"Even though I did not see myself as handicapped in terms of doing my job, obviously others did."

Janet Douglas knew that her family had a history of stroke. And as an occupational therapist, she knew all the warning signs, the symptoms, and how to defend against something she had a genetic disposition toward. While attending a country wedding reception for her nephew, she became sick to her stomach and believed she was having a heart attack, turning a blind eye to the diagnosis she dreaded most. The next month was spent in and out of consciousness, in hospitals on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, including in places she once worked. Despite surviving narrow odds after neurosurgery, Douglas continued her denial that the diagnosis she feared had happened to her. As she struggled through physical therapy, she continued to improve enough to be sent home and set her sights on a difficult goal: 90% recovery of how she was before the stroke.

At home, she had to adjust to her new reality in all of the ways where the aftermath of her stroke reared its head: from first navigating by wheelchair, to changes in her attitude and personality toward her family, and even relearning how to read and write again. Through rigorous practice, rehabilitation, and dogged determination, Janet returned to work, learned to drive again, and gained significant portions of lost memory back. In time, she learned how not only to recover faculties and functions lost but also how to adapt and survive with the changes made to her life.

Through her willpower and the support and love of her family, Janet’s journey is an emotional, challenging, and inspirational tale of what one person is capable of when they both ignore and acknowledge the limitations imposed upon them. The most obvious advantage that Douglas has in telling such a tale is that she understands both the firsthand experience and the technical side of the stroke that she suffered. While that knowledge would prove to be both a boon and a frustration, sharing it with readers provides them with the personal side as well as the scientific. Another captivating device that Douglas employs is the use of literary quotes and song lyrics to illustrate the mind reaching for details through any possible mnemonic passage.

Medical and neurological details aside, Janet’s story is compelling and fascinating, putting a very human face and mind on a circumstance that can prove dehumanizing for the individual either by their reduced capabilities or the way that they are treated within the medical system. It is fascinating to learn how her stroke not only impacted her body and mind but shifted the dynamic of her personal and professional relationships. It is also intriguing to see how she internalized those difficulties to adapt and overcome them. The circumstances that led to not only the personal retelling of surviving such a stroke but having such a complete, multi-faceted view of its impact are rare, and such a resource will prove to be an inspiration in challenging times for those dealing with such a situation. If nothing else, this book is an uplifting and entertaining read for the merely curious.

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