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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Alvarado

Bobbi Dempsey and Words and Pas de Ballet

Written By Lisa Smith, Stoke Survivor, Person with Aphasia


“I’m a ballet teacher. A UTEP Instructor/Professor in ballet and writing for 20.” That’s the line I used to trot out before my stroke. Bobbi Dempsey, a writer at Huffpost, prefers “unexpected detour.” What follows at the last of the Dempsey articles and my “stitches” to bring these all together.



It’ll be 2 years ago and my hole in my head, my brain, is now what I thought it would be. It a mess! Mark and I got to see from my neurologist. My speech has been “Yes” and “No”, maybe a dollop of noun or verb. My face is on the right is droopy. My right arm, the shoulder, is subluxated. My writing and typing have been slow and left-handed. My right hand is somehow cold and hot, the calf too. My right fingers and toes tend to curl up. My leg (ankle, knee, and hips) is a little slow and tired.


I’m tired too! Ballet from Lynne, Physical Therapy from Mayra and Ralph, Speech Therapy from Jackie (and all the other Aphasia). Gyrokinetic, Pilates (Mark has to pay for them all), and Phone, I love the Phone!

All this is because I’m a dance and writing teachers, a UTEP Dance and Dance Appreciation, Dance History, Dance Pedagogical. Sounds great!




I use my background in dance to try to be funny. But all of the time I am focused on something else. The trees, the concretes, the sounds, the smells, the sights. I can draw with my left hand and I can take the photo and type, well sort of. But the point is, I can do that. I feel like so much room, so much and that makes me feel, do, and make. Some things I cannot do. Speak, Dance, outer space? for instance. I can do anything. I cannot do anything.

That is the rubs, some things you got, and something you don’t.


In the hospital, everything was different. I was different then to. I was quiet, I seemed quiet. Much too quiet. I seem to feel bunches of synapses inside me, and “my friend,” that’s me, said to tap down, be cool. I want to scream, explode! But deep inside myself the voice said “Stay cool, Boy! Real cool. (snap, snap)” In German no less!


The following is a tribute to Bobbi Dempsey:


“For me, however, aphasia has become a core part of my constant reality, affecting me every day, all day long.”

Well sort of. I am blessed with a “can do,” and a “what if” girl. Of course, I’m 67, I’m old. What must have been for Ms. Dempsey to have been a girl? Mind over matter, I am old, she is not. She is a writer. Writing’s tough. I am, too, but the dancer thing… it was a long row to hoe back then, and pretty much in 2019. When I would complain about a step, a friend of mine said “Lisa, ballet is hard work.” Nuff said.

  1. “Four years ago, my brain took an unexpected detour. I suffered a stroke in my sleep. It happened suddenly without any warning. I had no symptoms or risk factor.”

True, in my case. No warning. I have just a sliver of memory, no clue. Bruce Willis struggles to remember the lines. Justin Bieber’s wife had a headache. David Talbot, author of “Between Heaven and Hell, The Story of My Stroke” and founder of Salon magazine, didn’t. My story is the latter of the two, David Talbot.

  1. “Still, I know the brain is a mysterious wonder that often acts in unpredictable ways, so I hold out hope that eventually, some of those lost words may sporadically reappear, like spring flowers emerging after a long winter.”

Yes, words and Pas de Ballet!




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