A stroke in 2010 deeply interfered with the life and career of Dr. Debra Meyerson, a wife, mom, daughter and tenured professor at Stanford University specializing in diversity, gender, identity and organizational change. What presented as a slight headache and leg that “felt weird” escalated into a major stroke that left Debra paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak.
Her early journey as a stroke survivor and that of her husband, Steve Zuckerman, as her primary advocate and family caregiver, were chronicled on a CaringBridge site that helped shape Debra’s 2019 book, “Identity Theft: Rediscovering Ourselves After Stroke.”
Debra’s son, Danny Zuckerman, is a collaborator on the book, which recounts years of intensive therapy and sheer will that enabled Debra to regain her independence, albeit with some physical limitations and remaining speech challenges.
Through “Identity Theft,” the physical and emotional effects of stroke recovery are explored through Debra’s experience and dozens of other stroke survivors. The book also considers aspects of science, healthcare, policy and concept-of-self not surprising from a scholar in the fields of identity and organizational change.
Hoping to show what happens when someone is robbed of important capabilities, whether by stroke or other trauma, Debra writes, “I realized that telling the story of my own journey might assist other survivors, as well as those who love and support them.” But the book also looks at what can happen happen afterward.
In a chapter titled, “Choice in Our New Identities,” Debra writes, “Stroke can limit our options, but it does not steal our fate. It is our choice: do we reject our stroke and fight like hell to recover our old life, accept it passively, or embrace the stroke as part of our life and carve a new path with that reality as part of our landscape?”
Debra has chosen the new path, and hopes that others will, too. All author proceeds from “Identity Theft” go toward Stroke Onward, a nonprofit founded by Debra and her husband, Steve, to provide stroke survivors, families and care partners with more resources to help them navigate the emotional journey to rebuild their identities and rewarding lives.