As a caregiver, wife, and mother, I have found great solace in sharing my story and hearing other people express how they coped with a family member's traumatic brain injury. I have also learned a great deal from reading first-hand experiences of people who have survived a TBI.
The TBI community is a unique community, and it's especially comforting to be heard and understood by those intimately connected to our experience.
I recently read two new books about brain injury that I'd like to share. One book, Falling Away From You, is from a caregiver's perspective (a mother's perspective of her son's TBI); and the other is from the perspective of a person who sustained a brain injury many years ago, before there were the diagnostic tools and rehabilitative practices in place that are commonly used to treat all levels of brain injury today.
Both stories add new insight into the way we experience traumatic brain injury in our own lives. Here is a short excerpt from each of these books.
By Nicole Vinson Bingaman
"Every time I think of it, I don't have to work hard to imagine what the fall looked like. Taylor weighed close to two hundred pounds, and fell and crashed in just the wrong way. There was nothing right about the way Taylor fell. The force of the brutal blows met my strong, six feet tall, brave, beautiful, and sweet son with undeniable power. He had tumbled down thirteen stairs, each one delivering some type of blow or beating to his head. For some reason, Taylor's head was the object that seemed to guide the fall. It was as if his head had protected the other parts of his body. No other part of his body was hurt, but the part that was injured would affect his entire being. These things were not noticeable right away to the human eye, but within a few hours, the initial force of the impact would be revealed."
By Sara E. Lewis
"In 1977, when I was a senior at the College of William and Mary, brain injury wasn't well understood. The hospital records I retrieved decades later include the scribbled notes of concern about my neurological state by the orthopedic surgeon and two other doctors who were called in for consults. But nothing was done after a CT scan, new technology to that place and time, appeared normal. No one talked to my family about what the doctor noted as my 'severe concussion,' a brain injury that would probably be considered 'moderate' by today's mild-moderate-severe measurement paradigm. I was in the hospital for five weeks and released. When I told the doctor at a follow-up appointment that I had this bothersome prickly feeling in the left side of my body and that I couldn't feel hot or cold or pressure or pain on that side and that sounds in my left ear were garbled and buzzing, he told me that it would probably go away in 10 years or so.
In the beginning, I tried to get on with my life as I had expected it to unfold, because I was unaware of the 'severe concussion' too. I was not coached to be on guard for the stealthy ways brain injury would affect every aspect of my life. After 27 years enduring mysterious pains, cognitive challenges, emotional highs and lows, fractured relationships, and career missteps, I saw a neurosurgeon for a pain in my neck. He sent me to a neuropsychologist who sent me to a neurologist.
Then, in fits and starts, I began to learn more about brain injury. In 2009, after my father sustained a brain injury of another sort, a cerebral vascular accident or stroke, I saw a reflection in him of my cognitive weaknesses. I was curious about his aphasia, so I took classes in speech-language pathology. Then I finally began to understand what had happened to my brain."