[Book Review] A Stolen Life : A Memoir by Jaycee Lee Dugard

Fair warning: if you’re not comfortable reading the intro, don’t continue reading the actual review.

I first heard about the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard while I was browsing another missing children case, Madeleine McCann. I remember reading a page in my mother’s tabloid, in her office, one that she subscribed to at that time. There was two pages dedicating to the then still suspected kidnapping of Madeleine McCann. I remember those pages so clearly because a) the little girl on the photograph looked so vibrant and happy and pretty it’s just hard to imagine bad people hurting her, b) she was the big sister of younger twins and I was – still am – a big sister too, and c) she was on a vacation with her family and the parents left her and the twins for just a little while in their hotel room and poof – she was then nowhere to be seen. I did not google at that time, I was not familiar with the Internet enough.

It was expected that I would just forget about Madeleine’s disappearance case after a while – after all, there were many crimes seen on TV everyday and this case is not even close to home. But somehow, for reasons stated above, I found the case of Madeleine’s disappearance popped to my mind from time to time, and eventually popped in just when I was browsing some other thing – so I googled the name, and began reading Madeleine’s and some other similar cases, one of those was Jaycee Dugard’ case. Needless to say a little piece of my innocence was ripped off at that moment.

But then again, when I read the story, I was about twelve or thirteen, I guess, and knowing my age and her (Jaycee’s) age she was kidnapped was close – it made me feel uneasy. Plus I kind of figured she was used sexually by the man who kidnapped her, and eventhough I love biology and have basic biological aspect of woman reproduction system covered in sixth grade, I felt disturbed just reading the headline and after a quick scanning of Jaycee’s case (I got several keypoints : kidnapped, hidden, used, sexual abuse, pregnant, found, book) I closed the page. Maybe I found it disturbing because, well, I was a small town girl living in my safe little bubble, and reading this case was like peeking through a windowblinds just as the sun rise, it was new, it was scary, it can break my fragile little bubble and I was not brave enough.

Years passed, and just this month (I am nineteen now), I went to a book fair and was shifting through piles of piles of book in the biography section when I found the autobiography of Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t know how I still remember a case I read randomly on the Internet six or seven years ago. But I do know I need to read that book, and so I did. Here’s a little review and reflection I wrote as I was / after reading the book.

Sorry for the long introduction (and even longer time no posting). Here you go.

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Jaycee’s case was an unusual one. Kidnapped at the mere age of eleven, she lost her virginity to the abductor not long after she was snatched in that fateful day. For the first few years in captivity, she was locked inside sort of a trailerhouse in the backyard of her captor’s home (later she referred to the area as prison backyard or just backyard). I’m not gonna list what she had to face in those years, reading them was unsettling; writing them down feels impossible right now. But I’m sure you have your guess(es).

It was not until she was about fourteen and gave birth to her first daughter that she first saw the outside world again. And at that time she was too scared of the crowd, having been used to the company of only her captor Philip and wife Nancy. She gave birth to her second daughter at the age of seventeen. Some times after, she was given a false name, ‘Allissa’ and introduced to her daughters as their ‘big sister’. So that was life for her for eighteen long years, until finally the suspiciousness of the situation caught the eyes of police officers during Philip’s parole visits, and Jaycee was reunited with her family.

What I appreciate about this book is that there is no sugarcoating, Jaycee writes it as she remembers it. She even included pages from journals she wrote while in captivity. And then she also shared the aftermath of the abduction – how she coped with her situations, not only the physical and mental scars that would probably always be ther, but also the unwanted media attention, the yet new life she got, with bravery, dignity, honesty, and no hate whatsoever to what happened to her.

Reading the book requires  a lot of emotional preparation, I found myself pausing from time to time just to take a breath and calm myself down for what I just read shocked me. However, I’m glad I read this book, and even more that now I am sure you, Jaycee, are happy with your mom and sis and daughters and lovely therapist (are you still visiting dr. Rebecca?) and home, away from the media, living your life doubtless to the fullest. I wish you all the best in life.

Oh, and did I mention how BRAVE you are for writing that autobiography?

PS I realized I can’t do the review justice – you’re gonna have to read the book or watch her interviews with ABC News on youtube. I really thought I can sum up her story, I had it in my mind, but I can’t bring myself to actually type the word, it’s too hard.

 

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Dibalik Memori yang Hilang dan yang Terbuang

Kecanggihan modalitas diagnosis di rumah sakit dan beratus obat bermerk kadang membuat kita lupa, tidak semua penyakit bisa disembuhkan. Demam berdarah bisa didiagnosis dengan cek darah, maag bisa dilawan dengan obat warung yang murah, tumor jinak bisa dibabat di ruang operasi dengan pisau bedah. Namun penyakit Alzheimer, proses kehilangan fungsi otak progresif yang biasanya menyerang lansia, jangankan diobati, untuk ditegakkan diagnosisnya saja sulit. Fungsi otak yang terganggu awalnya bermanifestasi dalam bentuk kehilangan ingatan jangka pendek atau umum dikenal sebagai pikun, dan seiring waktu  muncul pula gangguan kerja otot, kesulitan berbicara, kehilangan ingatan jangka panjang, disorientasi, bahkan kematian.

Buku ini mnceritakan penyakit Alzheimer dari sudut pandang seorang dokter yang sehari-hari berkutat dengan pasien tua, memberi pembaca gambaran solid mengenai penyakit ini…dan kisah menyentuh hati yang sering kali dialami bukan hanya pasien Alzheimer, namun juga keluarga dan teman terdekat mereka.

