Surviving Brain Damage After Assault: From Vegetative State to Meaningful Life

This book documents the journey of Gary, a young man who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury in an attack by a gang armed with hammers and baseball bats.

Gary spent 19 months with minimal awareness of his surroundings before showing signs of recovery. The book tells the story of his return to independence over nearly three years of rehabilitation.

The first three of 14 chapters give a useful overview of brain injury, looking at lobes and other brain structures. Chapter two describes and defines disorders of consciousness, helpfully distinguishing between the varying states, such as vegetative, minimally conscious, coma, locked-in syndrome and brainstem death.

The final chapters describe a person-centred approach to Gary’s assessment and rehabilitation, including a number of additional therapies, such as art and music.

Some of the challenges and solutions for a patient emerging from a minimally conscious state are considered.

It is heartening to see behavioural interventions, such as breathing exercises to manage pain during physiotherapy, taking precedence over pharmacological interventions.

There is some repetition between chapters, and it may have been useful to have heard from Gary at the end of the book, but there is much to recommend this easy-to-read book.

It is one of a series on brain injury survival, and I would recommend that nurses who work with patients who have neurological conditions add these useful reference tools to their bookshelves.

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