In 2009, Pat suffered a series of Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs or mini-strokes). A few weeks later, a more serious stroke greatly affected her voice. This is her story of how she regained her speech fully.
We have had the privilege of running a Christian bookshop for 17 years in the village of Skewen in Wales. We’re not academic, but we love the Lord Jesus and felt this was what God wanted us to do.
When I had several mini-strokes I had a nine-day stay in hospital. I was very unwell. I could picture friends going into local shops to buy sympathy cards and something black for my funeral. During this time I had to push my writing hand into motion and concentrate hard on my speech. I worked hard and eventually over that nine days the able-bodied me was back. I could speak.
Then one day I went into the garden where my husband Alun was pottering about, thinking I’d help out. I just bent down to pick up a plant pot. I honestly thought my head had exploded.
That terrible headache lasted a couple of days. It left the tone of my speech high pitched as if I had a problem with deafness and my throat muscles felt like I was being choked. Despite the doctor’s doubts, I got a speech therapist, Sue, who was absolutely fabulous. I didn’t realise how bad my speech was. But one day I was in the shop chatting to a lady. She had a bit of a glazed look. I was enjoying myself so on I went. Another lady said to Alun, ‘I’ll come back later, Pat’s ministering to this lady, she’s speaking in tongues’. So you can imagine how bad my speech was!
Hope in God
Giants of men would cross over the road not to speak to me because they knew I was not aware of my lack of speech. I thank God he gave me a determined spirit. I would make people try to understand what I said. It never bothered me when I had to write things down, I simply got on with it. The blessing has been seeing these same people in tears because they are so thrilled at my measure of recovery.
Sue, the therapist, didn’t give up trying to help me speak, but seeing the scan evidence, didn’t hold out much hope of improvement. I had written down for Alun, ‘You tell this lady, please from me: I will do my best, she will do her best, and the others will be praying for me and (pointing to heaven) He’ll do the rest.’ From our address, Link Christian Bookshop, Sue knew exactly who I was referring to.
Sue taped each weekly session. She asked once if I would like to hear a tape. I heard a voice like a child’s trying its hardest to talk. It was me, Sue said. Again I was devastated to realise how bad my speech was. I was a grown woman with 40 years of marriage behind me, not this — sound!
My tapes are going to be used now to train students to pinpoint aspraxia, dysphasia and Foreign Language/Accent Syndrome. I went through the whole gamut until eventually my speech came back. I’m so grateful for the help I received.
Alun’s persistence was amazing in keeping me focused. I was left with no speech patterns in my head, so I couldn’t communicate even though I was trying to tell people, ‘That’s a television’, ‘This is a book’ and ‘I’m fine’. It’s a very strange place to be, you can’t explain yourself. I feel so sorry for people who’ve had strokes, they can see what’s going on but can’t express themselves. People were patient. I saw their sympathy and glazed looks.
The ugliest dream
I was having strange dreams that would turn ugly. Then one night I had the ugliest dream. Something — whatever it was — was in the room and targeting me. In this dream I was screaming at the top of my voice which I could not do in real life. During the day I could use the PC, or write, or rely on Alun to speak for me. But in the night with the lights off I was on my own. I couldn’t communicate.
Alun only knew something was wrong because I was shaking so much I woke him. He said, ‘Come on now, cwtsh up and go to sleep’. (Cwtsh is a Welsh word you’d use for cuddling a child; non-Welsh speakers use it.)
I woke up next morning, knowing I’d slept well and I was so excited. That night I knew, as I’d never known before, that the Lord hears our silent groans and understands. I know now that in the screaming in my dream, I’d said to God, ‘If you don’t help me God, I’m in trouble’. Who else do you turn to when you’re in such a state? I had such peace. Somehow I knew I was going to be healed. I wrote down for Alun some of the night’s experience.
EN and the candle
And this is where Evangelicals Now comes in. I went into the shop that morning and on the counter was a bundle of |EN|s, the November 2009 issue. On the front page was an article about free speech and a picture of a man with a zipper across his mouth. What was on the cover spoke to me: ‘Now’ ‘speech’ and the zipper. For the article, the zipper was closing, but for me it was being pulled open. So on that I stood. It was confirmation for me that I would be healed.
Then, hours later, a candle-holder came in the post, one we’d ordered months before. We were told no way could the distributor get any more in. But it said on it, ‘Faith is not believing God can, it is knowing that he will’.
My scary nightmare, my peaceful sleep, the EN cover and that candle-holder! Well, no one could tell me different I was going to be healed. Alun and I were so excited. People would come into the shop and ask, ‘Can I pray for Pat?’ and he’d say, ‘Please don’t. She’s already asked the Lord and the Lord’s answered her’. They didn’t always understand, but they do now.
Who am I?
That was the biggest breakthrough for me: the expectation of my healing. In the shop I’m speaking to people all day (I do listen as well, mind you!). I need my voice not just to sell, but to pray and encourage.
But it wasn’t only that the Lord gave me assurance on. It was my name. My speech isn’t ‘me’. My name is my identity and I knew the Lord had called me into the kingdom by name. So when the speech therapist asked, ‘How can I help you, I feel such a failure?’, I’d written down, ‘I want to be able to say my name’. So in her wisdom she took me through breathing exercises. When God called Abram he became Abraham (with an aspirate ‘h’) for the breath of God was in him. And God showed that to me: ‘Use the breath I have put in you to be able to speak the words, the sounds will come’.
So I understood what was needed. I learned to breathe, roll my tongue to places we take for granted, and I was able to pronounce a ‘p’ and then on to ‘Patricia’, my name.
To be honest, I never understood why my father, who named the other children in the family from my mother’s choice of names, chose my name himself. Well, when I found out Patricia means ‘born of noble birth’ and ‘called by name’, and the head of the household named me, I realised there’s a lot in a name. I broke through on ‘Par-trish-ah’, that was it.
It was a fabulous moment when the speech therapist rang one week to arrange an appointment and wouldn’t believe I was the one speaking to her. She remembered what we’d said about us doing our best, people praying and God doing the rest. She said, ‘We’ve had divine intervention here’.
When we went back to the consultant he said, ‘Have a look at this scan, Mrs. Williams, this is your brain’. There was no scarring, no evidence of damage after all the TIAs, no brain shrinkage with age. He said, and I quote (it’s so good!): ‘You have a Mensa brain’.
Our God is good and he gave you (EN) to me in November 2009 to confirm I was going to be healed and I hope you’ll be blessed with my story.