Dan Kidd rolled out of bed for work at 5 a.m. on Mother's Day and could only walk sideways.

In the shower, his balance failed and he nearly fell over.

He Googled the symptoms of stroke. The results came back: Severe headache, weakness on one side, droopy face, slurred speech and impaired balance. Everything matched.

"Something's happening in my head," Kidd told his wife, Kim, a nurse with experience attending to stroke victims.

She took Dan's blood pressure, put him in the car and drove to the hospital.

There, as doctors ran tests and prescribed medications, Kim noticed something in her husband's voice and alerted the staff:

He sounds like he has cotton in his mouth.

Days passed, and the slurring became worse.

Dan Kidd relied on his faith to help him adjust to his muteness and prayed to God that he would be healed. One Bible verse of particular comfort to him he
Dan Kidd relied on his faith to help him adjust to his muteness and prayed to God that he would be healed. One Bible verse of particular comfort to him he found in I Peter: 'And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.' (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Paul Kuehnel)
Dan moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation center, where his sentences began breaking off mid-thought. Then his words broke off. Dan stammered. He knew what he wanted to say, but something blocked his ability to convert thoughts to spoken language.

Dan was a father. He and Kim were raising two teenage sons. He was an outgoing guy. He had helped start the biker ministry at his church. He had no qualms approaching strangers to hand out Bible tracts and event invitations.

Now, to communicate, he gestured and wrote notes to therapists and his family. They explained the stroke must have damaged the language center in his brain.

Eventually, Dan lost the ability to speak even "yes" and "no." What other speech remained sounded like a consonant followed by a vowel: Ma, rye or peh.

Sometimes he could only grunt uh-huh or uh-uh.

Four weeks after his stroke, Dan Kidd was speechless. It was June 2004, and he was 41 years old.

Everyone, including Dan, prayed his voice would return.

---

Dan endured several months of therapy, including word and sound exercises meant to help reconnect the broken pathways in his brain.

He was told people show the most rapid improvement in the months immediately after a stroke. If his language didn't return within six months to a year, he was unlikely to regain it.

He began carrying a dry-erase board. He tucked it under his arm, strapped it to his motorcycle and toted it to and from Glenview Alliance Church in Springfield Township, where he'd been a member for decades.

He Scotch-taped a slip of paper to the board: "I had a stroke and have trouble speaking. I communicate by writing. Thanks for your patience."

Dan avoided drive-through windows, except at the bank where the tellers knew his condition.

Kim and the couple's teenaged sons, Ryan and Andy, handled tasks that required talking on the phone. They scheduled doctor's appointments and called tech support for computer trouble.

They also dealt with insurance company reps who insisted on speaking with Dan because his name was on the policy. Sometimes the family had to write a letter authorizing Kim, Andy or Ryan to speak on Dan's behalf.

Kim asked the county 911 center to flag the family's street address. If someone dialed from the home and didn't speak on the other end, send an ambulance anyway, she told the dispatchers.

Dan once returned to his car in a lot at Baltimore-Washington International Airport to find the battery dead. He had no way to call for help or let Kim know he was stranded.

Dan waited and worried for 20 or 30 minutes until a woman happened by and lent him the necessary cables.

Dan Kidd used a dry-erase board to communicate with others. The markers dried out quickly and were useless in the rain.
Dan Kidd used a dry-erase board to communicate with others. The markers dried out quickly and were useless in the rain. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Paul Kuehnel)
The next day, he bought a self-contained battery jumper system.

Not everyone understood Dan's condition. People sometimes assumed he was deaf or mentally impaired.

They used sign language or talked at the top of their voice. Dan was annoyed he couldn't explain his condition didn't affect his hearing or intelligence.

He learned to think through his trips outside the home and plan how to communicate what he needed or wanted.

Sometimes he'd ask Kim to call ahead to an auto-parts or home-supply store to tell them he'd be coming and what he needed. If he needed to say a lot, he'd type it up and take the printout with him.

Dan could still read, write and understand spoken language, so he could function at work with a few accommodations.

Dan Kidd, 46, of Shrewsbury Township lost his ability to speak after a stroke nearly five years ago. He could still write and type and learned to
Dan Kidd, 46, of Shrewsbury Township lost his ability to speak after a stroke nearly five years ago. He could still write and type and learned to communicate using a tiny notebook computer with a swivel screen. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Paul Kuehnel)

A Web designer for the U.S. Department of Defense in Maryland, he relied on e-mail and "Dennis," a machine that could "speak" the words and sentences that Dan typed into it.

Dan searched for hours for something to give him hope -- new therapies, new treatments.

He read as much as he could about his condition -- disorders called aphasia and apraxia -- to understand himself better. He subscribed to stroke and neurology magazines. He scoured the Internet for articles, blogs and message boards. He encountered others like him, but none had the answers he sought.

"He kept asking the doctors what kind of progress he should expect," Kim said.

After about six months, Dan and Kim decided he should stop the speech therapy.

It caused more stress than it was worth, Kim said. Dan's blood pressure hovered at elevated levels, and she worried.

It's not working, and I'm not going to let him have another stroke over talking, she told the therapists. He can write and type.

Dan wasn't giving up. He practiced the exercises at home on his own time with Kim or a close friend from church, Paul Daley, who encouraged him.

A longtime Christian, he often prayed. How could this happen, Dan asked God. What had he done wrong? Would he be this way forever?

Dan prayed for patience. He asked for strength. Most often, he prayed for healing.

Dan promised God that if he ever restored his speech, he'd tell the world about it.

