Stroke of Luck podcast
Season 1 of Stroke of Luck podcast is available at www.strokeofluck.com.au - listen now!
In late 2019, I was doing a short stint of therapy at Caulfield Hospital when my speech therapist [Gemma] suggested starting a podcast about my recovery. I was hesitant initially. I was definitely not against this idea but I said to her, “Gemma… I know the concept of podcasting but I rarely listen to podcasts because I mainly listen to live radio, and why the benefits to people listening to my story in this forum - after all, I feel that I have one story - my stroke story?”. But Gemma disagreed and she said please think about it. So I did.
My goals during this speech stint were learning ‘more formal speech’ - like improving my literacy and awareness of sounds, grammar rules and common spelling options for both vowel and consonant sounds. But more functionally we did tasks based around improving my verbal memory and trying to be more confident and have a natural conversation with my public speeches.
Talking off the cuff for me is sometimes easier than rehearsing my speeches word-for-word - because I am speaking less naturally, but the difficulty with my ongoing aphasia is that sometimes I forget things and I veer off topic so I normally prepare and practice my speeches before presenting, as well speaking out loud is very different skill to master - versus speaking silently.
This was pre-Covid time, so I was focusing on my public speaking career to become a more professional speaker. But my goals were shifted a little bit - I'm definitely still keen to continue with public speaking, however, the pandemic has made that very challenging. The things I enjoyed most about public speaking, visiting different workplaces, meeting new people, and many other things don’t factor into public speaking to a group online.
Anyway, Gemma is a huge fan of podcasts and she said that public speaking is definitely beneficial to me but starting a podcast will definitely help me to improve my speech more, extend myself for therapy and put me out of my comfort zone. I love challenges, so finally, I decided to run with her mini-project idea. In fact, I was pretty excited about it, but I was also nervous about the attention and focus all about me and my story, so we compromised a little. The resolution was that I will be the host of the podcast and I will interview other people, delve into the theme of overcoming adversity, and not focusing specifically on stroke. Luckily, she loved the idea.
I chose this theme because I like listening to other stories - especially one-on-one interviews - and it is very broad - let’s face it - any person in the world has stories of minor or major, events in their life. Being a stroke survivor and with disabilities, I can relate to the struggles in life somewhat, however I will never judge or criticise with other people’s tales, after all, some stories are too tough or upsetting to talk about and, sadly, some people physically can’t speak at all.
With this goal in mind, therapy was structured around helping me to practice speaking skills in dynamic conversation. It helped with spelling and language goals and, more importantly, using real life situations or stories. In the sessions, I practiced reading and synthesising information, using dot points and mind maps to help me recall information and practicing idea generation skills by writing interview questions. These strategies were very useful with my research of the people I interviewed in the podcast.
We did lots of brainstorming sessions, researching guests, helping me write introductions and outrodutions (not actually a word but podcast people use ‘outros often 😜), and I learned a lot about podcasts in general. It was very satisfying and like many speech therapy experiences - it is very hard to quantify my progress doing this podcasting, however I feel that I improved a lot - especially with my understanding and keeping up with the dialogue of the conversations with the guests.
I guess I feel that it is important to explain my reasons for starting this podcast. Beside the therapeutic side - e.g. improving my speech - it was important for me to be an ‘aphasia warrior’ that people with aphasia can have a big role in speaking and with that I can inspire others to try to speak and raise awareness about stroke and aphasia. I will never be Andrew Denton or Mike Sheahan but I hope the podcast will be quite unique with my own style. The title of the podcast ‘Stroke of Luck’ stems from my recovery of regaining my speech after stroke because I am very fortunate that I have a voice. I know that others haven't been so lucky.
I have already completed 8 interviews (One pilot and seven actual episodes) and in each interview I felt very inspired and I learnt a lot from listening to other people's stories and I am very glad that I accepted Gemma’s challenge of producing my own podcast. It has assisted with my speaking, concentration, understanding, listening skills and also my ability to multitask. I learnt to listen to the guests, respond and change the order of my pre-prepared questions on the fly. I felt that it was the ultimate brain training exercise, and by the end of each interview I was mentally exhausted.
Speaking of support, my speech therapists Gemma Duffield, as well as my other therapists Claire Douglas and Lauren Fletcher are experts of speech and language and they were fantastic, but obviously not experts with making podcasts so podcast idea was not possible without a few good mates who are equipped with the podcast skills to help me as well. So, thank you Corey Layton, Dave Rood and Andrew Weiss for your ongoing support and giving up your time for the cause.
All the best