Archive for May 19th, 2017

Beautiful Broken Brains

May 19, 2017

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When Mum had her stroke, there was a scramble to learn. To learn about the anatomy of her brain so I understood where this injury had occurred and how it had manifested. To learn about how the trauma had affected her sight (not the same as just closing my right eye, I discovered; her field of vision was much more compromised than that), to learn a new vernacular that included words I’d never used before – occipital, hemianopia, alexia.

I resorted to hack mode: consulting with Google in the wee hours of deepest, inkiest nights. I sat with her therapists to observe how they conducted lessons that might bring back her words, prompt language she grappled with to the forth, teach her how to read.  And all that meant engaging with professionals who peppered their conversation with big words and complicated science that I struggled to make real sense of: real meaningful, ‘stand in my shoes’ sense, especially given sleep deprivation and the general hurlyburly that comes with trying to catch up with shock and change.

I wish I had seen Lotje Sodderland’s film months ago.

A beautiful, vital 34 year old, London living Lotje survived a huge stroke that tore through her brain in much the same was as Mum’s did, ripping up well worn routes, blazing a new, chaotic pathway through blinking neurons so that the fallout was catastrophic and confusing.

She catalogued her recovery in default medium  – the one she’d used for years: film, video diaries, art. And the end product is an extraordinary illustration of the after effects of her stroke on her vision, her words, her battling to make sense of things, to bring some order to this new life.

I implore you to watch it, to learn as a layperson what stroke can mean. I implore you to watch it to witness grace and courage as Lotje battles on, a fabulous smile firmly in place on her lovely face.  I implore you to watch it because like Mum, Lotje had a stroke for no reason. Unprovoked. It can happen to anybody; there was forty years between them.

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