February 2014 By Suma Varughese My Stroke of Luck Alphabet to Author By Vijay Santhanam Hay House Distributed free to the medical community INR 195, 231 pages, My initial impetus to read this book was because my mother too had suffered from a devastating stroke that had paralysed her right hand and leg and deprived her of the power of speech. Vijay Santhanam had had a similar stroke, but he had made a triumphant recovery, so I was eager to discover anything that would make it easier for me to understand what my mother had gone through. But almost as soon as I started the book, the personality of this diehard survivor charmed me, and by the time I was through with it, I was overflowing with respect and admiration for this man. It certainly is true that what does not kill us, makes us stronger. On August 27, 2006, Vijay Santhanam (41) was a happy man. A senior regional manager in a MNC, he, wife Kainaz and their one-year old son, Zarius, had just returned home to Singapore, from a wonderful holiday. The next day he suffered a stroke that arrested his life in toto. The only word he could speak was No. He could not recognise or remember any names, including his own. His right hand was immobile, and he could just about wiggle his right leg. Even so, when he ascertained from his wife the next day that he was not going to die, he gave her a jaunty thumb’s up to indicate that he was going to fight it out. And so he did. When the doctor suggested that he be subject to one session of speech, physical, and occupational therapy each day, he put to use the one word he had at his command, “No,” and indicated instead that he would have two of them everyday. He also determined that as earlier planned, he would show up at Mohali, India, on October 29, two short months away, to cheer his great hero, Sachin Tendulkar, play against Australia. It is thrilling to read of this persistent man’s diligent attempts to win back his left brain skills, starting from learning the English alphabet (it took him two weeks to even figure out what it was); to recognising names, taking his first independent step on his own, shaving by himself, and so on. And yes, he does it make it to Mohali on October 29th, walking independently. And within four short years after the stroke, he had written three books, having regained his English speaking and writing skills remarkably. Read this book (if you can locate it, for it does not seem to be for sale; it is offered free to doctors instead). You will emerge with your spirit soaring, knowing that if this man can do something so Herculean, we can take on the ordinary vicissitudes of everyday life.
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