Stroke From the Inside Out

22 Apr

Want to know what it’s like to suffer a stroke? Hopefully you will never experience this but imagine someone, whose life work is studying the brain, suffering a stroke and surviving to tell what it was like. Subjectively. As a scientist and as a person.


This is exactly what happened to Jill Bolte Taylor. Her stroke affected both her motor and speech areas. Her description of and insights into what happened and how she as a scientist reacted, as revealed in this movie on, are astonishing and candid. There is much here a writer can use.

Her comments reminded me of Dr. Tinsley Harrison. Every medical student devours Dr. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. Word by word. It is the Bible of all things medical. Dr. Harrison was a professor at the University of Alabama College of Medicine when I was a student and intern there. I learned a great deal from him, as did anyone who ever spent time with him. It must have similar to Socrates’ students learning at his side. The man was quite simply brilliant.


He was, like Jill Bolte Taylor, a true scientist. In his other classic book, Principles and Problems of Ischemic Heart disease, co-authored with my old Chief of Medicine, T. Joseph Reeves, he concludes with 21 case histories. The final case he titled: “Subjective Aspects of an Acute Myocardial Infarction (as related by the patient).”


Dr. Harrison teaching, always teaching

It was an account of his own myocardial Infarction (heart attack), which he suffered at the age of 65. He was at his Lake Martin house when the pain began and while waiting for the ambulance to drive out and pick him up, he performed several tests to see how they affected the pain in order to “test some of his own teachings about ischemia pain.” He smoked a cigarette, moved his arms around, stretched, changed position, and even observed, after departing for the hospital in the back of an ambulance, how the bumpy road altered the pain. He found that none of these made any difference, the pain neither increasing nor resolving. Of course, Dr, Harrison survived his ordeal and went on to teach for many more years.


Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Interesting Cases, Medical Issues


4 responses to “Stroke From the Inside Out

  1. jennymilch

    April 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Terrifying post. Harrison’s presence of mind is remarkable.


  2. Tower Lowe (@towerlowe)

    April 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Terrifying, yes, but post gave me good ideas for forensics in a mystery…one track mind, mine…!


  3. karenselliott

    April 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    How anyone can have such presence of mind in either or stroke or heart attack situation is beyond me. But I do appreciate the info., like Tower.


  4. Terry Palardy (@thoughtsthreads)

    April 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m just beginning to write mysteries, and love reading medical mysteries (and a lot are surfacing on the kindle by new indie writers like myself.) I’ll be visiting your site more often; you’re always welcome to mine:




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