Brandon’s debut memoir details her experiences with her “bloody brain,” from stays in the intensive care unit to a turbulent life after surgery.
In 2007, Brandon worked as a math professor at Carnegie Mellon, well respected among students and colleagues. After experiencing strange symptoms—bouts of confusion and numbness—doctors discovered cavernous angiomas in Brandon’s brain and brain stem. These angiomas, described as “malformed blood vessels in [the] brain,” cause severe problems when they bleed. After initial treatment, Brandon’s doctors believed that she was out of danger. Within six months, however, the bleeds came back. She experienced multiple seizures and frequent bouts of confusion. Brandon decided to have a risky set of surgeries to remove the angiomas. The surgery was successful, but its invasive nature forced Brandon into extensive rehab. Recovery from brain injury doesn’t occur linearly, though, and Brandon dealt with myriad mental and physical issues, including re-establishing her balance and retraining herself to read. Once out of rehab, Brandon found support from friends and family. Not everyone initially understood her situation, however, often carelessly adding to her discomfort. Brandon ably describes her episodes, and the reader feels transported into her mind when, for instance, she has a “shutdown,” her brain momentarily shutting down after an overflow of sensory input, “settling into...a protective cocoon.” These moments succeed in making readers understand Brandon’s plight, her frustrations, and, eventually, her triumphs. The memoir follows a chronological timeline, but there are also chapters that focus on small experiences, interruptions not unlike the stop-and-start nature of her recovery. In the end, Brandon doesn’t sugarcoat her account. Despite her eventual return to teaching, the reader ultimately knows there will be more to overcome.
At turns harrowing and inspiring; also serves as a valuable piece of education on recovery from brain injury.