A woman’s fight to recover from stroke

May 8, 2011 

crossing the void

By Carol Cline Schultz

Chuckanut,

224 pages, $15.95 My father suffered from aphasia – impaired speech that resulted from brain damage – twice in his life. Both times he refused to succumb to this disability and figured out how to regain the ability to talk, to read, and to write. As a witness to his endeavors, I had been proud of his grit, but a new book has deepened my appreciation of the enormousness of the challenges he faced and conquered.

“Crossing the Void” is the inspiring memoir of a woman who had to relearn how to use language.

Carol Cline Schultz was the active 53-year-old co-owner of a Bellingham sporting goods store when she suffered a stroke while on her way back from a canoeing trip in the Yukon. If you’re going to have a stroke, a remote campground in the wilds of northern British Columbia is not the best place to do it.

Fortunately, Schultz’s husband, Frank, was on hand, and he orchestrated the complex medical evacuation that ensued. The closest ambulance was 75 miles away – and after it finally arrived and picked her up, it had to take her back those same 75 miles to a helicopter that airlifted her 150 miles to a small-town hospital that had no equipment to do CT scans or MRIs.

The doctor diagnosed Schultz as having suffered a TIA and said she would feel better in the morning, but Frank was skeptical. After consulting by phone with their doctor back in Bellingham, he checked Carol out of that hospital and chartered a flight home to get more comprehensive medical treatment.

This was only the beginning of a litany of encounters with medical professionals – some who were helpful, and others who were not.

While Schultz quickly regained mobility in her affected arm, her loss of speech and diminished comprehension were much more severe.

The author does a magnificent job of conveying what it was like to be suddenly marooned without language – to be able to think, yet unable to communicate with any real facility or to digest the details of conversations.

She describes her struggles with medical personnel who did not give her the time to ask questions or convey what she was experiencing. Often, she realized that medical practitioners made decisions based on insurance company stipulations, rather than her well-being as a patient.

Schultz is frank in evaluating the benefits of various speech therapies, and generous in sharing techniques that she developed on her own (or with friends) and worked for her.

And she is funny as all get out in describing some of the bizarre short-circuits her brain made as she bushwhacked her way back to coherence.

Schultz offers real and inspiring insight into the aphasic experience. “Crossing the Void” deserves to be read not only by doctors, speech pathologists and therapists, but also by people who live with or care for victims of aphasia.

This is a self-published book. Check out the website at www.crossingthevoid.com

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com.

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