‘words. far. everything. Gone, after her birth Mirth (27 years old) can no longer speak

If Myrthe could, she would say in this interview that she gets frustrated sometimes. She misses the endless texting with friends and her family. She misses talking about the weather with her neighbor. They miss the short talk in the supermarket. She wants to have another long and deep conversation with her boyfriend. But she also does not lose hope, and she is definitely not unhappy.

She likes to tell people that she’s not retarded – that people don’t have to talk to her louder or slower. She would like to clarify the meaning of aphasia, she would like to say that she can follow everything and hear everything.

She just can’t. The words are there, in her head, not coming out of her mouth.

Nine months ago, Mirth ended up in the hospital. She was 30 weeks pregnant and was healthy until the day of entry. It was an amazing pregnancy, Mirth and boyfriend Yannick were looking forward to parenting, and were looking forward to meeting their daughter. Myrthe worked in a call center and was studying to become a teaching assistant.

Huge chatter

“Good,” says Myrth, to which her mother, Anna Maria, adds, “everything went well, didn’t it, Myrth, your life. You were a great conversationalist. Really, you can speak to everyone’s ears and I admire the good, deep conversations” .

gesture. a smile.

“See you,” Myrthe says. She sits on the sofa of her apartment in Groningen and points to her head. There’s a word in it, it won’t come out, but she knows it. “Until you get a headache,” her mother says. “Headache,” Myrthe says. Anna Maria: “At first I thought it was a migraine, but when it didn’t go away the next day and her eyesight was bad, I went to the doctor anyway.”

Myrthe repeats “Doctor,” this is what the speech therapist said: Repeat, repeat, repeat. Or how Myrthe says it several times during a conversation: “Practice, practice, practice.”

The legacy was accepted and greatly deteriorated. She had very high blood pressure due to pre-eclampsia not going down, and scans showed severe bleeding in her brain. She was unconscious most of the time and couldn’t comprehend what was happening around her. “Actually, you’re already gone, right.” Myrrh shrugs his shoulders. She does not remember. She does not remember anything about that period.

Her mother and father rushed to the hospital at night, Jannick did not leave her bed, and the doctors were clear: “We have to have the baby now, otherwise mother and baby will not survive together.”

get it

“We just stood there and looked at her,” Anna Maria says. “Yesterday she was still healthy, and now she’s probably dying. We knew the baby was going to be born prematurely and might not survive, but I didn’t know my granddaughter at the time. I just thought: Bring her, get her, save her a girl.”

Myrrh was put under general anesthesia and could have given birth without realizing it. “It was safer, because Myrthe didn’t understand what ‘squeeze’ or ‘puff’ meant.” Anna Maria filmed everything so Myrthe could see it later.

When the little girl entered the world, she immediately started screaming. “Often these premature babies don’t have the energy for it at all,” Anna Maria says. “But it was as if this girl was screaming, ‘Here I am, I will survive this.'”

She was checked, placed in an incubator, given tubes and bells and whistles all over the place, just like her mother. Yannick held the girl against him several times a day, and Mir got nothing. Hollow look, half paralyzed, pale complexion, stared straight ahead, can’t speak, can’t walk. “You didn’t realize, did you, that you became a mother.”

Myrrh shakes her head. “Very…” she stops. Then: “Green”. Laugh out loud. number. Not green. Why do you say green? It means madness. “Crazy. So crazy.”


“We put Alice on Merth’s breast, it all went very normally. She didn’t know: This is my baby, but she could feel it. Alice even drank from her breast, because Myrt had indicated before birth that she wanted to breastfeed this would help Alice has to get a little more flexible. I really saw Myrthe’s maternal instinct at that moment. Myrthe naturally put her arm around this little boy.”

Asleep, myrrh came to me. Her first word was “grandmother”. “I remember thinking: Is she talking about her grandmother? Maybe she was dreaming about it, I had no idea. Until she pointed at me.” Grandma “. She became a grandmother. Then we realized she was here again.”

Yannick and Meir don’t have a name for their daughter yet. Yannick came out with his phone and a list of the girls’ names, in alphabetical order. He started with Aaaf, Aajji, Aaj, Abe, Ada – until he came to Alice. Bitter nodded. She couldn’t repeat her daughter’s name, but she knew: This is our daughter’s name.

No guarantees

The diagnosis was aphasia: a brain hemorrhage affected the left side of the bitter’s brain, and that’s where our language skills lie. “They couldn’t give us any guarantees of a return.” The doctors had explained: The words had to pass in a turn, into the right hemisphere of her brain, before she could pronounce them. So it is a matter of –

“Practice, practice, practice, practice,” Myrthe says.

