Life Changes in a Fraction of a Second tells the story, in the form of a personal diary of what happens after a terrible car accident claims the life of one person, causes traumatic brain injury (TBI) to another, seriously damages the driver, and causes all manner of devastation to an entire network of family, friends, and colleagues. It presents the inside story of a family thrown into the midst of unimaginable pain and suffering and urgent medical attention with enormous long-term consequences.
It charts a journey from being lost in despair to hope, a journey from severe handicap to adjustment and the discovery of all kinds of ways of daily coping. There are two parallel stories: the first deals with “the system” – medical, social, and government. When it works, it’s inspiring and when it doesn’t, it makes you throw up your hands and/or get angry. Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be another mix-up, there are three more surprises in a row. The other story, of course, is the core of the book and is a love story: how one partner lives out the promise they made in a wedding ceremony thirty years earlier, something to do with “in sickness and in health.” And it’s this unselfish love, this determination to “fix” what can be fixed, to never take no as the final answer that gives this book its powerful emotional edge.
Because Life Changes in a Fraction of a Second is written in such a direct way, you are drawn right into the middle of the mess, the confusion, the pain, the misery, the hope, the triumphs, the anger, the frustration, the fear, and the determination that a tragedy creates. This is also a book about finding the resources to cope in a situation you have never believed might be possible.
This is also one of the great gifts of the book. It is not “TBI from the perspective of an expert.” This book takes the reader on a journey of discovery that takes years and that is still going on. It’s a journey from death and destruction to dependence and development. All the while, the light flickering in the darkness is the light of a love that refuses to be dimmed in any way by new circumstances. This is a book that challenges everyone who has ever made a commitment to someone else in their life: when something really terrible happens: what will YOU do? How will YOU do it? And why will YOU do that?
Like all good books there is a cast of remarkable characters: the nervous, thoughtful son who was at the wheel; his younger brother now lost and alone; the suspicious mother-in-law who always says the wrong thing; the salt-of-the-earth co-workers’ the medical expert who says crushing things without realising they might be upsetting people with their devastating diagnoses’; the hapless orderly more occupied with their cell phone than with their patient; the inspiring nurse who always manages to say the right thing, and so on. But of course, also at the centre is the author and her husband, two people who could never anticipate that a single event one night in early spring would put their lives through such stresses, stresses that have utterly destroyed so many other families in similar situations. But of course, there’s nothing “similar” about any family trauma. Just as there is nothing “typical” about the human spirit. This book proves that, just as it says there is no “typical” pattern either, just the daily grind of dealing with the next challenge, the next, and the next.
This book is really a book about relationships as much as it is a book about the consequences of traumatic brain injury.
Life Changes in a Fraction of a Second is written with a natural sense of story-telling. It’s conversational. It invites you into the room during the most intense and often embarrassing details of a medical crisis. There are things you probably shouldn’t be watching, but it’s written in a way that won’t let you look away. These details are important because they are all you have to hang onto when everything else is spinning out of control. The book is, in effect, produced by one of the participants, rather than by a third party, detached observer. You see what she sees. It is written in chronological order. You will be with her when she wakes up, until she lays down her head at night. The author’s voice comes through clearly on every page. She is a passionate advocate for the other character: Jacques. After just a few pages you know it would be impossible to have a stronger advocate. Readers will become advocates for the author and the other characters in this story.
Those who have gone through trauma, or know of someone who has, will be drawn to this book. All who work in the medical field from orderlies to the neurosurgeon will want to see the day–to-day from the perspective of someone who was there and not because it was their “job.” First responders who often have to deal with horrible accidents day after day and perhaps never really know the outcome after years of hospitals and rehabilitation. Women, and men for that matter, who have perhaps now become full-time caregivers for someone they love, or may have TBI themselves, will know they are not alone. Having lost the sense of “home” and to find it again, there is hope. Anyone who has ever made a commitment will find strength and perhaps see their partner in a different light.
A gripping true story that cannot end “until death do us part”.