“But this morning, my information processing was completely aberrant . Even though my brain remained lined with filing cabinet’s, it was as if all the drawers had been slammed shut and the cabinets pushed beyond my reach. I was aware that I knew all this stuff, that my brain held a wealth of information. But where was it? If the information was still there, I could no longer retrieve it.” – My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Jill Bolte-Taylor
This book had been on my shelf for a very long time but I finally picked it up a few months ago in an effort to read more nonfiction. Brain trauma has especially interested me because I’m still learning how it’s altered the life of someone in my family. I’ve been fascinated with the brain’s miraculous and awe inspiring capacity to recover from such a traumatic event since the brain is the epicenter of our bodies.
The author, Jill Bolte-Taylor, a brain scientist was interested in the dynamics of the human brain because her brother is schizophrenic. When Bolte-Taylor had a stroke at the age of 37, her professional experience and background provides the reader (no doubt the author herself) with an unusual perspective in understanding what is happening during a traumatic brain event. Bolte-Taylor but knew what her brain was experiencing literally but had to work hard to get her body to function in order to get medical assistance in those critical moments.
She discusses her recovery and how vital it is for each patient to be treated with kindness and respect. For each patient treatment will vary since everyone if different so it important to have an advocate and be an advocate (for friends or family) as they are recovering. I’ve heard many family members and friends discuss how nurses and doctors are poking and prodding and the ability to rest seems completely impossible in the hospital. Taylor had an advocate in her mother to make sure HER needs and demands as a patient were met, although it may have seemed somewhat unorthodox.
Something else I learned is that a patient who’s experienced such trauma (stroke, anyerusm) are probably NOT the person they were prior to the trauma. Taylor states repeatedly that she was a completely different person in respects to her personality and interests, depending on what area of the brain has been affected. Thinking of a family member who suffered a brain anyerusm 10 years ago, her cognitive and emotional patterns have been altered. Sometimes traumatic events in the present will cause her brain to disregard new information, her short term memory has definitely been impacted. She has become hyper sensitive, sometimes the most unusual thing will make her cry.
In short, this book gave me insight and reminded me to be more empathetic and patient with people who’ve been impacted by something like this. But also is raised my awareness for the complexity of our brain’s; many of the things we do on a regular basis, tie our shoe, recalling a place, event, phone number are things we probably take for granted. However, when the ability for those day to day events is compromised by a brain trauma life becomes completely different. The human body and mind are resilient even in the face of such events.
“My information processing for normal access to my brain’s information, prior to this morning‘s episode (the stroke), went something like this: I visualize myself sitting in the middle of my brain, which is completely lined with filing cabinets. When I am looking for a thought or an idea or a memory, I scan the cabinets and identify the correct drawer. Once I find the appropriate file, I then have access to all of the information in that file. If I didn’t immediately find what I’m looking for, then I put my brain back on scan and eventually I access the right data.“– My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Jill Bolte-Taylor
Have you or someone you loved been affected by brain trauma? Have you read an interesting medical nonfiction book you’d recommend?