Two Sides of Locked-in Syndrome

A Memoir

By LaDonna Harrison

Published by She Writes Press

ISBN-13: 978-1647421472

304 pages

Reviewed by Charles Johnson


LaDonna Harrison has pursued and earned several degrees – some at an advanced level.  She has taught at colleges of all levels on many campuses around the country.  She is retired now, having enjoyed a long career.  Yet, you would never know . . .

Her background is totally unrelated to what appears in the paragraph above.  She grew up in a rather indigent home in a very small town in an area of Minnesota swathed with more small towns just like hers.  After her high school years, she picked up jobs here and there, and she was, as the saying goes, picked up by guys who populated the taverns and bars in the area.  She floated along the waves of the social norms of the area and of the day.   It may be fair to say her horizons had no east or west, north or south, so she wandered quite aimlessly through these years.

Her only anchor was Cleve, who eventually became her husband.  They drank together, they rode snowmobiles together, they fished together.  They lived in a handful of houses and apartments that were not much better than her childhood home.  Their circle of friends and family was no different – same lifestyle, same desires and pursuits, same horizons.

And then Cleve, still in his twenties, suffered a bizarre and lengthy illness, leaving him totally unresponsive and in the care of a hospital staff – and later, a nursing home staff.  She came to know the  phrase  “Locked-In Syndrome” applied to her Cleve.  Ladonna visited often, but as time passed, the Cleve she knew was more than likely not going to return.

In OUR DIVIDE, the reader can certainly feel the post-teen angst LaDonna experiences as she goes through life.  Happiness appears in some ways, but then they are swallowed up.  She sometimes manages to shrug off the down times, and sometimes they consume her as they eat away at her emotions and her thoughts of Cleve. Questions abound of what has happened to her life, what will become of Cleve, and how it will all affect her and her expected child.

As it turns out, LaDonna finds herself taking a few college classes on a whim – and we get the lady of the first paragraph.  There is little in the pages of OUR DIVIDE that foreshadow her academic success – but that title alone reveals the separation between Ladonna and Cleve, as well as the separation between her early years and her later career as a college professor.   

OUR DIVIDE is a testament to the idea that horizons can indeed change – and life can indeed go on.  Ladonna Harrison has shared that with us.