ISTAR provides therapy and support to Edmonton man after a head injury

A grateful Mark Destacamento received therapy and support from the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research to treat a stutter that developed after he was struck in the head.

Kyle Ireland - 01 May 2023

Mark Destacamento is well-spoken, sincere and open. He speaks cheerfully about looking forward to getting out to golf courses and travelling with his wife and daughter. The physical and mental health challenges he endured over the past three years are not readily apparent when he talks, a testament to his work and therapy provided by the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR).

One day in early October 2020, Destacamento went to work as usual in Edmonton. He was comfortable with his co-workers, some of whom he had worked with for years. It was a normal day until a routine discussion escalated into an argument, and further to a physical altercation in which he was struck hard on the left side of his head. The world went fuzzy and then dark and he awoke in the hospital, having sustained a concussion and suffered seizures while unconscious. 

The physical injury means he must wear a hearing aid for his left ear and he still has cluster headaches. He also suffered injuries to his emotional and mental health. His escalated stress made Destacamento uncomfortable around most people, never sure if someone else might attack him. In addition, he began to stutter. 

With this new stutter, Destacamento’s anxiety around people further increased and for nearly two years he barely spoke to anyone apart from his wife. During this time, the couple also suffered a personal loss. This dark time drove Destacamento deeper into depression, isolating him further from the outside world. 

When he was ready, Destacamento sought treatment and support from ISTAR, working with Holly Lomheim, the clinical director and a speech-language pathologist. Together, they worked through breathing and relaxation exercises as well as fluency skills to manage his stuttering. Lomheim also provided encouragement and fluency skills to help Destacamento speak clearly and build up his confidence. “I feel like Holly is an angel sent to me,” says a grateful Destacamento, going on to praise her for her patience and creative treatments.

One particular highlight Destacamento recalls was the practice of his speaking skills in real-world situations. He met Lomheim at Southgate Mall to speak with people and enjoy a day out in public. He was nervous, but understood that this practice was what he had been working towards. “Having someone beside me I thought, OK, this is what is happening,” he remembers. The day was a great success and Destacamento says his confidence level in public has grown close to what it was before his injury. 

Destacamento still suffers from cluster headaches, experiences panic attacks and will stutter from time to time, but in those moments he remembers the techniques he learned and feels he has the tools necessary to push forward.

“Holly and ISTAR made a big impact on my life and encouraged me to live life to the fullest,” says Destacamento as he talks about his new normal. Garnering confidence and strength through the support of his wife and the team at ISTAR, he is navigating toward a healthy future. He is back to work and is less guarded than he was the first couple of years after his injury. 

Destacamento feels he has a new beginning in his life. He and his wife welcomed a child and they both enjoy watching their daughter grow. He looks forward to travelling in the future with his wife and daughter, exploring North America and around the world. He has also added virtual golf to his leisure when the weather does not allow him to visit a course. He remains ever grateful to Lomheim and ISTAR and wants people to know there are supports and people out there that care about them and want to see them succeed.