Support group for aphasia speech loss helps 23,000 in Bay Area

Imagine being stuck in a foreign country and never learning the language. That's what it is like to have aphasia. A grassroots effort has sprouted up to help those with this debilitating disease and their story is what's right with Tampa Bay.

Trying to find the right words is a struggle for Mike Caputo. He was at the gym 10 years ago when he suffered a stroke.

"When I got to the hospital, Mike couldn't move," said his wife, Kathy. "His whole right side could not move. He would not speak."

Mike now suffers from aphasia, the loss of ability to understand or express speech, which is caused by brain damage. 

"It feels as if you have been dropped into a country that you don't speak the language," said Pamela Couse of Voices of Hope for Aphasia.

Because there were no support groups, Mike felt a sense of loneliness. So he and his wife, Kathy started Voices of Hope for Aphasia. 

"Voices of Hope as given him so much more than his speech, it gave him back his independence and confidence," said Kathy.

Debbie Yones, who help put the group together, said, "We want people to feel socially connected, build a new set of friendships and a network of people that are going through something similar."

For Mike and Kathy, small successes mean big results.

"It's been a struggle but we get there with a lot of patience and every day I look for something small," Kathy said.

There are more than 23,000 people in the Tampa Bay area with aphasia.

Because of COVID-19, they are doing their meetings online.

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