After a day of sailing, swimming, and jogging at his vacation home on Campobello Island in 1921, 39-year-old Franklin Delano Roosevelt went to bed early and suffered chills throughout the night. By the end of the next day, his legs were paralyzed from polio, and he never walked unaided again. Yet 11 years later he won the first of four presidential elections, and went on to become the longest-serving president of the United States. He reshaped American politics, brought the nation through the Great Depression, implemented the New Deal, and led the Allies to victory in World War II.
How many of us could persevere in the face of a crippling disease, let alone lead a troubled nation and world? Some of us can’t even sleep at night for stressing about our daily lives. Others, however, easily recover from natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and combat. “It’s about the stories people tell,” says psychiatrist Charles A. Morgan III, M.D., FW ’01, “And some people do more storytelling in their heads than others.”
As we set out to explore the theme of resilience for this issue of Yale Medicine, we learned that it comes in all different forms. We look at a woman’s recovery from a stroke and a dancer who overcame a career-ending injury and now cares for other dancers. Microbiologists describe how microbes survive not as individuals, but as populations. Child psychiatrists help children who have confronted violence. And faculty and students describe moments in their lives that led them to dig deep into their own stores of resilience.