Stricken Sephardic author seizes new lease on life

In a miraculous recovery, a celebrated Sephardic journalist who suffered a major stroke in Berkeley two weeks ago has regained consciousness after doctors forecast the worst.

Victor Perera, author of the popular family memoir "The Cross and the Pear Tree," lay in critical condition at Alta Bates Medical Center in Emeryville for nearly a week before regaining consciousness.

The historian of Sephardic Jewry had just swum in Tilden Park's Lake Anza when he was stricken. He was found in a disoriented state next to his car in the parking lot and rushed to the hospital.

A journalism colleague, Bernard Taper, who has kept close tabs on his ailing friend, reported that Perera has emerged from his earlier critical state.

"He's conscious but he can't talk. He seems to be attentive to people around him and can focus. He has good movement on his left side," Taper said.

He added that doctors are not sure how much Perera understands of what is said to him. His nurses say he is somewhat responsive, but doctors say he hasn't responded to a battery of commands as part of a neurological test.

"If you ask the doctor what does that mean, it's unclear," Taper said.

Apparently, the Berkeley resident's progress is good enough that doctors already are talking about when to transfer him to a physical rehabilitation facility.

Taper is particularly encouraged that Perera, when asked if he is in pain, shakes his head from side to side.

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.