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Title: My Stroke of Insight
Author: Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD Publisher: Plume, 206 pages Reviewed by: Lesley Witt, CPO
My Stroke of Insight is an autobiographical recount of a neuroanatomist's experience with her own cerebral hemorrhage (stroke).
Prior to her stroke, the author worked as a Ph.D. in brain research and national speaker on the topic ironically providing expert knowledge of the anatomy in which her trauma occurred. This book illustrates Bolte's intimate journey as she witnesses her stroke unfurl taking the reader through her full recovery. In so doing, she provides insight into the brain's power to control its emotional state of being through conscientious actions. Chapters are divided chronologically with additional references for the reader on brain physiology offered in plain language. The different functions of the right and left brain hemispheres are generously compared and contrasted, offering the reader an explaination for the residual effects from brain damage in a particular region.
The author is able to recount, through Gestalt Therapy, the moments her left cerebral hemorrhage occurred detailing physical and mental transformations while trying to comprehend what was happening and how to seek help. The details offer an understanding to the extreme challenges a person endures when the brain is not functioning as a whole.
During the acute phase, Bolte was unable to speak, communicate, or assimilate, and was physically paretic as she recounts her hospital experience. In her own words, she was rendered a "child" again resigning her care at the mercy of others. It is in these chapters that the reader can empathize with the hospital patient who is struggling with an acute trauma and listen to how the patient's health is affected by an encounter with a medical professional. She offers her recommendations on how body language, tone of voice, and line of questioning is most effective for a brain injured person and just how easily a patient is offended and can shut down during treatment if approached without care.
The author shares that it takes her eight years to make a full recovery back to the functional level she was prior to the hemorrhage. The rehabilitation process, however, was long, slow, and deliberate. Having knowledge of the brain's neuroplasticity, what is necessary for the brain's recovery, and the motivation and drive to work daily and consistently are crucial to the author's full recovery. Many recommendations are provided for the caretaker and treatment team to interact and effectively benefit a person post stroke.
The author concludes the book by voicing her gratitude for life and the ability to share her experience with others. Furthermore, she has discerned, through firsthand account of life with and without the function of the left hemisphere, that how one thinks and feels is a conscious choice that one has the power to control with the brain. Negative thoughts are quickly adjusted by the conscious power of her brain which has allowed her to live with more peace and happiness in her life.
Summary: Whether you are treating someone clinically or they are a part of your personal life, My Stroke of Insight is a beneficial book for anyone who encounters persons who have sustained a brain trauma. The story shares an abundant amount of information for the reader to come away with empathy, useful guidelines for interacting with stroke sufferers, and knowledge of the brain's neuroplasticity and one's own ability to control one's state of emotions.