The daughter of former New York Gov. George Pataki has written a heart-wrenching memoir about the life-threatening stroke her doctor husband suffered at the age of 30 that threatened to make her an early widow.
“He could not carry memories from hour to hour, much less from one day to the next,” Allison Pataki writes in her new book, “Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience,” out this week from Random House.
“He stared at me with terrifying and alien expression: utter blankness. Those were not Dave’s eyes . . . those were just two vacant eyeballs that gave utterance to nothing more than a harrowing void: a mind wiped clean.”
Pataki’s life changed in the blink of an eye when, five months pregnant and aboard a flight to Chicago, she turned to her husband when he asked if his eye looked strange and watched him suddenly lose consciousness.
After an emergency landing in Fargo, North Dakota, she learned Dave Levy — a healthy 30-year-old athlete and surgical resident — had suffered a rare, life-threatening stroke and might not survive the night.
The medical drama forced George Pataki, who was running for the Republican presidential nomination, to put his campaign on hold.
In the coming months, Allison found herself caring for both a newborn baby and sick husband, and struggling with the fear of what was to come. To make sense of the pain and chaos, she began penning daily letters to Dave, which are reproduced in the book.
Eventually, through rigorous physical therapy, Dave was able to regain the mobility he enjoyed pre-stroke and is still working on improving his short-term memory. In an epilogue to the book, he writes:
“How does one move on from this? Where do I go from here? Those are the questions I find myself asking every single day. But the exciting thing is that those questions are no different from the questions that everybody else is asking. And, for that, I am and will always be grateful.”
Although a vast majority of strokes occur in people over age 65 (the risk is 30 to 50 per 1,000 in this age group), 10 percent to 15 percent affect people age 45 and younger (a risk of 1 in 1,000), studies find.
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