When she was 43, journalist and former nurse Cleo Hutton had a severe stroke. Suddenly unable to speak, understand, or even walk, Hutton struggled first to survive and then to regain her physical skills and her independence. Her book Striking Back at Stroke: A Doctor-Patient Journal combines entries from her personal journal with medical and scientific commentary by Louis R. Caplan, an expert in US stroke medicine and a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. Dana Press published the book in 2003 (11 years after her stroke), and we ran an excerpt of it in our Cerebrum journal, “The War of Rehabilitation.” Here’s a bit from Hutton’s journal:
If I asked you what happens if you have a “brain attack,” what would you say? Louis Caplan, a stroke expert, did just that to see how people viewed stroke; he used the term brain attack because it is similar to heart attack, and “transient ischemic attack” is a mouthful. Ask people what happens during a heart attack, Caplan says, and they’ll describe a bad chest pain. They associate cancer with a lump or bleeding. But ask people about a brain attack and they’ll say one of four things: you go crazy; you go unconscious; you have a seizure; you become stupid.
“But they don’t tell you that you can lose vision in one eye or your hand may go weak,” Caplan says. “We don’t think of the brain as controlling the puppet strings. If people have weakness or numbness in the hand they think of it as a problem in the hand.”