Stroke Smart Magazine
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How to Treat Me
Speak Slowly, Softly, Clearly to Me
By Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
When I respond to people whose loved ones have recently had
a stroke, often my first words are that it is critically important that friends
and caregivers don’t “freak out” for at least six weeks after the stroke.
Traumatized brain cells don’t function normally, leaving that person perhaps
unable to speak or understand you when you give them simple verbal commands
such as “squeeze my finger. “The stroke survivor might not be able to identify
the boundaries of their body or know the position of their limbs.
Because of my stroke, I had become a wounded animal and I
needed people to come close, speak slowly and clearly to me. I needed them to
bring me a soft, gentle energy and limit the length of their visits so my
energy was replenished rather than depleted. It was important that those around
me knew that raising their voice did not help me understand what they were saying.
I was not deaf, but simply unable to comprehend verbal language. When people
around me did raise their voice, I did not feel safe in their care.
It is important that caregivers give the stroke survivor’s
brain enough time for the swelling to go down and become normal. It can be
weeks, months or years before anyone will have any idea about how much function
a survivor can regain.
It was important for my friends and colleagues to treat me
as though I was a stroke survivor rather than a stroke victim. By treating me
like a survivor, people let me know that I had already accomplished something
important and it encouraged me to take the next step toward recovery. When I
was treated like a victim, I felt a negative energy that limited my efforts.
Please don’t ever assume that the stroke survivor is not sensitive to your
The cells in my brain that processed information were hypersensitive
to noise. As a result, I found the TV and radio to be not only painful, but a
drain on my energy. Because I could not make sense of this stimulation, I
wanted to be in a quiet place. My caregivers were kind, thoughtful and paid
very close attention to my needs. They gave me earplugs so that I could block
out sound and we kept the curtains closed to protect my eyes from bright
lights. We used a dimmer switch so we could regulate the light in the room and we
limited the number of people who were in my room at any time.
Overall, I needed people to treat me as though I could
recover. I needed them to bring me their positive energy, treat me as though I
were a triumphant survivor and encourage me along my journey.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor was young, healthy brain
scientist at Harvard Medical School when she suffered a devastating stroke.
After eight years of dedicated work, Taylor is completely recovered and
teaching at the medical school level. She is a powerful spokesperson for stroke
survivors and brain recovery and has authored the national bestseller, My Stroke of Insight.
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