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WE USED TO DANCE by Debbie Chein Morris


Loving Judy, My Disabled Twin

by Debbie Chein Morris

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 2023
ISBN: 978-1647425739
Publisher: She Writes Press

Morris’ story of identical twin sisters recounts a lifetime of loving care and hard choices.

From this book’s first sentences, readers will know they’re in the hands of a skilled storyteller: “The more time I spend on this earth, the more I see the impossibility of going through life without experiencing some sort of life-altering event—be it the death of a loved one, the diagnosis of serious illness, or a tragic accident. For my parents, it was the birth of their daughters.” Although the two infants looked the same, their birth experiences were very different. The author’s twin, Judy, had been deprived of oxygen because an umbilical cord had been wrapped around her neck. The babies developed differently afterward, and at the age of 9 months, Judy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy; despite early interventions to help her walk and communicate, she lived most of her life in a wheelchair with head support. Her attentive family members gauged her likes and dislikes by monitoring her smiles, cries, grimaces, and other body language. Eventually, the author married and had children of her own, and Judy continued to be cared for by their widowed mother and a series of healthcare aides. When Judy was in her 50s, her aging mother was unable to provide the care needed, and a doctor insisted that Judy be moved to a nursing home. The bulk of the book recounts the last two years of Judy’s life as she suffered a slow decline that the family was unable to stop. Morris offers an affecting story, and readers will gain considerable sympathy for families with disabled members; the book may also alert such families about the struggles that may come in the future. Although the author’s story is a deeply personal one, readers may wish that it had some more practical elements; these might have included the names of services or programs that could help other families navigate similar situations, as when the author wonders how she could have fought the doctor to keep Judy at home.

A tender and skillfully written account of deep joys and difficult challenges.