ROBERTO AND MARTA’S STORY: The mysterious case of the Orange Crush

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Contributed by Toronto Rehab

I first met Roberto and Marta about a year and a half ago in their lovely North York home. They were both retired engineering professors and had been looking for a Spanish-speaking speech language pathologist to work with Roberto. I had been communicating with Marta over the phone to set up an interview of sorts; they wanted to make sure I would be a good “fit” with Roberto.

At our first meeting I could immediately sense the sweetness in Roberto and Marta’s relationship. Marta acted as the manager, radiating compassion for her husband. They both answered the door, and slowly walked me over to their living room where some writing materials were set up in a makeshift office—I could tell they were serious.

Roberto has aphasia and has difficulty finding the words he wants to say; he also has some difficulty comprehending the words that are said to him. Marta asked most of the questions and eventually became comfortable with the rapport that had been created between the three of us. As the interview wrapped up, Marta appeared pleased and whispered into my ear, “He likes you.” I told her that I liked him too. How couldn’t I? He was a gentle, kind and intelligent white-haired man, brimming with a genuine smile and sporting a very cool pair of dark-rimmed glasses. Our sessions began the following week.

I was trying to quit caffeine for the 1,000th time, so I took a can of Orange Crush to our first therapeutic session. Roberto and I took our seats in the office and Marta slowly brought over a tray of fancy cheese sticks for us to nibble on. Marta stopped and looked confused. She picked up my can of Orange Crush and stared at it closely, analyzing every nuance of the can as if she was seeing it for the first time. “This is what you like?” she asked in a lovely Eastern European accent. I nodded.

The following week, I once again made my way to their living room office and began to work with Roberto. A few minutes into our session, Marta made her way into the room, bringing in a tray of cheese sticks, a glass of orange juice for her husband and, to my surprise, a can of Orange Crush with a glass of ice! It was such a small gesture but it melted my heart. Every week since then, Roberto and Marta have provided me with a can of Orange Crush during our sessions, even though I have long since forgone the battle to quit caffeine.

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