A stroke survivor recounts his struggles in and out of the hospital in this debut book.
In 2006, Ellis was enjoying a pimento cheese sandwich, trying to figure out with his wife, Cristie, what DVD to watch that evening. Suddenly, his speech became muddled and his face contorted, and Cristie realized he was in the throes of a stroke. The author was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he spent the next four days unconscious, his wife standing a nervous vigil by his side. Ellis—a professional copywriter—recounts the months that followed in the hospital, a messy mixture of convalescence, rehabilitation, and imprisonment. Some of the struggle is physical: the rigors of occupational therapy, the relearning of basic mechanical functions including speech, an accommodation of some permanent disability. Much of it, though, is psychological: making peace with a loss of privacy and the challenge to modesty that come with hospital life, the reliance upon a daily diet of pharmaceuticals, the fear of a second stroke. Ellis liberally dispenses advice to the reader about how to cope with the aftermath of a stroke, how to avoid one in the first place, and how to manage daily life trapped in a medical institution, almost always delivered whimsically: “It wasn’t until three weeks prior to being released that I discovered the secret of surviving in a hospital room for months. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Travel Channel!” He also wryly includes a recipe for Southern-style pimento cheese. The author, who recalls his trials with humor and verve, furnishes guidance on how to be an effective medical consumer, navigating the sometimes coldly indifferent bureaucracy of the medical industry. Ellis eventually returned to work as a freelancer, and even stars in a public service announcement on stroke symptom awareness. The book doubles as a memoir and a cautionary tale—a kind of instructional manual constructed out of personal experience. Ellis’ writing beautifully softens the sometimes frightening subject matter with the emolument of comedy, relating real wisdom with wit. This is an unusually cheery work written about a medical calamity, and every page radiates gratitude for the life the author rebuilt.
A hilarious remembrance of a life-changing malady.