Jan is Home

-Updated Tuesday evening-

Jan’s website announced today that she has returned home:

Jan is improving every day and in the last few days has begun speaking more and more words, at times stringing them together into short sentences…We’re cautiously optimistic that Jan will continue to progress in her recovery, and are really encouraged by the improvements she’s shown lately. Her thought processes are fine, the articulation of those thoughts will slowly return with time and therapy…Jan is fully independent and able to take care of herself and go about daily activities without much assistance at all. 

Anyone who walked up to one of Jan’s many fine and talented students this weekend and asked “how’s Jan?” knows this is old news, but since Jan’s parents requested privacy, I left the story alone.  Because Jan’s website has posted the information, I decided to pass it along.  Jan is home, active, teaching again, and looking great.  The only remaining issues, according to Jan’s website, are the injured wrist and the side effect of the stroke which “affected her ability to speak but not her comprehension.”  

There is often a misconception in such cases that someone who has suffered such an injury has trouble thinking or understanding things.  But it’s important that everyone understands this is certainly not the case.

In the human brain, the speech center is a relatively distinct area in the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere (in most cases).  For illustration, put your hand just in front of your left ear and slide it up your scull about halfway to the top, and your hand will be resting approximately above your speech center.  While it is important to remember that the brain is probably the most highly integrated system on the planet, the general speech production area is separated from the speech comprehension area.  That feeling you get when what you want to say is on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t spit it out is what people with injury to their speech production center feel regularly, even though they can easily understand anything you tell them, and they can think just as well as you and certainly better than me. 
Thankfully, according to everyone, only the speech production part of Jan’s brain has suffered injury, which means that Jan can think, teach, exercise, etc. without any problems.  It must be extremely challenging for someone as vivacious as Jan to have to be patient when communicating, but modern medical science has made huge strides in helping people to recover from this condition.  
Jan’s site explains how she is using tools to work through the speech issues for coaching: 

She’s even given Courtney riding lessons a few times! We put together a list of common expressions used in teaching riding that Jan points to and I then say out loud, and along with some pantomiming and a word spoken by Jan here and there, we get the point across. She also still uses her alphabet chart to spell out words for me to then say to the rider.

Considering the nature of Jan’s injury, Eventing Nation is blessed to have her back home amongst her friends and family so soon after the accident, and it will be inspiring to watch her recovery progress further.
I never thought my cognitive science major from college (a multidisciplinary combination of psychology and neurobiology) would ever serve me well writing for Eventing Nation, but everything written above is fresh out of any PSYCH 101 class.  And yes, I obviously enjoyed psychology class way too much, but its a blessing to love learning.
I also want to reiterate how impressed I am with the strength of Jan’s coaching program.  Several riders who I respect are working with Jan now, and it seems like Surefire Eventing is really growing as a top training program.
Update: I received an email from someone I respect stating that the above article is too detailed and violates privacy.  I understand those concerns, and I decided to remove the diagram depicting the speech area of the brain that was originally used in the post.  But in the context of Eventing Nation’s tradition, this article is clearly a factual and positive informational piece designed to increase awareness and understanding among Jan’s many fans across the country.  
Of course, we also received emails from angry people who say that we have been too sensitive about privacy in this situation and that we had an obligation to report the news immediately instead of waiting for Jan’s site.  It’s always fascinating for me that 100 people read the same article 100 very different ways.  Go figure.
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