A debut memoir offers a window into the daily life of a quadriplegic.
Power’s father, G. Patrick Riggs, suffered a brain stem stroke shortly after retiring in 1990 from a senior position with a large New York City insurance company. After 24 years of living in fast-paced metropolitan areas, Pat and his wife, Jean, had just moved back to his hometown in West Virginia for a “less stressful lifestyle.” Pat’s stroke left him unable to move, speak, eat, breathe on his own, or swallow. Deprived of all bodily functions save for his ability to think and move his eyes, his own story could not have been told without the advancement of technology, in particular the Eyegaze computer system. By focusing on one letter at a time, Pat was able “to write about his experiences as a stroke victim.” Early on, readers learn that while Pat’s body was totally nonfunctional, it felt everything: “Today as I write this, I still feel pain. I can feel everything; do not think I cannot. I am alive. My entire body is sensitive. My whole body hurts.” Power assumes the role of narrator in this moving saga, introducing all of the principal characters through their own words. Conversations with Jean, along with Pat’s writings, take readers on a journey that encompasses the entirety of the couple’s fear, anger, and determination—from the first signs of a stroke and early misdiagnosis to the finality of caring for, and living as, someone totally dependent on other people for the smallest things. Power’s writing is clear, concise, and engaging, and she skillfully intersperses her parents’ voices into the account. Of their courtship years, the author asserts: “He also knew that having a family was high on Jean’s list of priorities.” Pat writes: “I had better agree to have children, because I know Jean can be stubborn.” Although there is some repetition in Pat’s sections, what shines through is his refusal to give up.
An important, informative, and heart-wrenching read for both families and caregivers of stroke victims.