My Stroke of Insight

images-1If you haven’t studied the brain and/or neurological disorders, you may not understand what can happen to a person after a stroke and while in the recovery process. I often see clients come into the clinic (Aim2Walk) and their caregiver or family member has no understanding of what to do or how to react to their loved one who is now a very different person than they were pre-stroke. For this reason, I chose to read more about the experience of an individual who has been through the hardships first hand. My book review is written by a brain scientist who had a stroke that took her eight years to recover from.

On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, who was a Harvard trained brain scientist, began to experience a stroke when the blood vessels in the left side of her brain exploded. Jill can recall the feeling of her body slowly deteriorating, through losing her ability to walk, talk, read and write. She was unable to identify what kind of stroke she was having at the time; however, she did recognise that she would need help throughout the healing process. She remembers having trouble keeping to one task, trying to call for help and trying to dial the numbers on the phone while she went in and out of focus.

Jill did get through to her co-worker who luckily recognized her mumbling voice and got her immediate help. Doctors performed several tests and found the brain bleed which caused Jill’s stroke. In the book, Jill takes the time to explain in detail, what each side of the brain is responsible for. She talks about her understanding about each side and how she needed to re-learn basic tasks such as eating, talking and walking. Jill was very lucky to have her mother by her side. She speaks about her moms endless patience and time, while teaching Jill how to do daily tasks over again, just like she did when she was a baby.

Jill explains how in fact, she feels the stoke is one of the best things that could have happened to her. Through her journey, she learned that her happiness and the true feeling of “Nirvana” is always within us, yet so often ignored. It has allowed her to focus on peaceful thoughts and shut out less positive thoughts.

I found this book extremely helpful at understanding the way Jill felt and how she and her mom had to be patient and take the time to help her heal properly. I would strongly advise any person, loved one or caregiver, going through the recovery of a stroke or brain injury to read this book! Jill also included many useful tips in the back of her book which I think are very useful for caregivers.

  1. I am not stupid, I am wounded. Please respect me.
  2. Come close, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly.
  3. Repeat yourself – assume I know nothing and start from the beginning, over and over.
  4. Be as patient with me the 20th time you teach me something, as you were the first.
  5. Approach me with an open heart and slow your energy down. Take your time.
  6. Make eye contact with me. I am in here – come fine me. Encourage me.
  7. Please don’t raise your voice – I’m not deaf, I’m wounded.
  8. Touch me appropriately and connect with me.
  9. Honour the healing power of sleep.
  10. Protect my energy. No talk radio, TV, or nervous visitors! Keep visitation brief (five minutes)
  11. Stimulate my brain when I have any energy to learn something new, but know that a small amount may wear me out quickly.
  12. Teach me with monkey-see, monkey-do behaviour.
  13. Trust that I am trying – just not with your skill level or on your schedule.
  14. Ask me multiple-choice questions. Avoid Yes/No questions.
  15. Speak to me directly, not about me to others.
  16. Cheer me on. Expect me to recover completely, even if it takes twenty years!
  17. Break all actions down into smaller steps of action.
  18. Celebrate all of my little successes. They inspire me.
  19. Please don’t finish my sentences for me or fill in words I can’t find. I need to work my brain.
  20. Love me for who I am today. Don’t hold me to being the person I was before. I have a different brain now.

Jill was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2008. Please take the time to read her book and perhaps it will help you understand more about those suffering from a stroke.

Michelle Wolfe.

2 responses

  1. Excellent article this week … Never give up stay positive … We are 5 yrs post stroke and still doing various types of Physio.. Joe loves the therapists at Aim 2 Walk…,they use various modalities with their positive energy and skills, encouragement and motivation of which keep him positive and coming back week after week! Thank you Aim2Walk!!!! With Gratitude, Gudrun

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