Left Neglected

Lisa Genova’s novel Still Alice, told from the perspective of someone who has Alzheimer’s, was an excellent book.  Jodi Picoult writes “Remember how you couldn’t put down Still Alice?  Well, clear your schedule–because you’re going to feel the same way [when you read Left Neglected]”

Ms. Genova writes about ‘How did I get here?’ on Ask the Author site.

When I began the book [Still Alice], I thought I was writing a story as a neuroscientist in honor of my grandmother and family. And I thought that when I finished, I’d quickly move on to other endeavors. But in the course of writing the book, my eyes were opened to more than I’d expected. I see what people with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones struggle through, emotionally, physically, and financially. I see how difficult getting a proper diagnosis can be. I see how ignored and outcast people with Alzheimer’s become. I see how close we could be to a treatment that can stop this disease in its tracks. Seeing what I see, I knew I’d be sticking around.

Visit DSNA International (Dementia Advocacy and Support Network) to read stories by and for those diagnosed with dementia.

Hemispatial neglect, also called hemiagnosiahemineglectunilateral neglectspatial neglect or neglect syndrome is a neuropsychological   condition in which, after damage to one hemisphere of the brain, a deficit in attention to and awareness of one side of space is observed. Hemispatial neglect is very commonly contralateral to the damaged hemisphere, but instances of ipsilesional neglect (on the same side as the lesion) have been reported.  {source:  Wikipedia.com}

Snippet from Left Neglected:

You’re so lucky.  There are so many people here who can’t think anymore or remember anyone or talk or move.  Imagine if you couldn’t talk to Bob or your kids of if you couldn’t remember them or hold them.”

Many times over the last month, I glimpsed the unfathomable devastation that the human body and mind can survive.  In the cafeteria, in the hallways, in the elevator, in the lobby, I would suddenly bear witness to missing arms and legs, missing pieces of skull, deformed faces, memories erased, language strangled, tubes and machinery supporting nutrition and breath.  I always forced myself to look away and told myself I was being polite by not staring.  But in truth, I didn’t want to see anyone worse off than me because I didn’t want to explore one inch of the perspective that Heidi just posed–that I was lucky.

“And you could’ve easily died, Sarah.  You could’ve died in that accident or in surgery or after surgery.  You could’ve crashed into another car and killed someone else.  What if your kids had been in the car with you?  You’re so lucky.”

I look her in the eye.  She’s right.  I’ve been so focused on what’s horrible and unfair and terrifying about my condition that I hadn’t acknowledged what is positive about my condition, as if the positive had been sitting quietly by itself on the far edge of the left side of my condition, there but completely ignored.  I can’t copy a whole cat.  But I can recognize it, name it, know what one sounds and feels like, and I can copy most of it, enough for anyone who looks at it to know what I’ve drawn.  I am lucky.

“Thank you, Heidi.  Thank you for reminding me.”

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