Samantha’s sponsored silence shouts out the message about living with communication difficulties

Samantha Thinnesen small
Samantha’s sponsored silence shouts out the message about living with communication difficulties
10 January 2018

A speech and language therapy assistant at Fairfield General Hospital has given a voice to patients who have communication difficulties as a result of having a stroke.

Samantha Thinnesen who works on the stroke unit at Fairfield decided to undertake a 24 hour sponsored silence to raise funds for communication therapy aids on the ward, plus at the same time increase awareness of the difficulties that people can experience if they are unable to talk.

A lot of stroke patients develop aphasia which affects their ability to talk, read, write and understand language.  This can have a devastating effect on a person’s quality of life and so Samantha undertook a 24 hour silence to highlight the challenges and how people try to overcome them.

She said: “I knew that this kind of challenge would be difficult for me as my colleagues will strongly confirm that I can ‘talk the hind legs off a donkey’!  To get the most out of the experiment, which happened on a Saturday, I decided to go about my day as normal and not make any special arrangements to accommodate the challenge.

“My day comprised a visit to the optician, drinks with family, and friends visiting in the evening.  With the luxury of being able to write down and communicate my needs, alongside the ability to gesture, I was fairly positive and motivated to take on any challenge that came my way.  However, when attempting to carry out daily activities, I started to struggle with my communication limitations and felt that my personality and who I am started to diminish.

“The visit to the opticians was particularly frustrating as I was constantly writing things down and gesturing, and I could feel the stares from other members of the public. Drinks with my parents resulted in more frustration as I had to write down the orders for our drinks which the bartender then couldn’t understand.  My mother had to come to my rescue and so this particular situation made me feel very dejected.

“Throughout the day my frustrations intensified and I increasingly became more and more withdrawn.  Trying to join in conversations by writing comments down and gesturing frantically was too much of an effort and I slowly isolated myself from conversations.  The challenges of trying to achieve normal day to day activities with communication difficulties were exhausting.”

Samantha managed to raise a fantastic £275 towards resources for the stroke speech and language therapy department at Fairfield General Hospital.  The money will be spent on buying therapy objects and therapy picture cards/activities for the stroke ward.

Michelle McCormack, speech and language therapy manager at Fairfield General Hospital, said: “Well done Sam in undertaking a difficult challenge and raising valuable resources and awareness for our patients.”

Samantha added: “The sponsored silence was a difficult 24 hours and I have definitely come away from the experience with a better understanding of the challenges of having a communication impediment.”