Title: Don't Leave Me This Way: Or When I Get Back on My Feet You'll Be Sorry
Author: Julia Fox Garrison
Publisher: HarperCollins; , 344 pages
Reviewed by: John T. Brinkmann, MA, CPO/L, FAAOP(D)
This intensely personal book carries the reader through the author's experiences after surviving a major stroke, including her rehabilitation process. Garrison writes in the second-person point of view throughout most of the book, drawing readers into events as if they were experiencing them firsthand.
The book comprises short chapters, each describing encounters with key individuals or addressing a specific aspect of Garrison's personal life and rehabilitation. She frequently uses flashbacks to contrast her current condition with her life before "the incident." The focus of the book is not on the timeline of events, but rather on the thoughts and feelings the author has during each encounter. The frequent chapter breaks makes the book seem much shorter than the page count indicates and allows for shorter reading intervals. The format makes for a somewhat disjointed storyline; however, the author's engaging narrative style makes the book hard to put down.
Garrison does not shy away from brutally honest, and at times humorous, descriptions of every aspect of life her during rehabilitation, including her struggles with marriage and family dynamics, basic bodily functions, and sexuality. In fact, Garrison's direct and positive response to these challenges gives special meaning to her story. One of the recurring themes in the book is her frustration with healthcare providers who do not sufficiently respect her input. Giving these providers names like "Dr. Jerk" and "Nurse Doom" are examples of Garrison's honest and humorous style and should give healthcare providers pause to consider how their patients may perceive them.
Denial is another theme woven throughout the story. Readers are repeatedly faced with Garrison's questions and perspectives regarding denial and appropriate goal setting during rehabilitation. Healthcare providers will find many occasions to reflect on how denial is manifested, the constructive uses for it, and the risks associated with attaching labels to the experiences of individual patients.
The book concludes with a first-person description of Garrison's life philosophy - one that was firmly in place prior to her stroke and that proved its value as she relied on it to successfully navigate the many challenges she faced.
Summary: Students, residents, and seasoned healthcare providers will benefit from this funny, moving, and deeply personal story about an experience we may encounter in our professional lives. Readers will find insight not only into the rehabilitation process from the patient perspective, but also into a positive outlook on life when encountering unexpected challenges. Garrison's fight to maintain her identity and dignity is inspirational and should be a rallying cry to practitioners who are committed to holistic patient care.