Pesce d'aprile: Lo scherzo del destino che ci ha reso più forti by Daniela Spada
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The name Cesare Bocci is not a household one in English-speaking countries, but if I were to say "Mimì Augello" and post a picture of Cesare, many of you would recognise him as the actor who plays Montalbano's deputy.
It is often true that we can look at people, particularly celebrities, and think that everything must be fine in their lives but we usually have no idea what those lives are really like. Until I read an interview with Cesare Bocci and his partner Daniela Spada in an Italian TV listings magazine, I had no idea what they had been through in the last 16 years:
This part of their story begins in Rome on 1st April 2000. The day before, they had brought their newborn baby, Mia, home and today all is well until suddenly Daniela cries out that she has a terrible headache. Her condition worsens with terrifying speed and she is rushed to hospital, where the doctors are convinced that she is having a panic attack after a row with Cesare, who has to fight to get her seen by a neurologist. She has suffered a massive stroke. She lies in a coma for 20 days and when she wakes, her body has changed forever and , though she recognises Cesare as someone she loves, her memory is affected. Tragically, she cannot hold her baby daughter.
What follows is the story of Daniela's long road back, Cesare's unstinting support , the family and friends who in turn support him, his battles with hospital staff and bureaucracy alike and the bond that grows between him and his daughter. Cesare at last finds an Austrian doctor who treats Daniela as a human being first and a patient second and this proves to be the turning point. Slowly, and with great determination, Daniela is rehabilitated, not to her old life, but to a life which she can lead. There are still heartbreaking moments, such as those which describe the reactions of strangers to her disabilities or when she thinks of all the things she will never be able to do for her daughter. However,
"Never, never give up", she says, and Cesare says of her,
"Daniela taught me that, in difficult times, your uncertainties, fears and frustration can bury you or they can motivate you to start again."
Daniela Spada decided to think of sweet things so as not to think of her illness and became a cook and pastry chef. She now runs a cookery school, which she insists has the atmosphere of a welcoming family kitchen, in Rome.
This book is for anyone who has suffered, or been close to someone who has suffered, a stroke or other brain injury. It is also for everyone who has ever kept a long vigil at the bedside of a loved one, not knowing if they will wake up, or who has had to make a hospital corridor their home. It is, above all, a story of courage, determination and of course, love and so it is a book for all of us.
Note: Pesce d'aprile = April fool
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