Wednesday, October 08, 2008

“Stroke of Genius”

Last week Thursday our stroke clinic was invited to join the participants and clinicians from Western Michigan University’s similar clinic for a special viewing of the film “Stroke of Genius.”  The film is a documentary about one stroke survivor’s battle back into society.  Dan was a hugely outgoing storytelling type who suffered an unexpected stroke in his home that left him in a coma for three weeks.  During that time the doctors urged his wife to end life support in fear that if he did wake up, he would be completely changed and uncommunicative.  When she finally gave in after 21 days, a miracle happened: he awoke.  Not only did he wake up, but he woke up speaking. 

His close friend Marc Black found what Dan was saying to be immensely interesting and so he began writing it all down.  Dan joined Marc’s efforts and together they brought Dan’s thoughts into the open in the form of poetry which Marc then set to music.  The music forms the soundtrack for the film that documents Dan’s path back towards a semblance of normalcy.  Here’s a youtube clip about the film:
Seeing the film with our clients made me consider just how alone they might feel sometimes.  In the movie, Dan credits his wife for sticking with him and giving him the energy needed to fight for recovery.  It broke my heart to see one of our clients watching that, knowing that his wife had not had the fortitude to stick it out and so he was there alone.  But he stays remarkably positive and indeed it is him who gives his clinicians the strength that they need to support him.  It is a beautiful, tragic, complicated irony, and these men and women invite those of us willing to come to enter their struggle. 
Some thoughts that struck me during the film and the discussion that followed (beneficial for everyone, regardless of chosen career):
-We need to listen to what our clients are saying, not just focus on how they say it.  Their communication might be in more modes than simply speech, and we need to be cognizant of that.
-Simply entering the fight with someone can mean so much.  Shying away from the struggle signals to that person that you don’t care enough to fight right alongside them.
-If at all possible, the stories of stroke victims should be made public so that other stroke victims can both learn and gain strength from the knowledge that they are not in it alone, nor are they the only one to know what it’s like.

Love someone you know who had a stroke.  Be there.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 10/08 at 07:08 PM

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