Stroke Changes Southerner’s Speech

You ready for a bizarre, sad, and uplifting story all in one? Read this story about my buddy, Berley Stabler. He’s from my hometown, home church, and friend of mine. My dad and he are very close. Berley plays trumpet in the church brass ensemble that my Dad directs.

(Hey MUSC Tiger, you might appreciate this story too…)

The latest article ran a couple weeks ago in The Greenville News. They don’t allow deep links so if you want to find the latest, do a search in the archives for “Berley Stabler”. There are some older articles online for free.

Excerpts from the article:

Berley Stabler is a Southerner once again; his flirtation with life as a Frenchman is but an exotic, bittersweet memory.

…Stabler has returned to his native South Carolina accent after a strange, year long odyssey during which he spoke with a French accent as the result of a rare, stroke-induced condition known as “foreign accent syndrome.” Only 20 cases of the syndrome have been reported since 1919.

…He had to endure rigorous speech and physical therapy, reverse a lifetime of poor eating habits and take a daily cocktail of medicine for the purpose of lowering his blood pressure (medication he no longer has to take thanks to improved health through exercise and diet).

… A University of South Carolina neurology professor has been studying Stabler’s brain with a powerful MRI device in Charleston, tracking how the brain heals the damage a stroke inflicts and how that healing process could lead to better treatment methods.

And a British medical journal is set to publish Stabler’s case history to document the rare syndrome. Two British neurologists as well as a foreign accent syndrome specialist from the University of Central Florida will meet Stabler in Charleston in March for one last scan.

…Today, he is a man determined to avoid another stroke…He’s lost 46 pounds since he suffered his stroke Dec. 18, 2003, and his blood pressure readings are right in line with what defines a healthy cardiovascular system. He’s found himself renewed — and the stroke isn’t the only force that has driven him.

I wish that was all to the story.

In April, Stabler’s wife, Shari, passed away suddenly. About the same time, the home-electronics business he helped run with a longtime friend folded. It was a difficult, painful time, a period in which he says he had to reach deep down for faith in order to press on.

Over the summer, Stabler decided to honor Shari’s life by working in a nursing home, remembering how fond of the elderly she had always been. Just before Christmas, he was laid off from that job.

Out of work, Stabler entered 2005 hoping for a better year than the one that had just passed. Yet, only a few days into January, he found himself suddenly paralyzed…The doctor told him he had a burst blood vessel on his upper spine (not the result of a stroke) and gave him a choice: life-threatening surgery that might or might not work, or spending the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.

He had two minutes to decide. He thought of the late Christopher Reeve. He prayed: “I said, ‘God, if you’re ready to take me, I’m ready to go.'”

Incidentally, my dad was in the hospital room during those two minutes. Not the most fun place to be. He went under the knife.

This week, he started his new job…just as he returned to work mere weeks after he suffered his stroke.

…The Hosanna Brass ensemble Berley plays trumpet in has joked with him that he should change his middle name from Jacob to Job…”I’ve never met anyone like him…How many people do you know who could do or would do what he’s done? For someone who has lost as much as he’s lost, he’s retained the very best human traits.”

We got to see him at Christmas before the surgery. In some ways, he’s never changed. He’s a great guy. Happy and full of life. He’s getting back on track now. And his fiath is strong.

I just wanted to share some of Berley’s story with you.

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