Thich Nhat Hanh Speaks First Words Since November 2014 Stroke
Renowned Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, affectionately known to his followers as Thay, has spoken his first words since suffering a stroke in November 2014, according to an update on his condition from the monks and nuns of Thay’s Plum Village community. Thay’s right leg has also started to respond to rehabilitation with small movements—initiating a stepping motion while he is using a partial-weight-support walking frame.
In a statement from the Plum Village website, linked below, Thay’s followers say he has been receiving training from three different speech therapists since arriving in the United States two months ago, one of whom was able to help Thay speak his first words since the stroke: “In, out,” “Happy,” and “Thank you,” each of which he has said several times. Thay has also said, “Vui quá,” meaning “so happy” in Vietnamese. (Plum Village)
Thay arrived in the United States on 11 July with the objective of gaining access to a more intensive treatment and rehabilitation program. His rehabilitation is being guided by a team of neurologists specializing in stroke and cognitive rehabilitation at San Francisco’s UCFS Medical Center. However, his advanced age—Thay will turn 89 in October—coupled with the severity of the brain hemorrhage and other health issues mean the recovery process has been a challenging one, despite Thay’s motivation and enthusiastic engagement with his therapists and the treatment program.
“Preparing for Thay’s sessions of physical therapy, we could all feel the joyful determination in his body language,” his followers said. “We would tell him, ‘Thay, let’s get ready for physical therapy,’ and Thay would raise his fist in the air and smile, as if to say ‘Let’s go!’ However, the level of fatigue and physical discomfort that Thay was experiencing when we first arrived in the US limited his ability to participate in the sessions. With the help of the whole team of doctors and therapists we have been able create an integrated program of treatment which allows Thay to have restful sleep, and more alertness, ease and peace in his body, enabling him to more fully participate in the sessions of therapy.” (Plum Village)
In addition to the medical treatment, the statement said that Thay has been able to enjoy the San Francisco Bay Area, visiting the beach at least twice a week and maintaining a connection with nature.
“Every day Thay continues to remind us to enjoy the wonders of life, often pointing at the blue sky and helping us come back to the present moment. Sometimes Thay playfully switches roles with the doctors and therapists, putting a finger on his lips and inviting them to stop. . . . One therapist knelt down by his side, looking out of the window and began to cry silently. She later shared with us that it was perhaps the first time in her life that she had really stopped and appreciated the blue of the sky.” (Plum Village)
The Plum Village community expressed gratitude for the support for Thay that has been received during this time, which they said has allowed him access to the very best doctors and therapists. The statement said Thay was “benefitting from the best of Western, Eastern, conventional, and alternative medical approaches,” and that he was “receiving acupuncture every day, as well as physical therapy, speech therapy, osteopathy, and neuro-feedback, with the support and oversight of a phenomenal team of doctors at UCSF [Medical Center].” (Plum Village)
Thay, born Nguyen Xuan Bao on 11 October 1926, is a Zen teacher, author, poet, and advocate for peace. Prior to his recent illness, he lived at the Plum Village monastic community he established in 1982 with Buddhist nun and peace activist Chan Khong in Dordogne in the south of France. Thay has published more than 100 books, including over 40 titles in English.
An Update on Thay’s Health: 8th September 2015 (Plum Village)
Thich Nhat Hanh Recovering from Brain Hemorrhage (Buddhistdoor Global)
Update on the Health of Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhistdoor Global)
Buddhistdoor View: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peerless Influence (Buddhistdoor Global)