Striking Back At Stroke

A Doctor-Patient Journal

Book Review


By Lin Wisman

"Striking Back at Stroke" by Cleo Hutton and Louis R Caplan, MD is an unusual book about stroke. Most publications cover either the stroke survivor's story or a medical explanation of stroke. The book combines the two. The first part of each chapter is from Hutton's diary. Through it we are able to learn the survivor's perspective. The second section is Dr Caplan's medical explanation.


Hutton experienced an ischemic stroke in 1992. The book starts with the experience of TIA's, beginning five years before the stroke. Even though Hutton was a nurse the TIA's did not register as a danger signal. The book also covers the event, rehabilitation, and reflections on what she has gained. In addition to standard early rehabilitation techniques, and therapies Hutton devised, her recovery included surgery to correct a hole in her heart.


Caplan's chapter on diagnosing stroke damage and designing a treatment plan is particularly enlightening. He explains the tools of CT and MRI scans as well as the role of history, learning the patient's experience of the stroke and discerning what abilities the patient has lost. He states that physical abnormalities can develop after the strokes first occurring. He also describes other tools used to discern exactly what happened. These details can inform stroke survivors and their families.


Hutton shares the thought processes, which helped her cope. She documents what it is like to be a hospital patient. Stroke survivors will find themselves identifying. Medical personnel, families, and caregivers will benefit from her perspective.


The psychological effect of illness is covered. Of special interest is discussion of the role of other patients. It was very powerful to see others struggling to improve.


Hutton also explores the role of serious illness in forming a better person. She found herself learning to be a survivor. The key was looking to the future rather than the past. One key element was deciding to attend college. At first she saw it as a coping mechanism. It ended as a goal. She graduated and started a business.


The explanation of factors effecting stroke recovery is successful in showing how multifaceted stroke can be. Hutton's story is a success. She realized that when her official therapy ended she was not through with rehabilitation. Hutton found herself designing therapy.


Reflection on the stress stroke puts on families is included. Families do not receive training in how to relate to stroke survivors. Everyone must take the journey to look toward the future rather than the past.


Dr Caplan's medical observations are extremely helpful. He explains what is happening at each stage from a clinical perspective. Those who have experienced stroke will find answers to some questions.


The book concludes with advice from both authors. Hutton's focus is on what is needed for the survivor to recover to their fullest possible potential. Caplan's remarks focus on current stroke treatment and future trends.


This book is highly recommended for everyone in the stroke family. Hutton and Caplan both share insights which all will find helpful.



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Copyright June 2003

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

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