In the world of mind-body studies, this book is all the rage. Taylor’s writing is incisive and, at times, brilliantly evocative. Her blow-by-blow description of what it’s like to experience a left-brain hemorrhagic stroke is unique in that she is a neuroanatomist who specializes in the brain. Taylor offers many westernized insights into the sustained state of insight she (mistakenly) refers to as nirvana. If she had indeed achieved nirvana, she would not be speaking to us now. In Japanese, what Taylor refers to is a state of satori, or enlightened knowing. Her research and writing indicate that this state of mind is made possible by manipulation of neurotransmitters in the brain. According to Taylor, whatever form this manipulation takes (meditation, mind control, anoxia [the denial of oxygen to vital parts of the brain]) might induce this state.
I think this is a wonderful book. Her story is touching as well as informative. She has people talking all over the world about the brain and altered states. This can only lead to further developments in the knowledge base on the mind-body connection. In particular, I am grateful for the appendices. Ten Assessment Questions and Forty Things I Needed Most will be valuable for stroke patients’ survival and recovery because they come with the authority of a neuroanatomist.
But Taylor seems to have left out a very important passage.
I have decided to write it for her. Here it is:
This book has been about all the positive things that came from my stroke of insight. As I’ve said before, I would not trade the experience. The opportunities for both personal and professional growth have been profound.
I must, however, make a very important point: NOT ALL STROKES deliver such outstanding results. Stroke is a dangerous, life-threatening event and must be treated as such. Providing a stroke sufferer survives the event, his life will almost never be the same. Most stroke sufferers are not nearly as lucky as I was. Lifelong disabilities often result. Loss of speech or speech recognition, total loss of language, movement, motor coordination, executive functioning skills, and many more severe and permanent effects occur. It is with great humility that I acknowledge the universe of stroke survivors who have not been as lucky as I.
I hold daily hope that any research my story has inspired will lead to both prevention of strokes and to the improvement of the lives of survivors. And I am ever mindful of the fact that, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
I have a great deal of experience with stroke. And the whole point of this post is that I feel compelled to state that ANY STROKE, especially when stroke happens to a child, is not a romantic, enlightening experience. Taylor owes it to her readers to tell it like it is. 99.999% of strokes are permanently devastating and bear no resemblance to the mind-expanding, new-age experience she relates. Sorry if this sounds uncharacteristically bitter, but someone has to bring this up. Thanks for reading my addendum to Taylor’s book. I wish she would.