Up-close view of living with the harrowing effects of a concussion by a professor of artificial intelligence who kept thorough notes of the experience and shares what he learned about overcoming his severe disabilities.
When Elliott (DePaul Univ.) was concussed in a traffic accident, he soon discovered that the medical community, including neurologists, was ill-prepared to either recognize or treat the injury to his brain. Here, the author documents his medical encounters and what it was like living for years with a badly damaged brain—he had difficulties with balance, body sense, muscle control, memory, walking, hearing, seeing, eating, sleeping, his sense of time, and making decisions, plus seizures, nausea, and pain. He felt, he writes, like an alien living among humans. As he notes, the suicide rate among concussion sufferers is high. The previously high-functioning Elliott not only reveals his own brain’s limitations after the accident; he also examines the workings of a normal, healthy brain. Years after the injury, he learned of the work of Donalee Markus, a cognitive restructuring specialist working in the Chicago area. Markus used paper-and-pencil, context-free visual puzzles to help Elliott regain his cognitive functioning skills, and she referred him to Deborah Zelinsky, an optometrist who used a progression of nontraditional therapeutic eyeglasses to alter the way the brain conveys visual/spatial signals to the visual cortex. As the author explains, both approaches utilize the amazing plasticity of the human brain. Details of their approaches constitute the book’s final portion, and both women have provided informative forewords describing their work. Happily, under their programs, the author made large strides toward normalcy.
With concussions from sports injuries making the news, Elliott’s easy-to-read account of his experiences is a valuable contribution to a better understanding of the condition.