When did Kirk Douglas Have a Stroke?

kirk douglas

Getty Kirk Douglas attends the Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony Honoring Michael Douglas in 2018.

Kirk Douglas had a stroke in 1996 and died today, February 5, 2020 at 103 years old.

Kirk Douglas was an actor best known for his starring role in Spartacus, as well as dozens of other movies. People reported he suffered his stroke in 1996. He wrote about his recovery after the life-changing event in his best selling memoir, My Stroke of Luck.

Although he recovered from the stroke, he struggled to recover his use of language afterward, says the National Aphasia Association.


Kirk Douglas’ Stroke Caused  Aphasia

The National Aphasia Association defines the condition as an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain-most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals.

In 2007, Douglas told the National Aphasia Association, “My stroke…was a blessing in disguise. I learned that we take too many things for granted in this world, even speech. We think our thoughts and then we have no difficulty saying it in words. When you have a stroke your mind thinks quickly but your speech reacts very slowly. You have to learn how to use your tongue, your lips, your teeth. I am lucky, although my speech is still impaired, I suffer no paralysis and I didn’t die. I have begun to appreciate the gift of life. Of course, I do my speech exercises every day. When I asked my speech therapist how long would I have to do my exercises? Her answer was, ‘until you die.'”

He told the NIH Medline Plus Magazine that same year that he had to learn how to use his tongue, lips and teeth after his stroke in order to be able to speak as well as he could prior to the stroke. He said in the interview, “I am lucky, although my speech is still impaired, I suffer no paralysis and I didn’t die. I have begun to appreciate the gift of life. Of course, I do my speech exercises every day.”


Humor & Family Helped Kirk Douglas Recover After His Stroke

He told NIH in 2007, “The antidote to depression is humor and thinking of others. When I could barely speak, I made up a joke: ‘What does an actor do when he can’t talk? He waits for silent pictures to come back!’ Humor is a very important element in life. I deal with it extensively in my book Let’s Face It. But the most important thing to counteract depression is to think of other people. Try to be concerned with the problems of others, try to help them. This will help you deal with depression.”

He credited his wife with getting him out of his depression after his stroke, saying, “I am lucky to be married to a fantastic woman, Anne. She didn’t coddle me; she helped me. When I was lying in bed bemoaning my fate, Anne would say, ‘Get your ass out of bed and start with working with your speech therapist.’ That helped me.”

His 2007 book Let’s Face It is full of his life stories, jokes and insights, says Turner Publishing. He explores the mixed blessings of growing older and looks back at his childhood, his young adulthood, and his life and career in Hollywood. He tells stories of the making of Spartacus, Lust for Life, Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful among others. He includes anecdotes about Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Lauren Bacall, Ronald Reagan, Ava Gardner, Henry Kissinger, Fred Astaire, Yul Brynner, John Wayne and Johnny Cash. He reveals the secrets that have kept him and his wife, Anne, happily married for more than five decades, and talks about time he spent with his sons, Michael, Peter, Eric and Joel, and his grandchildren.

READ NEXT: Read more about Kirk Douglas


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