At just 34, Lotje Sudderland had a stroke that left her unable to read, retain memories or live unassisted -- she had to start life again.
Before her brain “switched off”, Sudderland was a producer for an advertising firm. She loved to consume epic novels, studied sociology and was developing a documentary called Doctor/Dealer -- a film about the connection between the pharmaceutical industry and drug addiction in the United States.
"I was really sociable and didn’t like spending time alone," Sudderland told HuffPost Australia.
"I was able to lead this quite intense life combining relentless work deadlines with lots of fun and friends. I travelled often with work, and never really stopped.
"That’s how life was right before my brain switched off.”
Lotje Sunderland whose optimism in the face of a stroke lends itself to an uplifting documentary
With Hackney, East London as the backdrop the documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain documents Lotje's recovery process just a mere few days after the haemorrhage struck.
"I wasn't able to retain information, so when I started recording my new life, it was a decision borne of necessity rather than a creative calling.
"When I relearned how to use my iPhone, I used it to communicate with friends via video messages, or if I had scans or neuro appointments and knew I had questions I wanted to ask the specialists, but wouldn’t have been able to remember, or articulate, I would record them on my phone,” Lotje said.
That iPhone footage would go on to be the centre point of the film that co-director Sophie Robinson would pull together with interviews of Lotje’s family and friends.
Lotje recorded her journey on her iPhone. A decision borne out of "necessity rather than a creative calling".
The story of how Sophie came to create this film with Lotje is incredible in itself and an indication of the determination and will of this woman that the documentary would go on to illustrate.
"I actually met Lotje two months before she had her brain hemorrhage,” Sophie explained.
"We talked a lot about the films I have made in the past which have often been about life and death moments in people’s lives or investigations into the workings of the human brain. I had also made a few films for the BBC’s leading science strand Horizon.
"All of this information must have stuck in Lotje’s mind because it was actually her that got in contact with me just a few days after regaining consciousness after her stroke.
"At that stage her language and memory was still very muddled but by drawing a horizon on a piece of paper and various other things, her family worked out that she wanted to get in touch with me.”
Remarkably, this isn’t a totally heartbreaking tale, in fact Lotje’s incurable optimism lends itself to an incredibly uplifting story that can inspire not only those facing brain trauma, but absolutely everybody.
"To see how she learned to start again in a completely new world can only be described as inspiring - her search for understanding not just of what happened to her brain but also to her mind was something I think we should all do whether we’ve had a brain injury or not, Robinson told HuffPost Australia.
"I hope people who have been through the devastating experience of brain trauma will find solace in the story. Ultimately the experience was an invaluable confrontation with what really matters in these fragile little lives of ours, and I hope that message will be meaningful to anyone with questions about the nature of reality," Sudderland said.
Lotje undergoing treatment in the film.
The mark of a great documentary is all in its impact, and to Robinson if just one person is comforted by Sudderland’s journey then My Beautiful Broken Brain will have served its purpose.
"If it makes one person who has suffered a brain injury feel less alone then we have achieved something. If it makes one person change the way they perceive their neighbour or even a stranger then we have achieved something. If it inspires one person to take a terrible situation and make it into something positive then we have achieved something.
"If it gives one person hope then we have achieved something. If it helps one person explain what it’s like to have to start again to their friends and family then we have achieved something."
Sudderland’s life now is very different to how it was before the stroke, "and I much prefer it” she said.
"I have a lovely husband and work as a documentary director, shooting two films currently.
"I still can’t read, but use Siri to help me in daily life and it works well.
"I had to go through the period of mourning for the abilities I lost but once I had accepted that things were going to be very different, I began to appreciate my limitations because they forced me to become focused and lead a more meaningful life, where every moment matters."
To find out more about My Beautiful Broken Brain head over here. And to watch it right now, just pop on over to Netflix.Suggest a correction