Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain (英語) ハードカバー – 2019/8/1
Kindle 端末は必要ありません。無料 Kindle アプリのいずれかをダウンロードすると、スマートフォン、タブレットPCで Kindle 本をお読みいただけます。
The searing, wry memoir about a woman's fight for a new life after a devastating brain injury.
When Sarah Vallance is thrown from a horse and suffers a jarring blow to the head, she believes she's walked away unscathed. The next morning, things take a sharp turn as she's led from work to the emergency room. By the end of the week, a neurologist delivers a devastating prognosis: Sarah suffered a traumatic brain injury that has caused her IQ to plummet, with no hope of recovery. Her brain has irrevocably changed.
Afraid of judgment and deemed no longer fit for work, Sarah isolates herself from the outside world. She spends months at home, with her dogs as her only source of companionship, battling a personality she no longer recognizes and her shock and rage over losing simple functions she'd taken for granted. Her life is consumed by fear and shame until a chance encounter gives Sarah hope that her brain can heal. That conversation lights a small flame of determination, and Sarah begins to push back, painstakingly reteaching herself to read and write, and eventually reentering the workforce and a new, if unpredictable, life.
In this highly intimate account of devastation and renewal, Sarah pulls back the curtain on life with traumatic brain injury, an affliction where the wounds are invisible and the lasting effects are often misunderstood. Over years of frustrating setbacks and uncertain triumphs, Sarah comes to terms with her disability and finds love with a woman who helps her embrace a new, accepting sense of self.
Sarah Vallance was born in Sydney. She graduated from City University of Hong Kong in 2013 with an MFA in creative writing. Her essays have earned her a Pushcart Prize. She has been published in the Gettysburg Review, the Sun, the Pinch, Asia Literary Review, and Post Road, among other places. Sarah was a Harkness Fellow at Harvard and holds a doctorate in government and public administration. She lives in Sydney with her wife and their three dogs and three cats. Prognosis is her first book.
First the good stuff: In this memoir, the author, a lesbian who had recently come out, details her traumatic brain injury and its aftereffects. Thrown helmetless from a horse she should never have been on at the age of 31, she suffered a TBI without initially realizing what had happened. At first, she finds things in her home in odd places. Realizing her toaster is missing, she determines that someone has broken in and stolen it. That reminded me of my grandmother in her later years, who was forever convinced that someone had broken in and, for example, moved a butter knife from the kitchen to the table because she couldn’t remember having done it. That’s actually become something of a joke in my household; when I can’t remember having put something where it turns up “someone must have broken in!” But in the author’s case it is no joke.
It takes other people to point out to her that she requires medical attention. To her credit she listens. What follows is the tale of her diagnosis and prognosis. What follows is the tale of her recovery, to the extent that she was able to recover.
But the best part of this tale is not the story itself. The best part is the writing. The book is extremely well written; it is compelling. You can’t wait to get to the next sentence, the next page, to find out what happens next.
WARNING: When her new girlfriend moves in with her, stressing out her two rescue dogs, the author puts down one of her dogs. This chapter just tied my stomach up in knots. This for me was a defining act, and one I’m not likely to get past.
5 stars for the writing
1 star for the dog death, seriously
Second: As an M.D. I get tired of feel-good stories about near-death experiences or near-fatal illnesses that have a clean and easy arc involving a savior (a doctor, a treatment, God, a lover, whatever) and eventual reconciliation with the illness or to death via said savior.
Serious illness and injury are not like that, and this book is not one of those easy-feel-good books. That's what makes the story so remarkable and worth reading. The book delves into the difficulties, the ups and downs, the periodic helplessness, the moments of hope that people with serious injury or illness go through as they accommodate and battle a recalcitrant body. This is the truth of serious illnesses, not a pretty and easy story.
Vallance is honest about how hard her injury is and how TBI affects every part of her life (her love life, her family, her education, her career, her living situations). She's also very clear about how little we know about human neurology and how so much of what's done to help/manage TBI and other neurological illnesses (e.g. Alzheimer's) are piecemeal, guesswork, case-by-case, and trial-and-error. Similar to certain cancers, we don't have a simple, easily-identifiable cause, or an obvious mechanism and progression of illness. Having to learn to live with that, to put a life together around something so life-changing, to do what you think is right to retool your brain -- it's one of the hardest things a person can do -- and harder still when it's unclear what your long-term prognosis is.
Vallance tells this story honestly, but never at the expense of the story. The book is beautifully written, factual information gently added to the recounting of her adult life, so that anyone interested in what it's like when your brain changes on you will find both a moving story and information on what we know about TBI.
Intelligent, thoughtful, and emotionally honest, this is one of the best books I've read this year.