About four days ago I was at home planning a session and doing general paperwork. Unusually I was not alone. My wife was off work ill and watching TV when she drew my attention to Gareth Gates. He was on TV talking about his stammer. She asked, couldn’t you help someone with a stammer? The answer is in most cases they’re psychological so yes. I say in most cases because of personal experience. You see last year one of our sons developed a stammer. Over a short period of just three days he went from talking normally to not being able to get out two words without a struggle. I accompanied him to the doctor purely to do any talking required at reception because he was really embarrassed, feeling everyone was looking at him when he tried to talk. The doctor called it “a perfect stammer” and couldn’t believe it had developed in just three days. He didn’t believe my son had only just started to stammer and would happily talk over him stopping him from explaining. I now knew why my son had asked me to go. Until I interjected, after a look of frustration from my son, the conversation was going something like this; Doc, are you sure you don’t normally stammer. My son, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, and then the doctor interrupted with “because this is a perfect stammer, are you sure this is new? My son tried to say “I’ve never stammered before” but got as far as I, I, I, I, I, when again he was interrupted by “It’s just psychological, it’ll pass”. This is where I got the look and knew it was time to be a dad and fight for our son. No it’s new, he has never stammered before, it could be psychological but could also be something else, and what are you going to do to find out? He conceded to talk with a neurologist. Unfortunately the neurologist wasn’t answering the phone so we agreed when he had talked to the neurologist he would call us at home. It was actually the next morning he called. He’d explained to the neurologist that it was a perfect stammer and he wasn’t concerned, just psychological he said, it’ll probably pass he said. I wandered just what he had told the neurologist, had he explained it had developed over three days or just said it was perfect. We’ll never know but later that evening we turned out the living room light because it was causing my son discomfort, sitting in only the light of the TV we notice he was covering his eyes. The TV was too bright and causing discomfort. We dialled 111, they dispatched a first responder and an ambulance. Within 10 to 15 minutes of the phone call we had three paramedics in the house. That’s efficiency that should be applauded. The single responder handed over to the ambulance crew but all three had listened to what I’ve described above with looks of shock. They couldn’t believe he’d not been sent for a scan. So after some quick checks he was in an ambulance and off the J.R. hospital in Oxford. A scan was done and he was admitted, but he need a full MRI on his brain to confirm, they suspected Viral Encephalitis. Not being medically trained this is when I learnt the medical term for swelling of the brain caused by a virus. He couldn’t have the MRI for two days because that department doesn’t work weekends, so they started the medication anyway. By Monday the medication was making him vomit so he couldn’t keep still in the MRI machine. It was Wednesday before he could have his scan but it confirmed the diagnosis. He was in hospital for a week in total, most of that time asleep or unconscious. After he was discharged he went to our GP for a follow up consultation. My son said the same GP looked at his notes and said “I see they gave you the American treatment, giving you everything just in case, I’m sure there was no need really”. What he didn’t realise is after he was admitted he was under the same neurologist that the GP had phoned. Now I don’t know why this doctor refused to be persuaded there was anything wrong. It could be he didn’t believe the three day scenario and didn’t like being challenged by lay people or it could be he was fixated on his initial thoughts and diagnosis (there’s a subject for tomorrows post). I’m sure he actually wanted to provide the best medical care he thought right for my son. The fact remains, it could have killed him.
What can we learn from these events? Well if you or someone you know develops a stammer over a short period of time make sure a doctor checks it out, and do so quickly. If it is something like Viral Encephalitis time is of the essence. Don’t be put off by a doctors disbelief, stand your ground. However if you have a lifelong stammer or have one that’s been confirmed to be psychologically generated then hypnotherapy can help. There is a reason you stammer. For some sufferers it gets worse when they think about it and so trying to stop without help feels impossible. With hypnotherapy you can learn to relax, take your mind of the stammer and resolve why it started in the first place. In this way working with a hypnotherapist you can end your days of stammering. Of course there are some people who stammer who are quite happy! They see it as part of what makes them who they are. If you fit this bill then that’s fine but if you want to change you can with hypnotherapy.