Reconstruction: First a Body, Then a Life by Ara Lucia Ashburne

Reconstruction: First a Body, Then a Life

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Ashburne’s debut memoir recounts her extraordinary journey toward recovery from the physical and emotional scars of a near-death experience with flesh-eating bacteria.

After three attempts to become pregnant via in vitro fertilization, Ashburne and her husband, Michael, were heartbroken to learn that she had an ectopic pregnancy. Ara was not completely surprised, though, as she had been experiencing intense pain in her lower abdomen. After the procedure to remove the pregnancy, Ara hoped to heal and move on with her life. However, her body continued to be wracked with pain even worse than before her surgery. Baffled, her doctors gave her a changing cocktail of pain relievers that had little or no effect. Not finding anything wrong, they eventually discharged Ara. At home, she was groggy and unresponsive, but when her pulse raced to 120 beats per minute, she was readmitted to the hospital. From there, things only got worse. Doctors discovered Ara had “[n]ecrotizing fasciitis and necrosis of the subcutaneous tissue and mild necrosis.” She was infected with a strain of bacteria that was destroying tissue in her abdomen. Over multiple procedures, doctors removed the diseased tissue, and although her internal organs were spared, the majority of her abdomen was removed. Ara was given drugs to paralyze and sedate her as well as to manage her pain. All the while, she experienced shockingly realistic, often violent delusions. Miraculously, Ara recovered from her ordeal and eventually returned home, but she was haunted by feelings of depression, even suicide. Her struggle to fully heal was nothing short of heroic. At times, Ara’s story is so horrific it may seem unbelievable. Yet the medical notations, specific drugs and dosages, and other information she includes more than uphold her veracity. Many readers may be uncomfortable with her exacting and lengthy detail, especially in regard to her delusions and feelings of utter helplessness in the hospital, but the reality those details impart will no doubt leave a lasting imprint. Ashburne survived the struggle by tackling one significant issue at a time. She sought therapy to work through issues of being sexually abused and tortured as a girl (memories which provided the fodder for her delusions at the hospital), she immersed herself in beauty on a trip to Paris, and she even got herself physically fit enough to ride a scooter across the country—solo.

Verbose at times but astonishing and inspirational nonetheless.

Pub Date: Dec. 10th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1503383647
Page count: 298pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2015


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