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My Name is Tomato! – Aphasia Institute

In June of 2016, Christine and her husband Vincent arrived home from their 25th wedding anniversary trip to Italy. Shortly thereafter, the Director of Business Development for one of the largest law firms in the world was overcome with a severe headache for two days. “Oh this is a bad one,” Christine told her husband and two teenage children. Despite the pain, Christine headed to work. That’s what she did. That’s who she was. There was important work to do.

Hours later, Christine called Vincent to take her to the doctor. By the time he arrived, she wasn’t making much sense. They rushed to the hospital. “My name is Tomato,” Christine told the doctors. She was suffering from a massive brain bleed. The surgeon warned them that if she survived, it would be with massive deficiencies.

Christine doesn’t remember much of what happened next…

… but surgeons immediately removed a blood clot from her brain, saving her life. Christine always prided herself on being prepared, but nothing could prepare her for what lay ahead this time: aphasia.

In the months that followed, darkness and frustration crept into her life. “I am supposed to be a smart person,” Christine remembers thinking, “so why don’t I know the difference between the words for a dog and a cat?” At 49 years of age, Christine began questioning her value in life, feeling robbed of her identity as a witty, go-getter professional.

Christine was impatient with herself, with the rehabilitation process, and with the unknown nature of her whole journey. After some very tough months, she was referred to the Aphasia Institute. The people there “got it.” No more frustrating homework. This was a place to connect with others who were experiencing similar challenges.

“The Aphasia Institute became my happy place. My light.”

Vincent also participated, joining the caregivers program—learning more about aphasia, how to cope, and how to support Christine. Vincent felt “like a weight had been lifted.”

Two and a half years after what Christine calls her “very bad day,” she has found a new purpose in life: to help others in similar situations by preparing them for what to expect after an aphasia diagnosis. Her mission is two-fold – she wants newcomers to the Institute to know it will get better, but she also wants them to know there is really hard, emotional work to do.

In summer 2019, Christine and Vincent helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Aphasia Institute by participating in our annual signature fundraiser, the Walk, Talk ‘n’ Roll. Along with asking their friends and family to support them in their efforts, Christine and Vincent also joined other clients, family members, volunteers, board members, and staff, to help raise awareness and funds for direct aphasia service, research, and education.

"The value of formal SCATM training has been immense for me – both in practical applications and in “grand ideas” for the future. It has really re-focused my [Speech-Language Pathology] SLP practice on the practical outcome of increasing life participation and independence/autonomy in future conversations. "
- Anonymous
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