Dispassionate neuroscience meets fierce advocacy in this heartbreaking but hopeful look at the little-understood world of those who suffer traumatic brain injuries.
Mason is a traumatic brain-injury case manager; brain-injury survivors (an estimated 5.3 million in the United States) go to him after they’ve exhausted every other option. His mission is getting help for people stuck in the purgatory of the U.S. healthcare system. His job, which takes him across the country, is convincing hospital administrators and neurologists and specialty care centers to give clients suffering debilitating brain injuries a new chance at life. Currently, Mason reports, there are at least 90,000 Americans with a brain injury severe enough to require an extended stay in rehab, but there are only a few thousand specialty beds, even fewer for patients whose disabilities are not just mental and physical but emotional. Clients include a man with encephalitis who is convinced he is dead; a woman with no memory, not even of the daughter who was killed in the car wreck that left her disabled; and an amnesiac serving time for a crime he can’t remember committing. These patients’ initial injuries are only prologues to the real tragedies, which begin when healthcare policies run out, or government support goes dry, and the severely disabled victims are left to fend for themselves, in many cases bankrupting their families. Few of the stories end happily: one client attempts suicide; another ends up in a mental hospital with no brain-injury experts on staff. Mason’s goal here is to convey awareness, not to uplift.
Intriguing case histories, related with a personal passion that sets Mason’s book apart from Oliver Sacks’s cooler writings on the subject.