“Yeah. That’s what you’d do, huh. She really does. I think that’s pretty clever.”

What is aphasia?

“Aphasia is a speech and language disorder that arises from a disorder in the brain, such as infarction or bleeding,” explains neuropsychology professor Eric Scherder. All forms of language processing can be affected in aphasia: speaking and listening, as well as reading and writing. In some cases, you can confuse the letters, and for example you no longer understand the difference between “pear” and “bear”. But in other patients, such as Myrthe, the consequences are more serious. There are tools for people with aphasia, such as apps or picture guides. Speech therapy can also help.

For a long time, “grandmother” was the only word a bitter could say. Reading and writing was impossible. She recognized the letters, but could not pronounce them. She can no longer respond to apps, the translations on Netflix are Abracadabra for Myrthe, and the chat conversations she’s always had with her in-game buddies with World Of Warcraft are also silent.

“Ee, Eee,” Myrthe says. Think for a moment. She wants time to say the word in her head, and Yannick and Anna Maria also learned that from the doctors: give her the chance to do it herself. Will come. “Lonely. Sometimes.” Anna Maria adds: “The world revolves around communication. Everywhere and always.” But Murr smiles. “positive.” She wants to stay positive, because she’s still alive, and it will make her and Yannick together, have her family, and a beautiful home. And her daughter is the most beautiful of the most beautiful.


They play together. Myrrh gives Alice a shower. Hug. They sing, dance, sleep and eat together. “Alice!” Murr says. Big smile. Their bond is good. Nothing indicates that Murthy was mentally absent during the first three weeks of her daughter’s life.

I watched the birth video. Was it emotional? Bitter won’t cry easily. He wouldn’t be quick to think: Why did this happen to me? She says “beautiful” about giving birth. “But strange. Strange.” Then “alien”. Her mother laughs. “Yes, Alice is very beautiful now, but when she was born she was really a little weird.”

The first time Myrthe learned anything other than “Grandma” was when Anna Maria – who loves to sing – was singing a song. This is where the word “beautiful” came in. Anna Maria imitates it loudly singing: “móóóóóói”, and from her hospital bed suddenly Mirth did: “Móóóóóíí”. “I didn’t know what I heard. Then we started singing. Father Jacob, Sleep Baby is sleeping.” While singing I learned new words.

not good

After a few weeks in the hospital, she ended up in a rehab clinic, where she could stay in a convenient home with Yannick and Alice. A maternity nurse came, just like any new couple, and Mir taught her daughter to feed with one hand, and to change diapers.

“Not good,” Myrthe says. What she means is: This wasn’t good at first. But, “Practice, practice, practice.” Now everything is fine. Now she can do it while dreaming.

Bitter learned to walk again. I learned more and more words. I kept going out more and more. Just doing a task (no hard shopping lists, just things she doesn’t have to read for). Lunch with Yannick, with her mom and dad. Always carry a card stating that she has aphasia and what that card is. “Would you like to ask closed questions,” she says, among other things.


Myrthe learned more and more words, doing things herself, but she also learned: What a distorted picture the world has of you if you can’t speak.

“People will talk loudly,” Anna Maria says. “Real. Very difficult. And cumbersome. Slow. As if lagging behind.”

This is also one of the reasons why Myrthe told her story. To increase awareness of aphasia. To explain to people what it is. how is she. And to be clear: it’s not stupid. The words are there. genuinely. “Frustrated,” she says, but with a smile, it’s all with a smile. “Very. Frustrating. Sometimes… sad.”

But it continues to practice and practice and practice. Speaking first, but also writing and reading later. “I don’t know anyone with such perseverance,” Anna Maria says. “Maybe – hopefully – there will soon be a period when you will learn the same words and read the same books with Alice. It may be strange, but at the same time it also contains something beautiful.”


Myrthe undergoes physiotherapy several times a week and is now on a queue for a stagnant bike with a box behind her so she can take Alice to daycare, and she has a speech computer that helps her if she doesn’t remember a word. Pre-programmed with the names and words you use most often: Alice, Yannick, Lollipop, Tea, Naturopathy, Bread.

Then there’s another word that Myrthe often uses, but isn’t in the speech computer. not necessary. Because it’s in her head and she knows how to get it out of her mouth. It is her pursuit and her way of manifesting what she wants:

“straight ahead.”

Sunday interview

Every Sunday we post a text interview and photos of someone doing something special or experiencing something special. This can be a big event that he handles admirably. Sunday interviews have in common that the story has a huge impact on the interviewee’s life.

Do you know or know someone suitable to meet on Sunday? Tell us via this email address: Zondaginterview@rtl.nl

Read previous Sunday interviews here.

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