Friday, September 6, 2019

Identity Theft: Rediscovering Ourselves After Stroke, by Debra Meyerson, PhD, and Danny Zuckerman. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019

‘Identity Theft’ refers to the way that a stroke takes away from who you are- or who you think you are. Suddenly a fit, quick witted person cannot walk, or remember names, or may even lose the ability to talk at all (and the ability to write frequently goes with that, too). The long distance runner cannot get to the bathroom. The family bread winner cannot go to work. The musician can no longer use their hand. And it doesn’t just affect the person with the stroke; it affects the whole family.

Meyerson lost a lot, both physically and mentally. She was an athlete, an author, and a college level lecturer. Eight years on, after very intensive rehab that continues even now, she still struggles to talk or write at times, walks with a limp and a cane, and has limited use of her right arm. She has had to seriously redefine herself. The battle of recovery is both physical and psychological.

This book tells us about her own firsthand experience with stroke. Meyerson’s voice is blended with that of other stroke victims, too, telling their unique stories. Every stroke is different; everyone is different in how they recover and what treatments they are given. The book is part memoir, part textbook on stroke, and part philosophy of life. The emphasis is not just on the physical experience of having and recovering from stroke, but the psychological experience of stroke. There is info on the resources available and the limits of what medicine can do. They point out that improvements can be gained year after year, whereas physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy usually end after a year.

All in all, it seems like what is important is determination, resilience, positive attitude, and having a supportive network (and good insurance) are most important to recovery. Despite losses in identity, the person must feel they still make a positive difference to others. Meyerson is lucky; her husband’s support is unending, her three adult children are super supportive, and she has the resources to still be taking physical therapy. Excellent book from the victim’s point of view.

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