“My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor


asteriaiconI remember seeing this when I worked at the book store and thought it sounded interesting, but I just never got around to it. I had heard an NPR podcast with her as the speaker, and I really enjoyed it, so when I had found it as an audiobook read by the author, I jumped at the chance to finally read this.

Jill Bolte Taylor was a 37 year old, Harvard educated brain scientist who had a stroke in 1996. She was in a unique position to know and understand exactly what was happening to her. Where most people would think it would be terrifying, she found it cool and fascinating, and decided to write about her experience in a hope to educate others.

Taylor delves into the science and physiology of the brain, how it works, and what exactly happens during a stroke. She documented each step of that day, when she realized she was having a stroke, trying to call to get help, how she was treated as a patient, the rehabilitation with her mom’s assistance, and how she feels about the standard treatment for stroke patients.

I think I enjoyed the brain science and the play by play account of what happened during the stroke the most. It was fascinating to hear how the brain responded, how it affected the various functions of the brain and body from speech to memory and logic. It was hard to imagine how frustrating it must have been to have to constantly remind yourself what you are doing, and how many precious minutes it took to remind herself enough to call for help. I was surprised to hear her thought process on getting help, struggling to remember a friend’s phone number, or how she spent almost an hour retrieving her physician’s business card and calling for assistance, and at no point thinking to call 911. As someone who works in the medical profession, I also enjoyed hearing her talk about how she was treated as a patient, and how she stresses the importance of treating stroke victims as wounded, not dumb. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and need to be met at their level, with every attempt made in order to not hinder progress.

The final portion of the book was the hardest for me to really wrap my head around. Taylor talks about respecting her cells, thanking them for all that they do and telling them how much they are valued. She consults angel cards daily, and discusses promoting happiness and calmness in your life. She mentions prayer, and her belief in its abilities to help heal. While these are not methods I practice or believe in, ultimately it is her story, and whatever works for her is really all that is important.

Having her read the audiobook added to the whole experience for me, hearing her tell her story in her own voice. I cannot say I didn’t enjoy it, it isn’t something for me to enjoy or not really, I just struggled with it a bit more than I thought I would. It might not have been entirely what I was expecting it to be, but I still feel it is an important read. I appreciate all that she has done to promote education to stroke patients and their families, and discussing first-hand experience with the medical profession to allow better care for stroke patients in the future.

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