Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath
Product ID : 34313658
Galleon Product ID
UPC / ISBN
Farrar, Straus And Giroux
Michael Paul Mason
Mason, Michael Paul
Number Of Pages
Get it between 2021-10-15 to 2021-10-22.
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Head Cases takes us into the dark side of the brain in an astonishing sequence of stories, at once true and strange, from the world of brain damage. Michael Paul Mason is one of an elite group of experts who coordinate care in the complicated aftermath of tragic injuries that can last a lifetime. On the road with Mason, we encounter survivors of brain injuries as they struggle to map and make sense of the new worlds they inhabit.
Underlying each of these survivors’ stories is an exploration of the brain and its mysteries. When injured, the brain must figure out how to heal itself, reorganizing its physiology in order to do the job. Mason gives us a series of vivid glimpses into brain science, the last frontier of medicine, and we come away in awe of the miracles of the brain’s workings and astonished at the fragility of the brain and the sense of self, life, and order that resides there. Head Cases “[achieves] through sympathy and curiosity insight like that which pulses through genuine literature” (The New York Sun); it is at once illuminating and deeply affecting.
“Powerfully written . . .
Head Cases sounds an alarm bell for our healthcare system.” —Oliver Sacks
“Mason deftly conveys the frustrations and inequities of traumatic brain injury . . . [He] performs a valuable service by calling attention to the plight of the brain injured . . . I had come to think of neurological dysfunction as an almost fanciful affliction, its victims like characters in a work of magical realism. Mason has provided a needed, and sobering, account of reality.” —Mary Roach,
The New York Times Book Review
“One of my recent favorites . . . A sensitive and intelligent work.” —Jonah Lehrer, author of
Proust Was a Neuroscientist
“Vivid, heartbreaking [and] movingly written.” —Irene Wanner,
The Seattle Times
About the Author
MICHAEL MASON (born 1971) is a brain injury case manager based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The first thing I tell her is that I cannot help. Her son Jake is thirty-four, my age. His gray, bruise-flecked limbs are splayed out on a bed before me; his mouth is dry and agape. I know I cannot help him. I cannot file a lawsuit against the insurance company, I cannot conjure a way out of this dead-end nursing home, and I cannot sucker punch the aloof neurologist or throttle the ignorant psychiatrist. I hold no sway over the waiting list in my own hospital. I explain to her that I can do nothing at all, and she sighs. She is desperate to see Jake in a program where there is a sense of progress and direction. She knows that the rehabs and specialty hospitals are as inaccessible as the moon. She has called them herself, and she knows that nobody can help. She knows I cannot help, but she asks me anyway. She asks, in all earnestness, to do the impossible and find her son a bed, and in my weakness, I agree. It’s my job to agree.
Jake turns his head toward me and I suspect he can hear me. If he can respond, no matter how minimally, then he meets the most important criteria. He closes and opens his mouth arbitrarily, but not a sound comes out. I ask him to lift his head and I wait. Nothing. His mother is quiet and nearly in tears. I ask her to turn off the fluorescent lights and shut the door, and when she does Jake exhales faintly. It sounds like relief, like the hint of a response. I ask Jake once more to lift his head. A good fifteen seconds later, his head slowly raises an inch off the pillow, and then drops back down. That’s criteria enough for me. His mother grins at me proudly, as though her son just won a marathon. In a sense, he has.
The next two hours find me thumbing through a thick notebook of Jake’s medical records, trying to decipher the scribbled progress notes and lab reports, then interviewing nurses and aides and doctors. I spend the last half hour of my evalu