For people living with aphasia, there are certain moments they will always remember as turning points in their lives. For Alex, it was a cup of coffee.

About nine months after he suffered a massive stroke, Alex came to the Aphasia Institute for an introductory session. It was at that session he had a cup of coffee he’ll never forget:

“For the first time since my stroke,
I felt like I was doing something
normal. By myself. For myself.”

After nine months of what felt like a life of “eat, pee, eat, pee, eat, pee,” Alex poured his own cup of coffee, added his own cream, stirred it, and drank that cup of coffee among people who understood him and saw him for the person he was, not for the problem he had. That is when he came to a realization:

“My life re-starts NOW!”

And Alex hasn’t looked back or slowed down since. He is an active member of the Aphasia Institute community. He has witnessed the power of communication with his peers in conversation groups, and by participating in our music and art programs. He is a member of the Creative Expressions group and was one of four clients whose photography was chosen as part of the My Voice, Through My Lens exhibit at Toronto’s MaRS Centre. It’s no surprise that Alex’s philosophy is:

“Try everything. Start.
Don’t sit down. NOW!”

“Help, Hope, Possible” – Ink on Paper, © 2014

Alex lost the use of his right hand and aphasia took away his ability to communicate. For most of us, that would be enough reason to give up.

But not Alex. One of his many sketches illustrates this perfectly. Entitled Help, Hope, Possible and drawn using his non-dominant hand, this work of art depicts a mountain with a chain of three people holding hands. The person at the peak of the mountain is working to pull the others to the top. Alex points to that person and says, “That’s me.” By sharing his story and words of encouragement with other clients, Alex gives them hope and helps them to see the possibilities of life after aphasia.

“Stroke” – Self-portrait, Oil on Canvas, © 2013

“Every day is better.” At the Aphasia Institute, we share Alex’s commitment to constant self-improvement and his relentless conviction that every day is better. He shares these words with every staff member, volunteer, and person with aphasia. That is why research and education at the Aphasia Institute are so important – to keep learning ways to make life better for people with aphasia and their families.

As Alex says, it’s important to say thank you to the people that encourage you. So we’d like to say thank you, Alex. You’re an inspiration to all of us. And there’s always a fresh cup of coffee waiting for you.

All photos and artwork in this story were created by Alex. The photos were taken either with one hand or using a camera timer.

"Thank you so much for your accommodation of our presentation and study recruitment efforts! We got much more interest than we ever thought we would, and enough volunteers to keep us busy for a couple of years! ...Thank you for your help with everything! I am really happy to have the Aphasia Institute as a partner in our research. "
- Researcher
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