"Stroke" by Ricky Monahan Brown is the true story of the author's own experience of suffering a catastrophic stroke, aged just 38, and his fight to reclaim his life. Not the most attractive of sales pitches, but don't be put off: this book is a worthy read and is most eloquently written. It on begins the day after Ricky has lost his job. He and girlfriend Beth spend an otherwise idyllic day in New York, meeting friends, drinking, eating out, travelling home on the subway and settling down for the evening, before Ricky experiences the first symptoms of what will be a massive haemorrhagic stroke. Only the swift actions of Beth, the ambulance service and their good fortune in living close to New York's Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, ensure that Ricky gets the chance to become one of 5% of sufferers who survive.
Whilst "Stroke" is certainly a very detailed account of what happens when someone suffers such a life-changing event, the reader gets to experience it first hand, from inside the mind and body of Ricky himself. Its not easy reading, there is initially the very real possibility that Ricky might die, and as he clears the early hurdles, the realisation that his life has changed forever and that he is going to have to dig deep from his damaged state to relearn even the simplest of tasks. But there is never any suggestion that Ricky is anything but a fighter nor any doubt that he will commit his broken mind and body to conquering his difficulties.
From his immediate post-stroke condition, which is presented almost as an out of body experience, Ricky's interactions with those charged with first keeping him alive and subsequently rebuilding him, reveals an intelligent, minutely observant and articulate character with a great sense of humour. Ricky laughs at himself whilst the reader feels the unease of his situation and his vulnerability. He evaluates his relationship with Beth and marvels at her ability to keep it all together. He appreciates her unwavering support and the loyalty of friends who turn up to visit him and encourage him on his road to recovery, when the reality of his condition looks grim. His one aim is to go home and reclaim his life and he convinces both his care team and cheer squad, through his dogged determination and commitment to the recovery programme, to believe with him that this is an achievable goal.
There are many poignant moments in "Stroke". There is fear and anger and anxiety, but there is also purpose, commitment and perseverance. This is one human life laid bare and it would be impossible to read this book without becoming one of the many who want Ricky to make it, to see his broken body and mind repaired and for him to achieve his aim. In the end Ricky does so much more than work towards going home. He sets about rebuilding his life from the bottom up. In taking the reader along for the ride, he offers up a humbling insight into how the frailty of the human body can be overcome the strength of the human spirit. Few will end this book without being moved by its contents and without an incredible admiration for this extraordinary individual.