Good reads: Understanding strokes

PHOTO: Good reads: Understanding strokes

Stroke - an ominous one-syllable word, aptly describing the medical condition that besets people in the most unexpected circumstances. According to Stroke – prevent it, a publication by the Health Promotion Board of Singapore, "Stroke is the 3rd most common cause of death and a major cause of disability in Singapore. Yet, it is one of the most preventable life-threatening health problems."

It is intriguing how a most preventable disease becomes a major local killer. How does one prevent stroke? How does one recognise its signs early enough for emergency treatment? What is its aftermath like, and how does a survivor heal from its debilitating effects?

100 Questions and Answers About Stroke
Kinan K. Hreib
Call no.: 616.81 HRE -[HEA]

As with many other major illnesses, experiencing a stroke throws victims and caregivers alike off balance. Very often, it also means one is abruptly required to interact with medical professional and carers, and have to understand the implications of different medications and medical procedures.

100 Questions attempts to bridge this knowledge gap between professionals and the layperson by distilling knowledge about stroke into an easy-to-read question-and-answer format. Interesting facts and key medical terms are defined along the side margin of each page.

All Rights Reserved, Sudbury, Mass. ; Singapore : Jones and Bartlett Publishers, c2009

Where necessary to present relevant information to the reader, the text does get more technical and difficult at times. Unavoidable as it is, considering the complexities of the subject, this book clearly attempts to be helpful by interspersing medical complexities with commentaries by actual stroke patients and their caregivers.

Stroke Diaries: A guide for survivors and their families
Olajide Williams
Call no.: 616.81 WIL -[HEA]

While 100 Questions helps to address in a matter-of-fact manner different questions surrounding the illness, Stroke Diaries offers a somewhat different vantage point.

Divided into 17 episodes, Stroke Diaries captures how stroke can play itself out differently in the personal lives of each and every patient, and the loved ones around them. The paralysed mother who struggled to pronounced the word "insulin" to save her daughter, a man who was saved from his drug addiction by his stroke-induced disability and the woman who has to live with losing her sense of the left side of her personal space...Stroke Diaries tell their stories through the eyes of their doctor and author.

All Rights Reserved, New York : Oxford University Press, 2010

More than a dispassionate view of the disease, the doctor offers an empathetic narrative about the fear and trauma of realising that one has had a stroke, the anguish of living with diminished abilities afterwards, and the daunting struggle for bodily, emotional and even spiritual recovery. As one of the patients shared about the source of his inner strength: "I found a rose, I found a rose in the centre of my soul."

Each real life story is accompanied by a medical commentary that gives the reader knowledge on the prevention and management of the disease.

The Tell Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human
V.S. Ramachandran
Call no.: 616.8 RAM -[HEA]

The third and final title, while entirely different in its intent, is similarly informative about how our brain works.

Renowned neuroscientist Dr. V. S. Ramachandran takes the reader along a fascinating journey analysing and speculating on how our brains work and what makes us human by looking at the unique manifestations of neurological dysfunction and illness.

All Rights Reserved, New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2011

Once referred to as "the Marco Polo of neuroscience", Dr. Ramachandran's curiosity about the human brain and mind is evident, as he shares about his sometimes simple yet elegant experiments, as well as his observations and theories about some of the most bizarre neurological disorders in his patients. How does a man recover miraculously from a coma, only to be convinced that his parents are definitely imposters? Why does another patient insists that he is dead? What about the traffic accident survivor who regards his wife as a new person every time he sees her? How is our ability to develop empathy supported by the evolution of "mirror neurons"?

Towards the later part of his book, the author approaches what some may regard as philosophical reflections about humanity and the nature of our consciousness.

The above reviews were contributed by Felix Ser, Associate Librarian, from the National Library Board (NLB).

Availability of the above titles can be checked via NLB's online catalogue at

The book covers are the copyright of the respective publishing companies.