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Tag Archives: Laura Kinsale

Friends, I’d like to give you an update on what is happening in my life and why I haven’t been around.

On the morning of January 14th, my husband set off for work as usual, but came home quickly, complaining of visual distortion in his left eye. After the kids were off to school, I took Rich to a clinic where he was told it was probably an ocular migraine. He rested comfortably throughout the day, getting up now and then, looking and talking normally. Then at around 9 o’clock, as he was lying in bed waiting to say goodnight to our kids, he suddenly groaned and started rocking as if he’d lost control of half his body. He couldn’t tell me what was wrong but I knew it was a stroke. I allowed myself about 30 seconds of denial and called 911.

Though he was quickly rushed to the hospital, the period for early intervention (many strokes are reversible within the first four hours) had already passed. The damage to the left hemisphere of his brain was serious, resulting in paralysis of his right side, speech aphasia and general disorientation. When asked the year, he answered “1942”. He couldn’t say my name, though he correctly identified through yes-or-no questions that I was his wife and not his sister. When I said “I love you”, he did manage to say “love too.”

After a barrage of tests, the cause of his stroke was identified as a tear in the left carotid artery. Carotid dissection can occur with a neck injury but sometimes, as in my husband’s case, the cause is unknown. It is responsible for less than 5% of all strokes but causes about 25% of strokes in younger patients. It explains how a 48 year old man who doesn’t smoke, exercises regularly and whose cholesterol and blood pressure are all within healthy limits could suffer a stroke. The good news is that the risk of further complications is low and that Rich’s age and general good health add up to a better than average prognosis for recovery.

Once he was stable, Rich was moved to an acute rehab unit and a few weeks later to a sub-acute rehab center, where he is continuing to receive physical, occupational and speech therapy. He doesn’t feel much below the knee yet, but he can walk with a cane, with slight assistance from a physical therapist. He has been gradually regaining feeling in his arm, though he has little control yet. His mind gets clearer all the time. He understands most of what is said to him and can express his needs with a combination of words and gestures. He’s starting to try to converse, though sometimes his attempts leave us both frustrated and caught between laughter and tears. But we persevere.

It’s been a harrowing time, but several books have helped me and I’d recommend them to anyone, whether or not your own life has been affected by stroke.

The first is a romance I’ve mentioned before: FLOWERS FROM THE STORM by Laura Kinsale. The hero, Christian, suffers a stroke resulting in aphasia, is locked up in a lunatic asylum but eventually escapes and recovers with the aid of the heroine. It’s always been one of my favorites and standing in the emergency room, I realized that most of what I know about stroke (besides the warning signs) came from that novel. I felt certain that Kinsale had based her story on research, which was a comfort in those early dark hours, before I had time to study up. As it turns out, Christian’s recovery from speech aphasia is not unlike several cases I have since read about since. My husband is regaining his speech a bit more quickly, perhaps because he is not at the tender mercies of early 19th century medicine!

The other book was given to me by my cousin soon after she learned about Rich’s stroke. It’s MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, by Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained brain scientist who suffered a massive stroke at 37 and recovered to write about the experience. It is a quick read, engrossing and very hopeful. Taylor was able to do some work within the year after her stroke but also continued to improve for eight years, by which time she was also playing guitar, making stained glass art and water skiing. She believes that challenging herself both mentally and physically aided her complete recovery. I think that’s key. Rich and I will keep aiming for 100%.

I’d just like to add that MY STROKE OF INSIGHT is fascinating to anyone interested in learning more about the differences between right and left brain thinking and developing what Taylor calls a “balanced brain” approach to life.

Thanks to all of you who expressed sympathy when Diane first posted about my absence from the blog. I’m spending a lot of time at the rehab center and even when Rich comes home, it will probably be a while before I can get back to regular writing or blogging. Please know I miss you all, am very grateful for all your kind wishes, and I’ll stop by whenever I can.


Recently, I read THE DREAM HUNTER by Laura Kinsale. I won’t say too much because this is not a review site, but I would say this book is “average” Laura Kinsale. Which basically means I gobbled it up. 🙂

Although the story is set in the 1830’s, there’s a Regency connection. The heroine is the fictional daughter of the real Lady Hester Stanhope and her young lover, Michael Bruce. Years ago I read a bio of Lady Hester by Joan Haslip. She was the daughter of the eccentric Earl Stanhope, niece to William Pitt and for a time his political hostess at 10 Downing Street, who shocked society with her arrogance and disregard for convention. After Pitt’s death, she “roamed the Near East, met Byron in Athens, lived with her lover in a villa in Turkey, was shipwrecked off Rhodes, and eventually settled in a ramshackle ‘palace’ in the Lebanon. Here she lived on for twenty-five years, ill, lonely and in debt, but still intriguing in the violent and complex politics of that country and famed as prophetess and ‘Queen of the Arabs’.”

There is no conclusive evidence Lady Hester ever had a child but according to the Historical Note in THE DREAM HUNTER, there are holes in the record that indicate it was possible. Kinsale goes on to recommend some of her sources including the brief bio of Lady Hester in PASSIONATE PILGRIMS by James C. Simmons and THE NUN OF LEBANON, a collection of letters. (Of course now I want to read them both.)

The use of Lady Hester Stanhope in THE DREAM HUNTER isn’t just a bit of interesting history, though. The impact of being raised in the Middle East and by such a brilliant and fascinating but obsessed woman shapes the heroine’s character and the story conflict. I love when authors play this sort of “what if”, including persons and events from recorded history and then embroidering in the gray areas.

How about you? Do you have any favorite books that played with history this way? Have you read any of the sources Kinsale mentions, or do you have any favorite bios of Lady Hester Stanhope?


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