If there was one book that should be required reading for everyone, this may be at the top of the list.
With over 780,000 strokes occurring every year, chances are you know someone who has had a stroke. While much is written on how to prevent strokes, and how to care for a stroke victim after the fact, little has been documented about the actual process. Until now.
In “My Stroke of Insight”, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor sheds insight on what its like to experience a stroke from first hand knowledge. At the age of 37, Dr. Taylor experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. As a neuroanatomist (brain doctor) by profession, she observed all that was happening, from the time she woke up with a sharp pain in her head, to her recovery process over the course of several years.
While the entire book was an eye opening experience, several of her comments jumped from the pages. As caregivers, there is so much more we can do to empathize with those we caregive for.
“I felt rushed by an outer world that did not understand how to communicate with me. Although I could not understand the words they spoke, I could read volumes from their facial expression and body language. I realized that some people brought me energy while others took it away. One nurse was very attentive to my needs: Was I warm enough? Did I need water? Was I in pain? Naturally, I felt safe in her care. She made eye contact and was clearly providing me with a healing space. A different nurse, who never made eye contact, shuffled her feet as though she were in pain. This woman brought me a tray with mild and jello, but neglected to realize that my hands and fingers could not open the containers. I desperately wanted to consume something, but she was oblivious to my needs. She raised her voice when she spoke to me, not realizing that I wasn’t deaf. Under the circumstances, her lack of willingness to connect with me scared me. I did not feel safe in her care.”
Caregiving is such a difficult role. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, busy, and frustrated when you can’t get things done at a normal pace. But with Dr Taylor’s insight, its important to see that while communication skills not be at the level they once were, the person you are caregiving may be trying to communicate, and may simply wish to gain respect.
“I loved collecting the mail from my front box. Every day for six weeks, I received 5-15 cards from people who were cheering me on. Although I could not read what they wrote, I would sit on G.G’s mattress and look at the pictures, touch the cards and literally feel the love radiating from every message.”
The underlying theme throughout this book is love and support. Recovery isn’t something that happens in days or weeks. It’s a lifetime experience. And the love and support of caregivers and people around us are what pull us through even the most trying moments.
“G.G. realized early to offer me only multiple choice questions and never ask me Yes/No questions. Forced choice demanded that I open old files or create new ones.”
Part of recovery and the process to move on is to stay engaged. Dr Taylor realized this early on, and her support team gave her reasons to stay active.
There were so many wonderful pieces of advice throughout this book, it would be impossible to write them all here. Even Dr Taylor’s “40 Things I Needed The Most” list in the appendix is worth the price of the book alone.