In this memoir, a mother and daughter defy the limitations of the human body to communicate with each other when fate brings one of them close to death.
Not long after 16-year-old Alicia Townsend underwent a standard surgery to remove a cyst that was putting pressure on her brain, she had a severe stroke—with her family anxiously looking on. Keating, Alicia’s mother, writes of how she told her sister that Alicia had “coded”—medical slang for temporary or permanent heart stoppage. Luckily, however, Alicia eventually stabilized although fluctuations in her condition ensured years of therapies, treatments and additional hospital stays. After she regained consciousness, she started to slowly rebuild her motor skills. In one particularly touching episode, Keating describes how, on an Easter Sunday, she tied a plastic egg to a string and then tied the string to Alicia’s index finger so she could raise and lower the egg to communicate. Keating calls what follows her “Easter miracle,” as Alicia managed to answer some of her questions. As the narrative progresses from disaster to relapse and, finally, to recovery, Keating writes about her own exhaustion as a mother and caregiver and about Alicia’s successful re-entry into life, including enrollment in college. The author’s style is charmingly straightforward, which makes for highly readable recollections, as she declines to sugarcoat or censor the details of her experience. This candor and sensitivity blend well with her experience as an emergency room nurse, producing a narrative that’s both medically informed and emotionally intelligent. Although the memoir is strewn with trauma, it offers a fine portrait of perseverance and redemption, as Keating reminds readers that love truly “changes the world.”
An endearingly personal, insightful account of a loved one’s illness.