An editor who survived a life-threatening stroke, awakens from a six-week coma with no short-term memory and must rely on a lifetime of Daytimers to create order in an unfamiliar world.
(Dr. Anne J. Green)
Judith and I were neighbours but not close friends at the time of her stroke in 1985, yet hearing about it the day it happened, I was drawn to the ER. No information was forthcoming being neither close friend, nor relative, so I returned home.
I visited Judith frequently during her six-week coma and happened to be the person with her when she regained consciousness, uttering her remarkable first words, “Where is the blanket of earth that was covering me?”
Fast forward: two plus years later. During one of my visits to Judith in her home post-stroke, she invited me to stay for dinner. We were in the kitchen, the hub of her life. I was seated in Judith’s “Queen’s” chair where she reads her daily newspaper and writes and reviews her daily annotations in her Daytimers.
At some point Judith began preparing the food for dinner in the manner she always does since her stroke-- “No help please!”. [She finds another person involved in meal preparation distracting given her memory and double vision.] Don, her live-in companion, came into the kitchen as he always does at mealtime. They began bringing the food to the living room where they eat while watching the news, Wheel of Fortune and whatever other programs they choose for the evening.
Given Judith’s double vision, it was, and still is necessary to avoid colliding into anything in her path. I noticed how she and Don moved about one another like a choreographed dance and it was at that moment I decided to do The Daytimers film.
Judith Parson’s stroke was a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (SAH) from a ruptured Aneurysm located in her Anterior Communicating Artery (ACoA)
by Dr. Steven Tulk, MD, B.Sc.AAM, CCFP, AMI, Assistant Professor, OCA
Click here to learn more about Stephen Tulk.
(View PDF of the summary)
Former Art Director of Seasons Magazine
Judith Parsons edited Seasons Magazine for more than two decades, working closely with John and Shirley Clemmer on the magazines’ layout. Five years post-stroke (1990), Judith asked John to write a Summary of her stroke. The Daytimers team referred to John’s Summary from pre-production throughout the entire filming.
As you will note, John Clemmer began his Summary with Judith being prepared for Gamma Knife Surgery (GKS) by Dr. Ladislau Steiner, at the Virginia Health Services in 1989 yet no one mentioned GKS in the film. GKS was recommended to Judith by Dr. James Sharpe, her Toronto Neurosurgeon to prevent a secondary stroke-- a frequent occurrence with an SAH bleed from an aneurysm. Don, who was not yet living with Judith, drove her to Virginia site as there were no centres in Toronto at the time of Dr. Sharpe’s recommendation. [There is presently a Gamma Knife Centre at The Joey & Toby Tanenbaum Family Gamma Knife Centre housed at the Toronto Western Hospital.]
The location of Judith’s aneurysm was in the Anterior Communicating Artery (ACOA) of her brain, as per Dr. Tulk’s illustrations, with resulting:
Neuroplasticity and Judith’s Daytimers:
Judith’s daily use of her daytimers, in dealing with her Short-Term Memory impairment, has made her a poster person for the concept of Neuroplasticity as detailed below:
There are cases of “positive” personality change where people report becoming happier and even a nicer person after having suffered a stroke. Judith consistently reports having become happier since her stroke, echoed by her physician, several of her friends and her siblings. One of her closest friends cautioned “This is not a fairy-dust spin. Judith is a whole person; there is still evidence of the more challenging aspects of her personality.” Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Judith’s personality change is her tendency to express her love and gratitude for the many people in her life.
Scientific American: Can personality improve after a stroke?
Less common are cases of “positive” personality changes, in which people reportedly become happier and even nicer. Surveys suggest such changes occur rarely, but the frequency may be underreported. They might arise if a person has experienced a mild frontal lobe impairment that has led to a small increase in apathy and less anxiety. A slight loss of inhibition may also explain why a stroke victim might begin to experience more positive emotions.
Washington Post: After a stroke her decades of severe depression vanished
Then, 2½ years ago, she had a stroke. It stole her ability to read, her ability to remember names, her right-sided vision. It also stole her depression.
Until the moment she had her stroke — a massive brain trauma to her left occipital lobe — Mum had been in a major depressive episode that had endured for two years, the longest stretch ever. Yet in the post-stroke rehab ward, I find her engaging with other patients in a way she has not done for years. She is animated — her speech, unlike her reading, quite unaffected by her brain injury — the antithesis of the lethargy that hamstrung her for so long.
