The Red Bag: Connecting the Journey of Healing through Life, Death & Beyond by Paige Valdiserri

Book Review, The Red Bag: Connecting the Journey of Healing through Life, Death & Beyond by Paige Valdiserri


Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the chance to read Paige’s latest book, The Red Bag.  I was thankful for the opportunity to read such a personal and intimate account of Paige’s experience with illness, trauma, and death.   This book addresses questions that have crossed many minds:  What happens after death?  Is there suffering during the process of dying?  What happens to the soul?

The recounting of her childhood and early professional training as a Crisis Network counselor at Ground Zero 9/11 set the stage for her work in Iraq war zones, Rwanda after the genocide and even for her most personal challenge, being a caregiver for her husband, Tim.

Tim was a victim of mold exposure which devastated his health.  I had met Tim during this time.  Witnessing their journey together as their physician and eventually, their friend gave me a more intimate look at their challenges, frustrations and joys.  I see many caregivers who burn out and face their own health challenges.  Many times the integrity of the marriage is compromised, so what a huge testament to their relationship to have survived some of their darkest times.  Paige’s message of the importance of self-care resonates strongly.

Tim’s accounting of his journey and how he learned to listen to his own body and become his own advocate is a message for us all as patients.  Many times, if your illness doesn’t fit neatly into a diagnostic box, you are left with more uncertainties and even a destabilizing feeling that something is wrong up in the head.  Being your own advocate is necessary in the medical world.  And, trusting in your intuition and inner knowing is the most important guide.

Paige relates the story of a young woman, Allison Ryan, who succumbs to triple negative breast cancer.  How she conceptualized her illness, dealt with the pain and ultimately faced death is a profoundly touching and inspiring story.  Whether we acknowledge or not a greater power, spirits and angels, there is a redemption in her suffering, a comfort in the ‘transition’ of her soul at death and a glimpse of a world past death as described by patients who have gone through near death experiences (NDE).

So, this ‘Red Bag’ that Paige alludes to is not only the collective experiences, tragedies, shortfalls and successes that we accumulate, but also the tools that are used to overcome our adversities as said by Kenneth Jones, PA-C who wrote the Foreward.  As he states so well, it is a bag we continually fill with more tools to help ourselves and others.


On January 23, 2018, posted in: Uncategorized by
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