I heard of My Stroke of Insight by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor after attending a stroke support group meeting as an assignment while I was a student in a Physical Therapist Assistant program. My father also had a stroke in 2008 so I was interested in reading about a medical professional’s account of what was happening to their body as they themselves were experiencing a stroke. This book was much more than I was expecting. As a medical professional myself now I wasn’t sure if Dr. Bolte Taylor would sound very clinical and dive into lecturing, but it was quite the opposite. Dr. Bolte Taylor did explain some neuro anatomy and structures affected during her stroke but she expressed her thoughts in such detail they were so powerful, human and gripping. As I read, I was so moved by her courage and determination to push through and focus on her recovery. I loved how she reflected on relearning everything and appreciated her right hemisphere where creativity lies waiting to be explored and how she embraced her artistic side after her stroke. This is a fantastic book I highly recommend for anyone even if you don’t have a relative who’s had a stroke or even if you don’t work in the medical field Dr. Bolte Taylor explains her story in a way that’s so moving any reader will walk away from it with compassion and so many lessons.
What do you get when you have a brain scientist, with a Ph. D., experience a stroke, survive, and then fully recover? You get a pretty amazing book detailing the experience and recounting a remarkable journey back to recovery.
On December 10, 1996, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist, suffered a major brain hemorrhage of the left side of her brain. As a result of her training, she had the knowledge, insight, and wherewithal to understand what was taking place and remarkably was able to seek help while her brain and body were failing her.
The book begins with a couple of chapters of her background prior to the stroke and then progresses to the day of the stroke. Her recounting of the day of the stroke is filled with incredible detail, especially considering the mental deterioration she was experiencing.
We learn how she was able to survive and her incredible journey back where she needed to relearn everything, even the simplest of things like feeding herself, walking, reading, writing, and so many things we take for granted.
Dr. Jill says it took her 8 years to fully recover from her stroke. She's put together an incredible book of her journey and she's been a guest on a number of different shows. She even has an 18-minute TedTalk on her idea worth spreading.
1,683 Amazon reviewers have given this an average of 4.6 stars. Goodreads shows a 3.86 rating after 18,345 ratings and 2,887 reviews. I absolutely love the study of our brain's neuroplasticity. This first half of this book was amazing but it slowed a little in the second half. I give it a 5-star for the first half and 3-star for the second for a total 4-star rating.
We are fortunate that Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, author of “My Stroke of Insight,” is a brain scientist with enough fortitude to survive a stroke, intellect to examine the experience, patience to overlook medical ignorance, and a willingness to share her adversity. It is also a delight to have a communicator with writing skills and the ability to dumb down her discussion to my level, a step above a cement mixer.
One passage in her book asks the us, the readers, to imagine having our natural facilities, speech, vision, hearing, movement, memory, sensation, suddenly stripped away from our consciousness, leaving us with a peaceful heart and afloat in a sea of euphoria. You simply blend into a world of glorious emptiness until blessed sleep quiets the world around you. You awake to the same euphoria until you sleep again. Sounds peaceful if you reject life.
One amazing aspect I saw here was Dr. Taylor’s ability to fight through her loss of mental capacity and realize that she would have to keep struggling if she was going make any sense of what was happening. As a clinician, she was determined to keep a mental awareness of the debilitation that was overtaking her. To have retained the impressions and impulses of an empty mind seems to be a remarkable achievement; her dedication seems relentless.
I was moved by her exasperation with the medical community and its inability to evolve into a more caring and understanding world than they normally inhabit. The ability to communicate with a person in Dr. Taylor‘s condition seemed alien to their way of providing care. This is a phenomenon that has frustrated many patients, although most are not as badly injured as Dr. Taylor. I suspect that her criticism may have positive effects.
The author starts her book with a simple exploration of the brain and its functions. We relive the morning she had her stroke, a relentless narrative of her injury. I actually tried to shy away from her descriptions of senses leaving the body and mind. I was anxious trying to figure out how she was going to get help. Then we arrive at the hospital and a world where help is expected, but seemed a great agitation to Dr. Taylor because of the hustle and bustle that aggravated her injury because of the noise.
Eventually Dr. Taylor leaves the hospital in the company of her mother, a remarkable woman with the same fortitude and determination, who, sadly, passed away in December 2015. We agonize through Dr. Taylor’s slow return to partial functionality with Mom as a patient caretaker, experience a complex surgical procedure to her brain, and eventually work our way back to a nearly normal life. It’s a fantastic journey that will have you clenching your fingers and curling your toes as you physically experience the dismaying world of confusion and hopelessness. Learn from it and don’t miss it.
I'd read this book a number of years ago and urged our library to purchase it. Living in an area where there are a lot of older people, I felt its wisdom and insight would be most helpful to any who have loved ones with a stroke. This August my own husband suffered a stroke, not nearly as severe as Jill Taylor's but his speech, reading and writing were affected. I just purchased our own copy. I wanted to review the processes of Jill's mother, the caregiver. It was also the first book my husband was able to read. It helped him to understand what was happening. Love and hard work, inspired by Jill and her mother, will get us through.