Surviving Head Trauma: A Guide to Recovery - Book Review

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Surviving Head Trauma: A Guide to Recovery - Book Review

Stories of survival in the wake of brain injury can be a source of inspiration and hope. Krysalis Neuro OT Kelly Bristow casts her eye over one such “miracle” tale – while we round up some others.

‘Surviving Head Trauma: A Guide to Recovery Written by a Traumatic Brain Injury Patient’ by Terry Smith.

This is an honest and insightful account of a traumatic brain injury. The story is a must read for families, loved ones and ultimately, those who survive a traumatic accident.

As an Occupational Therapist, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working in brain injury recovery. Such recovery is a long, hard, laborious journey.

The physical therapy can be gruelling and tough, and the psychological changes can, and often do, re-write someone’s personality due to the damaged lobes in the brain.


   Many people who sustain a head trauma of this extent, rarely survive, let alone thrive after such a devastating trauma   


I was working in an acquired brain injury rehabilitation centre when I came across Terry Smith’s book about surviving head trauma.

Once I started to read the story, I was taken aback at how severe the trauma was that Terry sustained. His head was crushed, and it is a miracle that he is alive. He definitely has a very strong spirit within him.

Significantly for me, I too had worked with a client who had a similar head trauma. His recovery too was phenomenal and I was so proud of him. 


The kaleidoscope of life.

Terry was 18-years-old when he was involved in a collision with a truck. He had his whole life ahead of him; his dreams and aspirations, and a career direction.

In the blink of an eye, the kaleidoscope of his life changed, alongside his plans for the future which crashed with him. 

Many young people today leave college with a clear idea of what they aspire to do with their life. Terry had very clear ideas about his future until this one fateful day.

No longer was he able to continue training as a marine. He was now facing an uncertain and unstable future, and this was the first major obstacle that he had to overcome: grieving for the life he can no longer have. 

Life can change in the blink of an eye and coping after such extreme trauma can take its toll on any strong person.

However, the nature and extent of Terry’s accident merely highlights the extraordinary depths of human resilience and courage. Terry is that extraordinary person!

Many people who sustain a head trauma of this extent, rarely survive, let alone thrive after such a devastating trauma.


A remarkable recovery.

Terry’s story offers hope and comfort to trauma survivors and their families. His frank and honest account of the trials and tribulations that are part of the rehabilitation journey will help people to really comprehend the level of trauma that he has overcome. 

He also openly discusses the nature of the relationship between therapist and client. My heart swelled when I read his account of how he developed warm feelings towards his therapist; a common theme I recognised. The relationship between client and therapist does impact on an emotional level.

He shares his humour when describing some of the permanent effects of his brain injury, and he offers insight into his epilepsy and is brutally honest about his personality changes.

Terry’s story demonstrates, courage, determination, strength, willpower and tenacity. My favourite part is when he reflects on each new situation; comparing his old and new selves and what he could have been without his accident. I found this most touching. 

Terry has overcome some big challenges and conquered some tough terrain along his journey. He is no quitter; facing each obstacle with grit and courage.

I hope his therapy team are overjoyed by his remarkable recovery. Watching a client grow from being unable to do almost anything, to walking talking and enjoying every minute of their life, for me, that is the greatest honour of working with brain trauma survivors – it’s priceless!



Other books charting the experiences of brain injury survivors:

  • Till the Cows Come Home: One Man's Story of Triumph Over Adversity and 48 Years of Life After Traumatic Brain Injury by J. Blakemore (2016): how one man learned to walk, talk and see again, and go on to gain several college degrees, marry and raise a family despite a traumatic brain injury
  • .Rebuilding Life after Brain Injury: Dreamtalk’ by Sheena McDonald(2019): insights from coma to rehabilitation from a BBC journalist’s wife who was hit by a police van in 1999.
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries: 101 Stories of Hope, Healing, and Hard Work’ by Amy Newmark and Dr Carolyn Roy-Bornstein (2014): support, advice and motivation for survivors and their families.
  • Head Injury: A Practical Guide’ by Trevor Powell (2004):  a best-seller, newly updated, with the latest information on caring for someone with a head injury.
  • Life After Brain Injury by Barbara A Wilson (2013): personal accounts of brain injury survival along with professional reports of progress through rehabilitation
  • Family Experience of Brain Injury: Surviving, Coping, Adjusting by Jo Clark-Wilson and Mark Holloway (2019): a collaboration between relatives of brain injured individuals and neurorehabilitation professionals.


Head to our Talking Heads page for further reading, including occupational therapy blogs, research reviews and much more...



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