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Book Reviews:

I'll Carry the Fork! recovering a life after brain injury
    by Kara L. Swanson
Read our review
Difficulty: easy
Over My Head, A Doctor's Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out
    by Claudia L. Osborn
Read our review
Difficulty: medium

Living With Brain Injury
    by Philip L. Fairclough

Read our review
Difficulty: easy
Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
    by Diane Roberts Stoler, EdD and Barbara Albers Hill

Read our review

Difficulty: medium
   

I'll Carry the Fork! recovering a life after brain injury
    by Kara L. Swanson

I’ll Carry the Fork! is an easy book to read, and an easy book to enjoy. Kara tells her personal story of finding her way through the medical and emotional complications of head trauma. She is honest and funny about her limitations, the choices she made, the changes in her life as she accepted her situation, and the help she needed and found from friends, coworkers and professionals. Through it all, Kara shines as an example hope and perseverance.

Each chapter starts with personal journal entries from the months after her injury. Using examples, anecdotes and vivid analogies, she walks you through the facts without making it seem overwhelming or hopeless. Everything is included; practical advice on how to find professionals who specialize in TBI, simple medical explanations of common issues, ideas for staying organized, and gentle lectures about safety and taking care of your health needs.

One of the most interesting things about I’ll Carry the Fork! comes after she finishes her own story. She asked some of her doctors, counselors, and her attorney—“Team Kara”—to contribute their thoughts and advice from their experiences working with her after the injury. The compassion, sensitivity, and wisdom they each show to brain injury issues is truly remarkable. Again, the theme is that there is hope and there is help, even though they can’t promise a complete cure for everyone. 

This story is fairly short, upbeat, and easy to read. Those who suffer from brain injury, their families and the professionals who support them can all benefit from this book. Those who have not been affected by TBI will still find it a very good read.
 


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Living With Brain Injury
    by Philip L. Fairclough

This is an autobiographical account of a British man's recovery and adaptations following traumatic brain injury. Because his injury and rehabilitation occurred in Britain, some of his descriptions of care facilities and options may differ from what is available in the States and there is no mention of the insurance, social security and disability concerns we face here with these injuries. What he offers is short, clear, unemotional descriptions of common injury symptoms and recovery stages. Fairclough doesn’t gloss over the truth but still manages to sound hopeful. 

Fairclough fell 15 feet off a ladder, landing on his head on a concrete patio and sustaining more obvious and severe injuries than are described in most of the first-person survival accounts we have reviewed for this site. He was effectively paralyzed on the left side of his body, much as a stroke victim would be. His rehabilitation started at the level of learning to feed and cloth himself. He was in the hospital for over 5 weeks, and went from there to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. It was five months before he returned home. He discusses his experience with rehabilitation and occupational therapy very frankly and directly, including his thoughts on the factors that should be considered when choosing between home care and a convalescent care unit.

This book touches on basic facts about injury and recovery, but its real value is its insight into the process as Fairclough shares his thoughts on the pros and cons of various choices he faced while choosing his recovery path.  A small book, quickly and easily finished, it may be especially helpful to those who want to understand but are not able to digest detailed medical information, and to family and friends of survivors.
 

 
   
Over My Head, A Doctor's Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out
    by Claudia L. Osborn

Over My Head is told by a doctor who received a severe brain injury when her bicycle was struck by a car. Claudia's account of the effects on her life, relationships, and career is painfully detailed. A large part of the story concerns a special rehabilitation program she attended in New York City, and the many challenges she faced learning to find her way around that confusing city.  Her primary strategy for coping with her limitations was to take notes constantly, about everything. She included some of journal entries, as well as letters she wrote from New York to her family.

At the program in New York, we are introduced to several other brain injured persons with different symptoms from the writer's. The contrast in their various problems was interesting. Some could barely speak, one could barely stop talking. Most had problems with memory and cognitive thinking. Some had been injured a long time before and had been through many kinds of rehabilitation. A few were newly injured. 

Because her reasoning ability, memory and verbal skills were so damaged, it took many months before Claudia understood that she could never practice medicine again. Her shock and pain from that understanding were painful to read. It was only when she accepted that truth that she could begin to think about setting new goals and achieving them. Ultimately, she discovered that her memory of basic medical knowledge was intact, and she was able to use that to take a part-time teaching position working with new medical students. Although she could not do the same work she did before, she was able to find a way to work in the field she loved, to be a valuable contributor and maintain a large amount of independence.

This is an excellent book, and a well-told story.
 

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Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
    by Diane Roberts Stoler, EdD and Barbara Albers Hill

The wonderful thing about this book is its structure. The authors have made it easy to find information for anyone who needs to know what to expect, what to look for, and how to treat the symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury. If you are looking for an excellent reference book instead of a personal narrative, this is the one that you will come back and use again and again.

A glance at the Table of Contents shows that the authors start with an Overview of MTBI that does a thorough job of explaining the mechanics of the brain and its injury. The remainder of the book is divided into four parts covering separate areas of concern: Physical Aspects, Mental Aspects, Emotional Aspects, and Recovering. Each part is further divided into chapters that deal, one at a time, with specific problems common to brain injury survivors. In addition to tips and advice on coping with financial, legal and other practical issues, the Recovery section includes a short chapter on “Living with Someone with an MTBI.” This topic, understandably glossed over (or not addressed at all) in many books written by survivors, is a good reflection of the realistic yet sympathetic approach the authors have taken throughout the book. 

Stoler herself suffered from MTBI and her understanding of the human issues, as well as the medical ones, is evident on every page. I would particularly recommend this book as a resource for professionals in the brain injury community, and for the partners, caregivers and adult family members of survivors.

 

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