Speech language pathology faculty Michael Susca talks with students, June 20, 2017.
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APHASIA

“Aphasia is a language problem that includes receptive and/or expressive linguistic components common across verbal expression, reading and/or writing caused by a central nervous system dysfunction.”

ANOMIA

“Anomia is the inability to find the name of objects, people or ideas. One has a vague idea of what to express, but simply cannot come up with the word for it.”

APRAXIA

“The person with apraxia knows the word one wants to say, but cannot get the articulators of one’s mouth to make the postures, gestures, movements and/or sequences of motions to say what is desired.”

Michael Susca, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-F, associate professor of speech-language pathology, has more than 40 years of experience in communication disorders and rehabilitation. On Jan. 9, 2010, he had a grand mal seizure. A scan revealed a ping pong ball-sized meningioma tumor resting on the language center of his brain. After decades of being on the outside looking in, Dr. Susca was plunged into the world of aphasia, a complication that arose from the tumor’s removal through brain surgery.

“I believe many patients experience an internal change they can never describe sufficiently to others.”

– Michael Susca, PHD, CCC-SLP, BCS-F

Dr. Susca chronicled his journey of self-rehabilitation in “The Professor’s Tumor.”

He described the experience of awakening from surgery with aphasia. “I have a variety of thoughts, feelings, recollections — blooms of ‘this moment’ awareness that dance and move within my being — but I am unsure how they all relate. It is a dynamic puzzle of animated, disassociated parts. I have moments of self-aware fascination, as if in a dream where you know you are close to waking up, while real world sounds and thoughts intertwine with dream logic.”

Using his knowledge of aphasia, he slowly oriented himself to his situation. “With that technical information, I was able to make sense of what I was experiencing,” Dr. Susca said.

Through his attempts to communicate in the weeks following surgery, he discovered that he was also experiencing anomia and apraxia. In addition, his right vocal fold was paralyzed as a result of an exceptionally difficult intubation, further hindering his ability to communicate.

The book is sprinkled with humor and Dr. Susca’s distinctive wry wit. In one chapter, he shares that in response to an ear, nose and throat specialist recommending either surgery on his larynx or a period of complete voice rest, he decided to “embrace a vow of silence like a Tibetan monk.”

His motivation to share these very personal experiences is to help speech-language pathologists better understand the experiences of their clients. He also wants to offer hope to those who find their ability to communicate dramatically altered by a tumor, brain injury or disease.

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The Professor’s Tumor

“The Professor’s Tumor: A Journey Out of Aphasia and More” (Kindle Edition) by Michael Susca is available on Amazon.


By Anne Marie H. Bergthold
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