Judul               : An Ocean of Time, Alzheimer’s: Tales of Hope and Forgetting

Penulis            : Patrick Mathiasen, MD

Penerbit           : Scribner

Tahun terbit     : 1997

No. panggil     : 616.831.MAT.o

Mathiasen adalah seorang psikiater atau dokter spesialis ilmu kedokteran jiwa dengan ketertarikan khusus di bidang psikiatri geriatri (masalah kejiwaan pada lansia) khususnya  penyakit Alzheimer. Ketertarikan ini dimulai sejak ia kecil. Hampir semua kerabatnya dari pihak ayah menderita Alzheimer dan harus menghabiskan sisa hidup mereka di pusat perawatan lansia berkebutuhan khusus. Pada akhirnya, dr. Mathiasen menyaksikan paman dan bibinya meninggal dalam pelukan Alzheimer, menerima kabar tentang ayahnya yang tenggelam beberapa bulan setelah didiagnosis Alzheimer, dan puncaknya menyaksikan sendiri seorang guru dan sejawat – yang sudah ia anggap ayah sendiri – tiba-tiba bertingkah gila dan berteriak-teriak justru di hari perayaan pensiunnya beliau dari rumah sakit tempatnya lama mengabdi. Pada akhirnya sang mantan dokter senior ini pun didiagnosis dengan Alzheimer. Diagnosis yang menjadi kabar buruk bukan hanya bagi keluarga sang dokter senior namun juga bagi dr. Mathiasen yang seolah kehilangan sosok ayah keduanya. Dokter yang pernah menjadi presiden Asosiasi Psikiater Washington ini akhirnya memutuskan untuk mendalami psikiatri di Seattle setelah menyelesaikan residensinya di bidang ilmu penyakit dalam. Sepanjang pendidikannya menjadi spesialis ia menyaksikan derita fisik dan emosi yang menerpa pasien dan keluarga mereka – dan dorongan emosi ini menguatkan dedikasinya terhadap pasien Alzheimer.

Beberapa pasien Alzheimer atau dicurigai Alzheimer diceritakan dr. Mathiasen dengan apik dalam buku ini. Bridget adalah ibu dari sejawat dr. Mathiasen di bidang bedah jantung, yang dirujuk ke beliau oleh dokter keluarganya akibat munculnya perubahan perilaku setelah seorang saudara Bridget meninggal dunia. Wawancara dan pemeriksaan psikiatri tidak menunjukkan gangguan jiwa pada Bridget, dan dr. Mathiasen pun akhirnya memberikan surat keterangan sehat. Satu-dua tahun kemudian, ia dipanggil ke kediaman Bridget karena wanita itu mulai mengalami kesulitan berbicara dan gangguan gerak, yang sering ditemui pada pasien Alzheimer lanjut. Diagnosis yang mungkin sudah muncul di kepala sang anak, bagaimanapun juga, putra Bridget adalah seorang dokter. Namun seperti dikatakan perawatnya, sang putra ‘couldn’t even say the word [Alzheimer’s].’ Seorang imigran Italia bernama Mario terpaksa pindah dari rumah yang ia tempati bersama putrinya karena progresi Alzheimer yang ia derita membuatnya perlu diawasi terus-menerus. Dan June mungkin tidak akan pernah mampu merelakan minimnya terapi yang tersedia untuk neneknya. Kisah mereka banyak yang berakhir pilu, banyak yang terpaksa meninggalkan ruang periksa dengan perasaan berat dan seribu pertanyaan tak terjawab.

Tuhan Maha Adil, diagnosis yang menjadi petaka di beberapa keluarga justru menjadi berkah tersembunyi di keluarga lain. Degenerasi otak Mary Pearson membuatnya sering merasa berada di masa lalu, dengan suaminya yang telah meninggal dunia, berhalusinasi suaminya akan berangkat perang saat ia sedang mengandung putri pertamanya. Putri Mary, Susan, merasa bahwa ia menjadi lebih memahami masa lalu sang ibu dan hal ini menjadikan ikatan di antara mereka lebih dekat. Karen bahkan terang-terangan mengucapkan syukurnya bahwa sang suami terkena Alzheimer, karena ‘kebetulan’ penyakit ini membuat Lawrence terkungkung dalam ingatan masa terbahagia dalam hidupnya sebagai pemain baseball. Samuel mungkin tidak akan pernah bertemu kembali dengan saudaranya Arthur jika bukan karena diagnosis Alzheimer-nya. Sidney dan Jay, dua bersaudara yang kerap berseteru semakin mereka beranjak dewasa, melupakan kebencian diantara mereka saat sang ibu, ‘lupa’ bahwa kedua bersaudara itu tidak akur, memegang tangan dan berbicara kepada keduanya seolah mereka masih belia. Ia tidak menyadarinya, namun Laura, dalam sakitnya, justru menyembuhkan perpecahan dalam keluarganya.

Alzheimer, kata yang menjadi momok bagi banyak pasien tua, yang telah memisahkan dan menyatukan banyak keluarga, yang sulit dicari penyebabnya dan hampir mustahil dihentikan perburukannya. Namun dr. Mathiasen dan kegigihannya menunjukkan bahwa diagnosis Alzheimer bukanlah suatu impending doom bagi pasien dan keluarganya. Selama masih ada dokter yang mau mendengarkan dan kerabat yang mau memahami, optimalisasi kualitas hidup seorang pasien Alzheimer bukanlah hal yang mustahil terjadi. Do your best, Ben Carson pernah berkata, and let God do the rest. Kesulitan diagnosis dan perawatan Alzheimer bukan alasan untuk tidak berbuat apa-apa. A must read for (aspiring) psychiatrist, geriatrics caretaker, or just anyone who cares about Alzheimer!