” I decided to stand up to show that I was okay! I dropped to the floor; my right side was paralyzed.”
Today, Judy suffers from aphasia and apraxia...disorders of language caused by that stroke, but she believes that she was lucky. She received immediate medical care and was able to participate in a full-time private intensive language program for almost a year, a program most Nova Scotians would never be able to access. As she relearned many of her communication skills, Judy discovered how little the general public knows about aphasia and how meager the public services and health resources are for people like herself.
Judy’s aphasia remains a challenge for her, and she constantly works to improve her speech, reading, and writing, and her processing of language. She has not been able to return to her chosen profession. Instead Judy works to increase public awareness of aphasia, and lobby for more services for this largely forgotten group of people.
“Enough” Judy says “of the ‘silence’ that many Nova Scotians are faced with, because of challenges with language communication skills. Canada has 100,000 people living with aphasia and this will be a larger problem in time as ‘boomers’ grow older. Canadian families struggle with aphasia and struggle to ensure that their loved ones with aphasia are taken care of financially and medically, and that they have ‘a voice’.”
In 2010 Judy Arbique founded the Aphasia Nova Scotia Association to advocate for people suffering from aphasia in Nova Scotia, and to provide community services to help them “relearn” their communication language skills