I must have scrolled past this title in the library’s online catalog a dozen times. As a 36-year brain-injury survivor, I’m always reading to learn more about brain injury, to understand myself, and to figure out how I can become more involved. Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath never grabbed me before. But since I’d read almost every other book on brain injury at the Williamsburg Regional Library, this time I checked it out. I’m so glad I did.
First, thank you, Michael Paul Mason. The author has toiled in the fields of brain injury. It takes a lot of guts and humanity to do this sort of work, for which you will not earn heaps of money or glory. The public and most healthcare professionals know too little about this epidemic. (The Center for Disease Control says 5.3 million people in the U.S. live with permanent disabilities caused by brain injury and 1.4 million sustain a new injury every day.) In addition, Mason’s skill as a writer makes his book a hundred times more readable and powerful than it might have been in the hands of a less proficient penman.
Mason tells us about 12 cases of severe brain injury he has managed and within each he takes slips in asides to enlighten the reader about the mysteries of the brain, the last frontier of medicine. He pointedly, yet artfully weaves in the sad details. Brain injury is permanent. The brain injured must be treated differently than the mentally ill. Today’s healthcare system is woefully inadequate. While advances in medical technology allow us to save more lives than ever before, what about the quality of that life? If the brain-injured live on, where will they live? Funding and public policies lag. Head Cases is at once moving, inspiring, and heartbreaking. It is a “must-read” for anyone who hopes to advocate, rehabilitate, or counsel the brain injured. It made me mad and sad and resigned to jump in the trench with him.