The story of a family’s triumph after a medical catastrophe.
In her moving nonfiction debut, Crigler recounts her brother Jason’s arduous recovery from a burst blood vessel in his brain, a recovery that involved his wife, parents and, most intimately, the author herself. Punctuated by brief diary entries and recollections of anxious dreams, Crigler chronicles Jason’s day-by-day challenges as he suffered from the consequences of the bleed—loss of the ability to move and speak—and ensuing complications: meningitis, seizures, coma and a host of infections. After three months of repeated setbacks, Jason seemed imprisoned in his body: “[a]drift on a lifeboat in the most remote sea.” As they monitored his care, the family was frustrated by confusing and mixed messages about his prognosis for recovery. They were also frustrated by their health insurance, which “questioned every treatment and refused many of them” with the goal “to pay as little money as possible.” Depending on what they hoped would be humane and competent care, the family came to the “harsh realization that Jason’s care was driven not by what would help him but by cost.” Cowed, at first, by his physicians, the family defied their advice and brought Jason to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, renowned for treating brain injury. There, he made enough progress to be discharged. Crigler and Jason shared an apartment for several months while he worked with physical therapists and on his own to recapture basic skills. With the author as round-the-clock caregiver, other family members pitched in. Exhaustion and stress gave way, at times, to emotional tensions. More than a year later, Jason gained enough independence to share the apartment with his wife and infant daughter; after several more years, which included eye and mouth surgery, proton beam radiation to his brain and much exercise, he was able to resume his career as a musician.
A heartfelt memoir of devotion and determination.