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Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Bruce Willis and His Family Announce Aphasia Diagnosis


At the Brain Injury Alliance, our thoughts are with Hollywood star Bruce Willis and his family. Bruce disclosed he has been diagnosed with Aphasia and will be stepping away from acting. Aphasia is the loss of the ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage. This communication disorder is commonly seen after a stroke, but also occurs in survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI), brain tumors, and infection.

While Bruce is known for the tough guys he portrays in movies like Die Hard and Armageddon, local Aphasia survivor Michelle Nguyen suggests Bruce can tap into a different kind of strength. “To keep going after a diagnosis of Aphasia, you have to be strong and decide that you are never going to give up,” says Nguyen, “but at the same time you need to be kind to yourself.”

Bruce Willis and His Family Announce Aphasia Diagnosis


At the Brain Injury Alliance, our thoughts are with Hollywood star Bruce Willis and his family. Bruce disclosed he has been diagnosed with Aphasia and will be stepping away from acting. Aphasia is the loss of the ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage. This communication disorder is commonly seen after a stroke, but also occurs in survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI), brain tumors, and infection.

While Bruce is known for the tough guys he portrays in movies like Die Hard and Armageddon, local Aphasia survivor Michelle Nguyen suggests Bruce can tap into a different kind of strength. “To keep going after a diagnosis of Aphasia, you have to be strong and decide that you are never going to give up,” says Nguyen, “but at the same time you need to be kind to yourself.”

Michelle, a Scottsdale area young professional, received her Aphasia diagnosis 10 years ago following a snowboarding accident that required brain surgery. “There have been so many times I have been so frustrated that my brain just won’t do what I want it to,” says Nguyen. “Every day you just have to get up and do the best you can to enjoy your life to the fullest.”
 
Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Survivor Engagement Coordinator Laura Johnson sees first-hand how those with Aphasia experience stigma. “The word-finding challenges Aphasia can bring are frustrating because people assume if you can’t express yourself then you are not intelligent, which is not the case at all,” she says.
 
Johnson herself sustained a TBI and knows that while a diagnosis is scary, it can be a relief to put a name to the frightening cognitive changes survivors experience. “What happened to the Willis family is a reminder of how brain injury does not discriminate and a diagnosis can be complex,” says Johnson.  “While Bruce and his family were able to receive a diagnosis and move forward, we have others in our community who are experiencing cognitive changes after stroke, a head injury, or Long COVID, and they are struggling to find the answers.”
 
When it comes to Bruce and his family’s future, Nguyen encourages them to have an open dialogue on what, if any accommodations Bruce would like to have. “As a brain injury survivor with Aphasia, my family and friends know when I’m stressed, tired, or having trouble communicating, I appreciate when they repeat or paraphrase what I am trying to say and ask me to clarify if that is correct with a yes or no answer,” says Nguyen. “It’s an accommodation that makes me feel heard and understood.”
 
Over one million Americans live with Aphasia and 180,000 acquire the disorder every year. Arizonans with questions about Aphasia should reach out to the Brain Injury Alliance at 888-500-9165 or info@biaaz.org.
 
 
 

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line: 888-500-9165

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