Daily Mail: Always smiling, the stroke patient who can't feel sad: Condition leaves Grandfather permanently happy and prone to fits of giggles at inappropriate times
Grandfather permanently happy and prone to fits of giggles at inappropriate times
By Dr. Anne J. Green. Ph.D., Executive Producer
What brain injury survivors want you to know.
Click here to read the article.
Less common are cases of “positive” personality changes, in which people reported becoming happier and even nicer as was in Judith’s case.
Click here to learn if personality can improve after a stroke
Confabulation is defined as the spontaneous creation of memories that never occurred or of actual events that have been distorted to another place and/or time. This is a memory disorder that results in the person not even realizing their memories are incorrect. There are two types of confabulations.
Provoked confabulation occurs when a person is asked a question that requires them to rely on their memory to answer. These confabulations can be bizarre such as Judith explaining that the hospital bracelet on her wrist was “to keep track of hairdos” in response to a child’s question. Judith’s hospital bracelet/hairdos comment was made just two weeks out of coma. Years later, she clearly sees the absurdity of that comment.
Spontaneous confabulation occurs when the person is unprovoked, yet shares a supposedly autobiographical anecdote about something that happened to them. This type is less common than provoked confabulation and can result in some outlandish tales. Judith’s explanation of why she is still smoking after her stroke-- that the physicians in hospital recommended she begin smoking again as a trigger for improvement from her post-coma confusion, seemed unlikely. When queried by this writer, Judith replied that the smoking explanation was actually told to her by someone else which has gone into her Long-Term Memory. Querying of Judith’s sister confirmed that Judith’s smoking explanation is in fact, a Spontaneous Confabulation.
Click here to read the study on confabulation.
Click here to learn more from the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
Author: Steven Senne RN,BSN
Click here to download the PDF from the University of Michigan.
Dr. David Perlmutter, M.D.
Click here to read the article.
Dr. Dennis Charney, MD., Dean Icahan School of Medicine,
Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City
Click here to watch the video.
Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
Click here to watch the TED talk.
Subarachnoid Hemorrhage & Vasospasm
Click here to learn more from the Mayfield Clinic
Click here to read the article from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
Click here to learn more from the Mayo Clinic
The Daytimers characters will discuss Judith’s pre-stroke life, the transformation she underwent in her journey to independent living and how they themselves have been affected by her. We learn how Judith became a magnet for many people as well as the challenges and conflicts for those in closest proximity to her.
Judith Parsons — subject of this documentary film
Judith created a system post-stroke to cope with the massive injury to her Short Term Memory (STM) eventually enabling her to live independently and regain caring for her son. Judith has been amazed at all the people wanting to take part in this film and delighted that the system she developed, which has worked so well for her over the years, will be widely available and hopefully of help to other stroke victims and their caregivers.
Christine Manewell — Judith’s sister, two years her junior
While disposition kept the two sisters at bay, they eventually were brought together on the unforgettable day of Judith’s stroke. She was the first to arrive at the hospital, and with their younger brother, John, ultimately made the decision to remove Judith from life support as their parents were too distraught to make such a decision. Chris remained a constant/stalwart force in Judith’s life as she has in hers. Chris sadly passed away in July, 2021 and the film will be dedicated in her honour.
Dr. Pauline Pariser — Judith’s physician from pre-stroke through her retirement in 2019
Having sat with Judith several times while she was in coma, Dr. Pariser discussed Judith’s having survived and thrived far beyond medical expectations including her personality transformation post-stroke. She emphasized that Judith was actually healthy (apart from the ruptured aneurism) and it was her good health that allowed her to fight for her life while in coma and afterwards.
Elaine Jaques — friend/neighbour/former colleague
Elaine was “command central” directly after and throughout Judith’s coma. During the transitional time as Judith’s long term memory was returning, Elaine, who knew a great deal of intimate details about Judith’s life that she herself didn’t remember, spent many hours with Judith, “literally filling in, timetable— when things happened, what happened so it could be re-contextualized and remembered.”
Don Fitzgerald — friend/housemate/handy man/artist...
Judith needed her broken stairs repaired post-stroke. She noticed Don working across the street. This fortuitous meeting would mark the beginning of a profound/mutually supportive relationship between two very different people that would change the course of both their lives forever. They continue to live together 30 odd years later.
Gideon Arthurs — friend, former tenant
Gideon began his relationship with Judith as a tenant. According to both, there was an instant connection and mutual admiration between the two. Gideon credits Judith with a transformative quality and major influence in his personal and professional life by forcing him to live more in the moment and be open to people he may not have appreciated prior to living with her.
