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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

‘I had to learn to speak, like I was a child’: Lira on how she recovered from stroke

Singer Lira suffered a stroke in April last year. She spoke about her recovery for the first time in an interview.

Lira might be enjoying beautiful weather in Amsterdam right now, but the singer has had a torrid journey after suffering a stroke last year.

In a first interview since the unfortunate incident, the songstress shared her recovery journey with Relebogile Mabotja on her show on Radio 702.

Just before the beginning of the interview host Mabotja put a disclaimer to sensitise the audience, explaining that Lira suffered a stroke and has had to re-learn how to speak because the stroke brought with it a speech impediment.

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“We’re going to be patient and kind and absolutely loving and supportive in this space,” said Mabotja. Lira, whose real name is Lerato Molapo, suffered a stroke last year.

When the host asks Lira how she is, the songstress says she’s excited because she can speak. “I’m here to share my story and I can speak well,” says Lira.

“I get surprised with how much progress I’m making and today is a good day,” says Lira uttering words little by little.

ALSO READ: Lira travels for the first time since her stroke

Opening up

“People have been asking me to share my story and I wasn’t ready because I couldn’t talk and I wasn’t ready to speak in a conversation. But now I’m ready and speech impediment doesn’t bother me, it did before. I’m here to share my story,” a bold Lira said.

According to Medical News Today, a speech disorder is any condition that affects a person’s ability to produce sounds that create words. Damage to muscles, nerves, and vocal structures can cause it.

Mabotja, who happens to be Lira’s neighbour, shared that the singer told her about the stroke on WhatsApp before it became public, after Lira hadn’t responded to a text from the Radio 702 personality.

“You just said ‘sorry I had a stroke’ and I was like ‘hawu babes, she’s just saying it like this’ and it was only much later that I understood why you said it the way you did. There wasn’t a whole build-up; it was because you were limited. And it was only seeing parts of your recovery journey that now I understand, in hindsight,” said Mabotja.

“I messaged you ‘I had a stroke’ because I couldn’t find elaborate words, I used to text emoji’s because I couldn’t find the words,” said Lira.

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The stroke

Lira said she was in Frankfurt, Germany, on tour when the stroke hit. “I was excited about being there; it had been three years since I travelled overseas.”

The singer arrived in Frankfurt two days before the show she was billed for and said she used the spare time for sightseeing. “I started walking around, I wanted to take in the sites and scenes. I had a stroke at about 4:30pm,” Lira said.

She was alone at the time.

“I love travelling alone, it’s not an issue for me.”

She said the sensation of the stroke lasted 15 minutes. “It wasn’t pain. It was an uncomfortable feeling in my head. I walked into a restaurant and I wanted to ask them where my hotel was, I wasn’t lost, but I had been walking around. The hotel was nearby. I intended to ask them and my voice didn’t come out.”

Lira says she was offered a seat and a beverage inside the eatery. “I sat down and I tried to speak and I had no idea what was happening.”

Neighbours: Lira and Rlebogile Mabotja at the Radio 702 studios. Picture: miss_lira/Instagram.

As promised, Mabotja made the space comfortable for the Feel Good singer throughout the interview, where at times Lira needed help in narrating her experience, because she struggled to get the words out.

When Lira eventually got to her hotel, she called her partner on WhatsApp and to her bewilderment, she couldn’t read either. “I was having a bad nightmare; I can’t read, I can’t write and I can’t speak. I called my partner and he didn’t know what was going on. Nobody could tell something was wrong with me because I was [looking] normal.”

She says she didn’t make any sound to alert people that something was wrong, but was pretty calm. The panic crept in the following day when she woke up without a voice.

“The WiFi had kicked me out of the phone and I was alone. Lisa Loeb [manager] God bless her heart, called me and let me know someone was going to come to my room.”

It was Lira’s partner that alerted the manager that something was wrong with the singer. Thankfully the manager realised from her telephone interaction with Lira that it was a medical emergency.

“Lisa told me the German promoter was going to come to the hotel. He was the one who called the ambulance. I walked myself to the ambulance, I was normal.”

The paramedics that picked her up from the hotel didn’t speak a word of English. Once at the hospital, a nurse told Lira that she’d had a stroke.

“I was shocked. I’m too young to have a stroke. Not me, not me. I cried because how was I going to tell my parents.”

The singer confessed to also feeling anxious about the gig she was supposed to perform at because she was featured by a Swedish band. “I wasn’t worried about myself; I was worried about people I had to tell.”

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Healing journey

The German doctors gave Lira the assurance that she could learn to speak again, despite the damage. “Because I’ve had a stroke they told me the language centre is damaged. I can re-learn how to speak, read and write but it’s going to take time.”

“I accepted my situation because there was nothing for me to do. I felt calm, peace washed over me when I did that. The calm and peace has been with me since.”

She said having her partner fly over to Germany made things easier for her. Lira began speech therapy while in the European country and shared how rudimentary her re-learning had to be.

“I knew it would be hard. I had to say each word… I was struggling to say a, e, i, o, u. I had to learn the alphabet to put words together. I had to learn like a child.”

Listen to the whole interview here.

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