Tips on coping with stroke, robbery

Meet my two good friends I’ve never met in person myself.
Roberta is a writer who lives in Florida. Berenice, also a writer, lives in Ohio. For writers, email is the friend that enables long-distance friendships. And it doesn’t hurt that all three of us are Jewish, so we can share our holiday recipes, our simchas, our memories, our sorrows, and be sure that everything will be understood and appreciated.
Roberta writes most often about travel, but she’s currently at work on a personal essay meant as a cautionary tale for others, whether they travel or not. We aren’t as smart as we think we are, she writes — rather reluctantly. For a woman who has seen the world, it’s devastatingly embarrassing to have to admit you were robbed while waiting in a checkout line at your local supermarket.
“A woman to my left distracted me with questions,” Roberta posts, “so I did not see her accomplice on my right, who stole my wallet with all my credit cards, driver’s license, ATM card, and $70 in cash. Within two hours, the thieves had charged about $5,000 at a gas station, Bed Bath and Beyond, Macy’s, and Nordstrom.” Then, the kicker: “Not one cashier asked to see a photo ID!”
Berenice’s writing specialty is public relations. She and husband Herb had their own marketing communications company until he suffered a stroke so devastating that everyone advised her to commit him, immediately and permanently, to a nursing facility. But she took him home instead. In 2006, after several years of adjustment, dedication, and just plain hard work, her first book, One Stroke, Two Survivors, was published by the Cleveland Clinic Press, with Herb credited as co-author.
It’s been billed as “a love story supported by personal anecdotes and workable tips that have helped Berenice and Herb negotiate the stressful, challenging medical bureaucracy.” She then followed up with a second book, Lessons Learned: Stroke Recovery From a Caregiver’s Perspective.
Roberta wants everyone to read about the lessons she has learned. When she called to cancel her credit cards, there were telephone delays of more than a half-hour each, which gave the thieves more time to rack up an additional round of fraudulent charges. The only “bright spot”: They couldn’t empty her bank account because they didn’t have her PIN.
Berenice and Herb have recently announced the launch of a new website, where anyone interested may download copies of both books at no cost.
“To my knowledge,” her post to me said, “this is the first time that any free ebook about stroke survival is available. Unfortunately, stroke can sneak up on us, too often catching us unaware and foundering for information under the most challenging circumstances. From the beginning, we knew our purpose in writing was to leave a trail for others…”
Roberta wants others to know that at least one bank, Chase, is refusing to pay back the three stores named above, all of whom, she has learned, have policies requiring employees to ask for photo IDs on large purchases. Which of course didn’t happen. And she will not have to pay herself for those unauthorized shopping sprees. Yet the experience alone has been a nightmare of phone calls, cancellations, replacements and worry. She’s begging everyone who makes a large purchase to remind sales clerks to ask for photo IDs.
Berenice wants people to check out
“I had to go through hoops to learn new methods for editing online, a demanding process that inflicted migraines I never had before,” she says. “But it was right and important for me to cross into the 21st century to do this.”
Shavuot, time of first-fruit offerings to God, is almost here. Roberta’s warning information, Berenice’s helpful books, certainly don’t qualify as their “first fruits,” but they are important gifts, graciously offered freely to all of us. I suspect God will accept them, on our behalf.

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