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Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath Paperback – April 28, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been brought to the fore by the war in Iraq, but not only soldiers experience it. Mason, a case manager in Tulsa, Okla., for people living with TBI, writes with passion and urgency about the unheralded but compelling stories of Americans injured in car accidents or through a miscalculation while snowboarding. Their lives are disrupted by seizures, memory loss, psychosis. One of Mason's clients is an ambitious former air force officer who now goes into waking trances in which he thinks he's dead, as a result of a herpes virus emerging from its hiding place to invade his brain. Mason lays out a damning indictment of the health-care system's failure to provide facilities and services that millions like his clients need. He also tells stories of tremendous courage and perseverance as survivors and their families work to re-establish the everyday skills they had before their injury. The strange effects of neurological damage will draw fans of Oliver Sacks, but Mason's poignant and caring accounts of his clients' lives are sure to touch the hearts of a wide range of readers. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Tulsa-based brain-injury case manager Mason presents the stories of a dozen clients who have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) with startling candor not just about how their lives and those of their families were altered by the disability but about the scant assistance available on a national scale for TBI victims. The book’s publicity claims readers will come away “astonished at the fragility of the brain.” But who doesn’t already know that? On the other hand, many don’t know that TBI can be caused from either without (an auto accident, a fall) or within (a tumor or even a common virus that many endure with minor symptoms yet that can travel to the brain), changing a life literally in an instant. Additionally, most don’t know how to differentiate between behaviors caused by TBI and those caused by psychosis. Cast against a backdrop of slim resources crying for more aid, the stories are heartbreakingly stark, like so many slaps upside the head, but, coming from a man who too often must deliver bad news, hard to counterpunch. --Donna Chavez --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374531951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374531959
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Elk on April 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was cringing all the way through this book, horrified at the accidents and the run-around that the injured get in our pathetic excuse for a health care system. Mason doesn't go too much into neuroscientific details, but focuses instead on how the injury has affected the injured, their lives and livelihood, their friends and family, and how they have learned or failed to learn to live with their deficits. Each chapter is a biography. Some are hopeful, all are illuminating.
I hope this book helps to raise public awareness about what a desperate state we are in with regards to being able to provide cost-effective care and therapy for people with TBI. Hundreds of brain-injured soldiers are coming back from Iraq and will need help integrating back into society.
Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, where the author is based, offers care that is tailored to the needs of each individual. No two brain injuries are the same and no two roads to recovery take the same route. This type of treatment needs to be available at more facilities, and it needs to be available to everybody who needs it, not just the wealthy.
Read it, give it to a friend, wear a helmet.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was a very pleasant surprise and not at all what I had expected.

Thinking, even fearing, that this book might be an intense or even arduous exegesis of the neuroscience of brain injury, I found instead a series of captivating and absorbing dramas that opened for me a door into the not-often-seen difficult lives, debilitating circumstances, damaged brains, and inspirational hearts and souls of a number of victims of brain injury.

Mr. Mason, with the compassion and astute observation of a skilled case worker, relates story after story that are as captivating and inspiring as they are sobering and heartbreaking.

I felt like I met, came to know, even empathized with and admired, the involuntary stars of each tragedy. I was introduced to their loved ones, learned about their pasts and hometowns, was shown in dreadful detail their horrible accidents, and exposed to the myriad obstacles and difficulties to which these amazing people and their families are exposed each day.

I found myself cheering, with Mr. Mason, their victories, and joined him in a swelling admiration for their courage and spunk.

Along with these compelling stories is the fascinating and fantastic journey upon which Mr. Mason took me - a rollercoaster ride into the "the brain injury capital of the world" at a remarkable hospital thirty miles north of Baghdad on the grounds of Balad Air Base.

The picture Mr. Mason paints of the amazing skills of our military healthcare professionals in providing the best care in the world to brain injured military personnel, innocent civilians, or even enemy combatants, is as astonishing as it is wonderful.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book and read it in one sitting. As the mom of a TBI victim, it was an eye opening book. I felt a little disheartened by the grim reality presented by the author (he is a little gloomy .. ) but I think the book will inspire me to continue to be "a squeaky wheel" on my daughter's behalf.

I have QUITE the head injury library at this point, and many are written by survivors or family members with or without the help of a "ghost writer" and i think this leads to some pretty questionable writing and some of them are really hard to get through. HEAD CASES is extremely well written, and was pleasure to read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I confess...I skip the health section of Time Magazine and Newsweek. It's just not my thing. So when I started reading Mason's book on brain injuries, I didn't think I'd make it very far.

I was dead wrong.

This book wraps the reader in human drama while delving into the mysterious world of head trauma. It is fascinating because it is not just about science, but about people.

Head Cases is a great read -- not just for those into science and medicine, but for everyone.
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Format: Paperback
Michael Paul Mason weaves a surprisingly poetic, and yet unabashedly stark tapestry of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), introducing us to its myriad effects not only on the patient but also his/her family. His perspective, as a Brain Case Manager, is one that is not explored nearly enough; we often hear from the lauded neurosurgeons or ED/ICU doctors, but not from the one driving hundreds and thousands of miles, waging legal and bureaucratic wars, educating and consoling families in grief, not from that champion of the brain injured.

Much appreciated was Mason's measured and thorough take on each case. He presents the etiology or mechanism of injury, the aftereffects, and the philosophical questions that inevitably swirl from the frothing eddy of pain and suffering and setback. The former two are relayed without the dryness of an academic paper, and rather with color and the careful tones of a seasoned word-painter; the latter are discussed not whimsically or cynically, but thoughtfully and without presumption. No "Why God, Why?"s, though this may very well be the brass gong pealing in many a brain. Mason explores those questions-- Who am I beyond my brain? How should the living regard the dead? When do we lose our humanity, and how is it redeemed?-- through lenses as diverse as Dante's "Divine Comedy", the Japanese Zen classic "The Gateless Gate", and the Native American ritual of the sweat lodge. While he does not offer any answers, per se, it is interesting that he ends Head Cases with a depiction of life bursting from the threatening shadows of death, in the successful birth of his second daughter where fears of infant anoxia had loomed large.
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