WATCH: My stroke of insight

Dear Colleagues Young and Not-So-Young,
Having just finished reading STROKE OF INSIGHT by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, I am reminded that our neurons are more resilient and pliable than many of us realize.

I feel compelled to reach out to all of you in the hope that you will take the time to read this relatively short memoir by a neuroanatomist who, at the age of 37, had a massive left hemisphere bleed from an AVM that left her unable to use or fully comprehend language in the early stages of her recovery.

Her right hemisphere was still fully functional and became her primary window into the world around her. She could sense when compassion and love were present and when they were absent. She required prolonged periods of recuperative sleep. She benefited from patient repetition of questions or requests to allow her injured left brain to slowly process the information being presented to it.

Jill Bolte Taylor described feeling like a fluid rather than a solid entity and loving that sensation. Until that stroke day, her left brain had dominated her life. It took her 8 years to fully regain every function her left brain was capable of performing and to integrate her newly found appreciation for the joy and gratitude that reside in her right brain. Her journey was, in her view, a gift, and I agree that her life now is much richer and expansive than it once was.

When nursing became a profession as well as a calling it offered us all the opportunity to integrate our left and right brains more fully. In this age of specialization and technological advances, we must take care not to forsake compassion for technical proficiency.

Our goal– and it is not an easy one to accomplish when the use of computers can make patients feel like the medical numbers to which they are assigned –is to maintain a human connection with our patients, with the doctors whose orders we must review carefully before carrying out, and with each other so that when we need help we can trust that we will be there for each other.

There is no greater gift we can offer the world than our willingness to be present for each other. And to do that we need to quiet our mind (at least the left brain chatter we speak to ourselves) and allow our right brain to make initial contact with people, nature and all creatures great and small. Once that connection is made, we can make better use of the information that our left brain will be called upon to interpret and process. And we will be better nurses and more fulfilled human beings.

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