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Friends of Aphasia is dedicated to changing lives of individuals, families living with the disorder

Posted at 4:28 PM, Jul 03, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It's a disorder many have never heard of, but 2 million Americans are living with aphasia—6,000 of whom live here in Pima County, according to the Tucson area nonprofit Friends of Aphasia.

This month's Giving Project nonprofit is making it their mission to help those living with the disorder, and to help educate the rest of our community.

Andy Ortiz suffered a stroke nearly four years ago.

"When I had my stroke I couldn't talk, I couldn't do anything."
Andy Ortiz credits Friends of Aphasia with his improved ability to communicate.

He now lives with Aphasia—the loss of the ability to speak, understand, read and/or write due to a stroke or other injury to the brain.

"It's not a loss of intellect. It's a loss of some communication skills," explains Katie Ares CEO of Friends of Aphasia.

The organization, based in midtown Tucson, is dedicated to helping change the lives of individuals and families living with aphasia. They offer high-quality, patient-centered aphasia services, including a comprehensive aphasia group program.

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Ortiz credits these group programs with his improved ability to communicate.

"And just little by little I started doing it," Ortiz tells me. "You've got to have people with us that just, one after another, it's just doing that. That's why I love it."

About 85% of those with aphasia have suffered a stroke.

It can also be caused by a traumatic brain injury, like the one Gabby Giffords suffered during the Tucson mass shooting on January 8, 2011.

"I never heard the word 'Aphasia'," said Joni Jones, a Friends of Aphasia board member.

Jones was the office manager for Gabby Giffords before and after the shooting. She tells me about how she saw the effects of aphasia firsthand.

"The only word she could say is 'chicken'," Jones said.

Jones also witnessed the dramatic improvement in Giffords' ability to communicate and credits her speech pathologist Fabiane Hirsch Kruse.

"I have had a firsthand view of what good therapy and clinical help can do for somebody who has aphasia," said Jones.

Gabby Giffords and Fabiane Hirsch Kruse founded Friends of Aphasia here in Tucson in 2018 to help others living with the disorder.

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her speech pathologist Fabiane Hirsch Kruse founded Friends of Aphasia here in Tucson in 2018 to help others living with the disorder.

In addition to sitting on the board, Jones also serves as a group leader at Friends of Aphasia.

Pat: "It's pretty amazing that out of such a tragedy with Gabby, could come something so beneficial to our community."
Joni: "Exactly."

If you'd like to help Friends of Aphasia continue their remarkable work, you can make a donation directly through their website.

Your Giving Project donation qualifies for Arizona's charitable tax credit.

Our partners in the giving project, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, will again match the first $500 in donations.

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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