First-person accounts of medical crises are often page-turners, but also can offer meaningful advice from the trenches to anyone similarly afflicted. Author Darlene Chissom aims for both as she recounts her husband Phill’s stroke and their first year of recovery together in A Stroke of Love, a tough, but moving, account.
The story is told journal-style, with entries for Day 1, Day 2 and so on. Day 1 recounts the couple having their usual early morning cup of coffee when Darlene notices Phill’s speech is slurred. Quickly assessing the situation, she calls 911 for help for her husband and then phones a friend to ask if he could milk the cows and complete other chores on their family farm in upstate New York.
Phill soon begins the long process of recovery, from speech and physical therapy to realizing that he can no longer work the farm like he used to and the heartbreaking decision to sell most of their cattle. Family support keeps the couple moving forward and able to savor small victories along the way. Prior to the stroke, Phill worked long hours and was kind but reserved; afterward, his emotions surface instantly, and he’s present for much more of the family’s day-to-day life.
Chissom writes from the heart, and her grief and joy come through on each page. She uses commas indiscriminately, which makes for repeated distractions while reading, but it’s a problem easily fixed with close proofreading. There’s a brief collection of advice for caregivers at the end of the story; anyone who has cared for a loved one will recognize the tips there as spot-on and helpful. A short chapter about the family’s cat, a holy terror much of the time who can nevertheless sense when Phill is upset and offer emotional support, is a touching tribute to the human-animal bond.
A Stroke of Love is frank about the challenges inherent in caring for a spouse, but it offers reason for hope and perseverance. It’s also a plainspoken and eloquent story of family love.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.