by Cathy Crimmins (Vintage Books, 2000)
I had already read this a few years ago, but I picked it off my shelf recently and couldn’t put it down, so I reread the entire book. The story of Crimmins’ husband’s traumatic brain injury and its aftermath is an amazing window into TBI and its far-reaching effects on the patient and his family. It is also a scathing criticism of our American (non-)system of healthcare. Alan, Crimmins’ lawyer husband, is injured in Canada, where he receives excellent care. However, all his American health insurance company can think of is how to deny him adequate care in the United States, starting with their refusal to fly him back to Philadelphia from Ontario and continuing on through a too-early hospital discharge and grossly inadequate rehabilitation benefits. It makes the reader want to scream. When people are dealing with a healthcare crisis, the last thing they need is to be forced to fight for the care their loved one requires.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the book, for me, was the devastating effect the TBI had on Alan’s relationship with his young daughter, Kelly, who witnessed the accident and was thereafter subjected to extremely inappropriate behavior and language from her father. Crimmins was not very available for her daughter post-accident either (too busy fighting with the health insurance company), and she (daughter) spent a lot of time with very kind friends. Not until Chapter 11 does Crimmins finally step in to protect Kelly from her father’s erratic behavior. When she finds out that he has actually kicked Kelly, she threatens that if he ever harms her physically again, she will take Kelly away from him forever. But the emotional abuse continues unchecked–perhaps because Crimmins is equally abused by Alan, whose personality underwent a huge change after the accident (apparently a common result of TBI). But she’s a grownup, and presumably could leave if she wanted to. It is to her credit that she stands by Alan despite the hardships–but I thought she should have done more to protect Kelly from her disinhibited father. This is not to say that Alan’s bad language, fits of rage, or just plain weird behavior were his fault; they were not.
A fascinating read. which makes the reader pray that s/he and his/her loved ones never experience a TBI.