Do One More Thing Today Than Yesterday
Joe Schmidt has led a very accomplished life. He was a Commander in the US Navy for 24 years, flying A-7s most of that time. Part of his job required landing those huge jets on aircraft carriers in the middle of the night. It took skill, dedication, intelligence and a determined mind. Joe says that was easy in comparison to having his stroke.
In 2014, Joe was working in quality management, happily married to his wife Martha and actively involved in his church. Out of nowhere, he suddenly passed out at home. He had emergency surgery to remove a large clot in the middle cerebral artery. He made it through the surgery, but was left with the inability to walk, swallow, read, write or talk. He was transferred to Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital in December 2015 and this, he says, is where his real journey began.
Joe received occupational, physical and speech therapy services. He had aphasia caused by the stroke. Aphasia is an impairment of the ability to use or understand words, usually acquired as a result of a stroke or other brain injury. Many people with aphasia can also have difficulty with reading or writing. Aphasia is a loss of language, but not intellect.
Slowly and steadily, Joe learned to stand, feed himself and swallow again. He was discharged home and began therapy at the Brooks Orange Park outpatient clinic. He was then referred to the Neuro Recovery Center, Brooks YMCA stroke wellness program and the Brooks Rehabilitation Aphasia Center (BRAC).
“When Joe started at the Aphasia Center, he couldn’t speak at all. He has done so well that two years later, he is our unofficial greeter,” said Jodi Morgan, CCC-SLP, BRAC. One group Joe enjoyed was "Dialogue with Dolly." Brittany Chancey, a former BRAC intern, brought in her cockapoo puppy, Dolly. BRAC members had the opportunity to interact with Dolly while improving their speech and cognitive skills by having discussions with Brittany and the group related to dogs and animals in general. Joe and Dolly became good friends.
Since his stroke, Joe has been diligent about exercising his mind, speech, body and soul. As soon as he began talking in short phrases at the aphasia center in March 2016, he wanted to advocate for those with aphasia. He constantly is helping others understand aphasia and give them inspiration. His motto is “Do one thing more today than yesterday.”
Joe says, “I want to tell others that it takes hard work. I want to teach people about aphasia. It does not affect who I am, but affects my words. I want to let them know Brooks can help you all along the journey. Getting better after a stroke is hard. It is like a puzzle. Bit by bit, piece by piece you start to put it back together. Each piece is a step. One you didn’t know you had. Every day is a new piece put in place…And you can do it.”