Dr. Anne Green — friend and former neighbour
Although not close friends at the time, Anne was “inexplicably drawn” to the ER upon hearing of Judith’s stroke the day it happened. She visited Judith frequently while she was in coma and witnessed her regain consciousness, uttering these first words: “Where is the blanket of earth that was covering me?” Anne’s delight with Judith’s daily system functioning propelled her to undertake this film along with her daughter Kaela to hopefully help other stroke victims and their caregivers.
Kaela Morden — Anne’s daughter and Judith’s “daughter” and friend
Kaela was three years old when Judith’s stroke occurred so has only memories of her post-stroke. Having lived with Judith during university, Kaela provides key information about the highs and lows of living with a woman affected by memory loss. Judith and Kaela share a profound emotional closeness that will offer audiences a glimpse of Judith’s softer, vulnerable side.
Dr. Morris Moscovitch —
Morris’s expertise in recent and remote memory with neurologically intact people and people with brain damage, made him the ideal neuropsychologist to assess and comment upon Judith’s daily functioning, particularly with the use of her daytimers. To quote him, “Using Daytimers the way Judith uses them is remarkable for someone who had her kind of stroke. The region that’s damaged is the region that’s involved in Executive Function. And most people with damage is those areas don’t have the wherewithal to plan accordingly”
Dr. Brandon Vasquez —
Brandon’s clinical interests include neuropsychological assessment of acquired brain injury as was with Judith’s stroke. A research interest includes the integration of technology into assessment and intervention of cognitive dysfunction. However, Judith’s non-technological use of her daytimers impressed Brandon as potentially useful to Baycrest’s patients. His comment, “It’s amazing to see how long she’s been able to sustain herself with the strategies she’s come up with.”
John Clemmer — Graphic Designer
John and his wife Shirley were Judith’s colleagues while she was the editor of Seasons Magazine—John was the Art Director. Judith requested that John write the history of her stroke from the day it happened in April 1985 through the (then) present time 1990. John produced a 13-page document which served as “the spine” of this documentary film. John sadly passed away on June 21, 2019 and the film will be dedicated in his honour along with Judith’s sister Christine Manewell.
Jocelyne Brault — Judith’s Occupational Therapist
Jocelyne worked with Judith in her home for 16 months upon discharge from Day Treatment. When called to take part in this film after a 40 year hiatus, Jocelyne remembered her immediately and was thrilled to witness Judith’s current high level of functioning. In Jocelyne’s words—“I didn’t know Judith before her stroke (obviously) but she told me a little bit of what she was like. If she hadn’t been organized prior to the stroke, I don’t think she wouldn’t have survived— doing the daytimers she needed to create her life— that was the Judith prior to her stroke that kind of kicked into gear.”
Jane Weeks — Friend and Judith’s colleague at Seasons Magazine
Jane and Judith have shared a love of the natural world since the outset of their relationship which began when Jane became involved with the (then) Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Judith was chairing the board. Jane provided articles for Natures Magazine, which Judith was editing. Since that time Jane has moved from Toronto to Gores Landing a small town in Ontario where she continues to devote her time to her community.
Carolyn and Neil Turnbull — Friends and Judith’s colleague at Seasons Magazine
Carolyn and Neil Turnbull met Judith while she was chairing the board of the Ontario Naturalists. The Turnbulls are the owners and stewards of Hedgerow Farm, an ecological landscape design company near Sunderland, Ontario. The three shared intellect, ambition and a strong capacity to enjoy life that connected them during the 70s.
Carolyn Rowe — Lifelong friend
An unlikely friendship evolved at the end of high school between Judith, the wild child and Carolyn, the subdued of the two. It was the late 1950s and although not really friends, they decided to embark upon a road trip across Canada. We heard from Judith about the “angelic” ways Carolyn supported her during her healing journey from the stroke. They see one another only every few years yet have share a deep and enduring bond.
Cameron Bryson — Director of Photography
Mary Ungerleider — Editor
Emilie Mover — Vocals: Shoulda
Suzie Ungerleider (Oh Susanna) — Vocals: Trouble in Mind (cover)
Kevin C. Krinke — Website
Kaela Morden — Producer
Dr. Anne J. Green — Executive Producer
Freddie Favar — Director
Ted Husband — Editor and Director
Luke McCutcheon — Director of Cinematography
Samuel Rodgers — Audio Technician
Akira Moriyama — Sound Technician