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Whether you’re a survivor or a caregiver, reading about other people’s health struggles can be a valuable experience.

Many people have chosen to share their stories in order to provide insight and honesty about their lived experience. Others also want to help people who may be going through a similar journey.

We have rounded up 10 of the best personal accounts of life after stroke and heart disease.

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death – by Jean-Dominique Bauby (1997)
    This truly incredible memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor of French magazine Elle, describes his life before and after he had a massive stroke at age 44 that resulted in locked-in syndrome. After 20 days in a coma, he awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking, to communicate.
    Remarkably, he dictated this book by blinking his eye in response to assistants reading out the letters of the alphabet. He died two days after this book was published. His story was also released as an award-winning film in 2007
  • Heart to Heart: 12 People Discover Better Lives After Their Heart Attacks – by C Bruce Johnson (2009)
    “The pain was intense and unrelenting, and I immediately thought someone had shot me.” US TV presenter and journalist Bruce Johnson suffered a massive heart attack when he was 42 while on assignment. Afterwards he decided to write a book about his experience and interview 12 other heart attack survivors.
    In this book, Bruce explores the emotional side of heart attacks and stories of how survivors regained their lives. Sadly, Johnson died in 2022 from another heart attack.
  • Heart: A History – by Sandeep Jauhar (2018)
    In this gripping book, best-selling author and cardiologist, Sandeep Jauhar, intersperses his own medical journey with a history of the heart and advances in the field of cardiology. He has previously written two earlier medical memoirs, Intern (2008) and Doctored (2014). Part-memoir, part-history, this book is full of personal stories about patients, doctors and Sandeep’s own life, as well as fascinating facts about our most vital organ.
    “This is truly a bold and beautiful book on cardiology,” said the Financial Express
  • A Woman's Guide to Living with Heart Disease – by Carolyn Thomas (2017)
    Carolyn Thomas, a heart attack survivor herself, is on a mission to educate women about their heart health. Based on her popular Heart Sisters blog, which has attracted more than 10 million views from readers in 190 countries, A Woman's Guide to Living with Heart Disease combines personal experience and medical knowledge to help women learn how to understand and manage a devastating diagnosis.
    “Shining a light on what is often an ‘invisible’ illness, Carolyn shares the stories of women survivors aged 26 to 63, some of whom experienced symptoms for two years before being correctly diagnosed and treated.
  • My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey – by Jill Bolte Taylor (2009)
    In 1996, Harvard-trained brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor had a massive stroke when she was 37 after a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. She was rushed to emergency and treated, but it took a full eight years for Jill to recover.
    In this best-selling book, she shares her personal story from journey to recovery as well as a detailed insight about the brain and how it works – studying her own stroke as it happened. Jill has since become a high-profile speaker, thanks to her TED Talk and Oprah interview, and a powerful voice for brain recovery.
  • How I Rescued My Brain – by David Roland (2014)
    This book is the story of how Australian psychologist David Roland drew on the principles of neuroplasticity to re-wire his brain after he had a stroke and suffered a brain injury. David’s search brought him into contact with doctors, neuroscientists, yoga teachers, musicians, and a Buddhist nun.
    This book reveals how he found the tools to restore his sense of self after going through one of the most frightening situations imaginable – the fear that he had lost his mind forever.
  • Reinventing Emma: The Inspirational Story of a Young Stroke Survivor – by Emma Gee (2016)
    Another incredible book written by an Australian stroke survivor, this one is by occupational therapist Emma Gee. Just weeks after climbing Borneo’s Mt Kinabalu, the 24-year-old developed disturbing symptoms. Her story moves from mystery to tragedy when, during difficult brain surgery, she suffers a stroke and is left in a coma.
    When she wakes up, she is unable to move, speak or swallow and must suddenly come to terms with building a completely different life from ‘the other side’ of the medical system.
  • Open Heart – by Akil Taher (2021)
    From open heart surgery to running a half-marathon less than a year later, this is the inspiring story of one doctor’s new lease on life. After a lifetime of bad habits including an poor diet and lack of exercise, Dr Akil Taher was forced to undergo bypass surgery.
    He vowed to take advantage of his second chance at life and shares his wisdom, research, and findings with readers who also want to make positive lifestyle changes.
  • My Glory Was I Had Such Friends: A Memoir – by Amy Silverstein (2017)
    Nearly 26 years after receiving her first heart transplant, Amy Silverstein’s donor heart is failing and she must move to the other side of the country to be retransplanted to stay alive. A group of nine of her friends band together to make sure she isn’t alone. This memoir is a follow-up to Sick Girl, which details the harrowing medical journey of Amy’s first heart transplant.
    This is a very raw and honest book about the realities of having a heart transplant – the decisions that must be made and the impact on loved ones.
  • A Scar is also Skin – by Ben McKelvey (2023)
    For the first 27 years of his life, Ben McKelvey didn't spend too much time thinking about his brain, nor much about trauma. He was fit, carefree and happy working as a magazine journalist and doing celebrity junket interviews.
    Then one day, while boxing in his lunchbreak, the Australian journalist suffered a stroke. Two years later, aged 29, he had a startling heart attack. This is Ben’s personal story. Read an extract here.


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