My grandfather had a stroke when he was 80. He lived another three years, trapped in his mind. Whenever I saw him, I think he recognized me, but he couldn’t really speak and had trouble reacting to anything I said to him. He was clearly very frustrated, and often angry – not at me, but at his inability to communicate. I’ve always imagined that inside his mind he knew everything that was going on, but he just couldn’t get the words out.
A few months ago I watched Jill Bolte Taylor’s incredible TED talk about her stroke and wrote about it in my post I’ve Found Nirvana. I thought it was stunningly awesome and bought Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey.
I read Taylor’s book tonight. I wish I had read this book when my grandfather had his stroke. Taylor is a brain scientist so she combines her intensely personal experience with a deep understanding of how the brain works. She presents this in a way that is easily understandable and directly ties it to her experience. While she acknowledges that there is much to learn, I found her description of what happened and her subsequent analysis to be extremely accessible.
She covers her eight year healing process with a focus on the first year. The puzzle pieces fit together brilliantly. While they are very Jill Bolte Taylor specific, she provides a superb roadmap for helping anyone who has had a stroke to heal.
On top of all of this, Taylor spends a lot of time talking about what she’s learned from this experience, how she’s changed how she thinking about life, and how she’s modified her own life view to have a much more positive experience on this planet.
If someone close to you has had a stroke, this book is a must read right now. Given the prevalence of stroke in our society, I’d encourage everyone to read it, for at some point it’s highly likely that someone close to you (including yourself) may have a stroke of some sort. I know that if it every happens again in my world, I’ll have an substantially better understanding of – and capacity for – being helpful.