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Recovering from a stroke, recovering from war: Two conversations about survival

Before I head to the beach, I wanted to mention two 1:2:1 podcasts that complement articles in the latest issue of Stanford Medicine magazine.

Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, is a brain scientist who wrote about her stroke in the New York Times best-seller, My Stroke of Insight. At the beginning of the book, she describes her stroke in remarkable detail. It felt like she was sort of looking at herself inside out: living and feeling the stroke on the one hand and on the other, observing her body and motor skills as they crash. It’s all rather unnerving in its clarity. She describes her neurological breakdown with such granularity that it makes you wonder who was taking the notes.

In our conversation for the Stanford Medicine article, she couldn’t talk about the day of her stroke (she’s muzzled by a movie deal in the works), but she does talk about the eight years it took to recover. You can hear the full conversation in the podcast, and if her story captures your imagination, take a look at her TED talk. It’s the second-most viewed presentation over the program’s past five years, with more than 8 million online viewers.

Another podcast pertains to survivors of extreme psychological and physical trauma. And it makes you ask, can the residue from unspeakable abuse at the hands of a terrorist government ever be diminished? That's one of the questions posed by a United Nations-backed tribunal trying Khmer Rouge war criminals in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For the first time and to an unprecedented degree, the trial is including victims' testimonies as a central component of the proceedings. Thousands of survivors from Pol Pot’s reign of terror live in the Bay Area, and mental health workers here, some of whom are affiliated with Stanford, are helping these survivors with critical mental health issues like PTSD.

I talked with Daryn Reicherter, MD, a psychiatrist at Stanford, who works with Cambodian immigrants in San Jose, Calif. He’s seen survivors of some of the worst human crisis of the 20th century – not only Cambodian immigrants but also asylum seekers from Darfur, Congo, and the Middle East, along with refugees from Vietnam, and Central and South America. Tracie White has written an amazing story for Stanford Medicine asking the question: Can the testimony at the tribunal ever bring a sense of justice and help heal the psychological scars for the victims of the terror campaign? The horror of the physical and psychological abuse thrust upon the nation by their fellow citizens won’t leave your mind very easily.

Previously: Surviving survival: The new Stanford Medicine magazine is out

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