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Church had always felt like a second home to Dan. There, he was among family.

But after his stroke, he sometimes felt left out during worship services. Those around him sang along with the guitar and drums in praise. Lyrics flashed across the overhead screen, and Dan tried to follow along.

But he couldn't sing any more than he could talk. Words became scrambled in a tangle of misfiring neurons somewhere between brain and tongue -- exactly what happened when he tried to speak.

He tried speaking all the time. He tried singing in his car but couldn't even follow the words in his head.

To escape, Dan retreated to his garage, mounted his motorcycle and rode the hills of southern York County and Caledonia State Park. He didn't need to communicate, and it was the only time he felt normal.

Among the trees and open air, his exhaust pipes could be heard for miles, and he felt closer to God.

---

Three years ago, unlimited texting plans became available on cell phones, and the family immediately signed up.

Texting became Dan's main communication with Kim, Ryan and Andy. Dan could text that he'd be late or ask what they needed at the store.

He bought a portable, 12-inch-wide laptop that allowed him to participate in conversations at the dinner table. Dan typed on a keyboard facing him, and his words appeared in large typeface on a swivel monitor facing away from him.

It had been years, but Dan still dreamed of talking. He called his own cell phone to listen to the greeting he'd recorded years earlier. He didn't want to forget the sound of his voice.

---

Five weeks ago, the family was at church. The youth band was playing the song "How Great Is Our God." Kim looked over at her husband.

She saw Dan's mouth moving and stared. He didn't usually do that.

He turned and stared back.

"I'm si-nging," he stuttered.

Crying, he fled to a tiny room off the sanctuary where church staff usually count the offering. Kim followed and motioned for her son Ryan.

What's wrong, Kim asked. What happened?

Dan wrote on his white board: "My speech is coming back. Sing. Sing anything."

Kim and Ryan, joined by Dan's friends Daley and Jim Butt, stumbled through "How Great Is Our God" two or three times a cappella.

... He wraps himself in light

And darkness tries to hide

And trembles at his voice

How great is our God

Dan repeated each lyric as tears streamed down his cheeks. He struggled, but his voice -- choppy and hesitant -- sounded clearer and louder each round.

They flipped open songbooks and picked another tune. They sang that, too, with Dan repeating after them.

Ryan asked his dad if he could only repeat things or speak on his own. "Can you say our names?"

Dan went around the room naming them. Ryan. Jim. Paul.

Kim.

Dan stood and hugged her. "I love you, Kim," he said, still crying.

Teary and amazed, she hugged him back. It was the first time he'd spoken her name in nearly five years.

Daley carried a note to the pastor, who announced the good news to the congregation.

At the end of the service, Dan walked to the front of the church.

"Hi, this is Dan," he said from the pulpit. "I'm back."

He thanked the congregation for their prayers and told them what had happened.

It was the first time that many in the pews had heard Dan's voice. They sang "How Great Is Our God," and after the benediction Dan walked to the front of the church again.

"One more thing," he said.

He snapped his dry-erase board in half.

Epilogue

Dan has told the story again and again.

"During the first seconds of the song, I was just thinking how much I wished I could be singing this, and how much I wanted to be a part of it," he said.

"I felt the lord's presence, right there, go through me. I started mouthing the words silently. Then they started coming out loud. The first words that were audible to me were the chorus: 'How Great is Our God.' I could feel that path to language opening back up."

Dan felt relieved to be speaking again but also disoriented.

He took two days off from work and called family members who hadn't heard his voice in nearly five years. One friend who had never heard him speak thought he sounded like Elvis (without the Southern drawl).

Dan visited three doctors, including a neurosurgeon. They told him they'd never seen anything like it, he said.

He also consulted with Doris Golden, a speech-language pathologist in Manchester Township.

"It's truly a miracle. This just does not happen," Golden said.

People with aphasia and apraxia as severe as Dan's would typically be lucky to regain single words, if anything, after five years, she said. In some cases, stroke victims who continue efforts to stimulate the brain continue to improve over years.

"The fact that he got back full sentences and words is just not something you would ever expect," Golden said.

Co-workers surprised Dan on his first day back with a pair of cakes.

One read, "Congratulations, Dan!" The other, "Happy Retirement, Dennis."



WHAT'S APHASIA?

As a result of injury or a neurological condition, some people develop a communication disorder that impairs their brain's ability to process language.

Aphasia, as it's known, does not affect intelligence but might affect one's ability to speak and understand others. Some people experience difficulty reading and writing.

An estimated 1 million people in the U.S. aphasia, and the majority of cases are caused by stroke. Other causes include head injury, brain tumors and other neurological conditions.

Aphasia usually results from damage to the left side of the brain -- the area responsible for language.

If the symptoms of aphasia last longer than three to six months after a stroke, complete recovery is unlikely, experts say. Some people do continue to slowly improve over a period of years or decades.

Aphasia can co-occur with speech disorders, such as dysarthria or apraxia of speech, which also result from brain damage. Apraxia is a loss of the motor skills for talking.

Sources: The National Aphasia Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and WebMD

ON THE WEB

The National Aphasia Association, www.aphasia.org
Stroke Comeback Center, www.strokecomebackcenter.org
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, www.asha.org

BIO BOX

Name: Daniel Kidd

Age: 46

Lives in: Shrewsbury Township

Family: Wife Kim and sons Ryan, 18, and Andy, 19

Occupation: Web designer for a division of the U.S. Department of Defense in Maryland

Hobbies and activities: Riding his motorcycle and working with the biker ministry at Glenview Alliance Church