Thich Nhat Hanh speaks first words after stroke

New statement highlights different aspects of treatment and how Thich Nhat Hanh is responding. He’s even spoken his first post-stroke words.

Lion’s Roar Staff10 September 2015
Thich Nhat Hanh holding a flower.
Thich Nhat Hanh giving a dharma talk in Vietnam in 2007. Photo by Velcrow Ripper.

The monks and nuns of Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Plum Village community have issued a new statement regarding the Vietnamese Zen master’s ongoing post-stroke therapy. As reported here, Nhat Hanh recently arrived in California’s Bay Area for various forms of treatment. In their letter, the monks and nuns highlight different aspects of said treatment and how Thay, as Nhat Hanh is affectionately called, is responding. He’s even spoken his first post-stroke words, thanks to speech therapy. From the letter:

It has been two months now since Thay arrived in America, with the hope of getting more intensive treatment to recover from his stroke. Thanks to the incredible support of our Beloved Community we have been able to obtain the very best doctors and therapists for Thay, across all treatment modalities. We are happy to be able to share that Thay is benefitting from the best of Western, Eastern, conventional, and alternative medical approaches. Thay is receiving acupuncture every day, as well as physical therapy, speech therapy, osteopathy, and neurofeedback, with the support and oversight of a phenomenal team of doctors at UCSF.

With Thay’s advanced age, the severity of the hemorrhage, as well as various complex health issues, recovery is extremely challenging. When Thay first started physical therapy, Thay was very engaged and enthusiastic with his therapists and the program that they had created for him. Preparing for Thay’s sessions of physical therapy, we could all feel the joyful determination in his body language. We would tell him, “Thay, let’s get ready for physical therapy” and Thay would raise his fist in the air and smile, as if to say “Let’s go!”

However, the level of fatigue and physical discomfort that Thay was experiencing when we first arrived in the US limited his ability to participate in the sessions. With the help of the whole team of doctors and therapists we have been able create an integrated program of treatment which allows Thay to have restful sleep, and more alertness, ease and peace in his body, enabling him to more fully participate in the sessions of therapy.

A recent breakthrough has been that whilst using a partial weight support walking frame, Thay’s right leg has started to make small movements, initiating the stepping motion.

Thay has received training from three different speech therapists over the last two months, one of whom was able to help Thay speak his first words since the stroke. It was a legendary day. We are happy to be able to share his very first words:

In, out (several times)
Happy (several times)
Thank you (several times)

and “Vui quá” (meaning, “So happy,” in Vietnamese)

It was like a guided meditation. Everyone was crying and laughing at the same time, including Thay.

Unfortunately, as the speech therapist who helped him to achieve this breakthrough lives far from San Francisco, she had to go back home after three days and Thay lost some momentum. We have tried a number of other speech therapists but have not been able to maintain Thay’s initial rapid progress. We are still looking for a local speech therapist, ideally fluent in Vietnamese, who would be able to work with Thay several times per week.

The letter goes on to tell more about Nhat Hanh’s time in the Bay Area, as well as the community’s plans for the fall, which include a tour by the monks and nuns. Read the whole letter here.

Lion s Roar Staff

Lion’s Roar Staff

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.