Melanie Reid – The World I Fell Out Of

Melanie Reid’s ‘Spinal Column’ in The Times is about her life with spinal cord injury. It varies hugely in its tone and emotional tenor. By turns Reid can be darkly humorous or sorry for herself, but she regularly brings a graphic aspect of life with disability into the world of the weekend reader. Her column has covered many aspects. She may be discussing attitudes to wheelchair users (6 December 2014), or describing how her spasticity feels and changes (28 January 2017), or describing with all the gory details the problems of bowel management (27 September 2014).

Now she has completed … Read more...

Jeff Bauman – Stronger

People live with amputations. And amputation surgery has been possible for several centuries. They are an unfortunate but common aftermath of road accidents, or military campaigns, or explosions. But rarely do they make a publishable story. Jeff Bauman’s story is an exception. He lost his legs at the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon crowds in 2013. As he tells in his book, he also, in the minutes before the explosion, looked into the face of one of the bombers, and afterwards recognised the abandoned rucksack for what it was. In his hospital bed he worked with an artist to … Read more...

Edwyn Collins, Home Again

At the time of his stroke Edwyn Collins was a singer-songwriter with an international reputation, a founder of Glaswegian band Orange Juice, and with the hit ‘A Girl like You’ to his name. In February 2005 he had two haemorrhagic strokes, followed by neurosurgery, a period of hospital isolation due to MRSA, a time of hospital rehabilitation, and eventually return home in August in time for his 46th birthday. The strokes left him confused, aphasic, unable to read or sing, and with severe weakness and loss of sensation in the right side. Over the next eighteen months of hard work … Read more...

Grace Maxwell – Falling and Laughing: the Restoration of Edwyn Collins

At the time of his stroke Edwyn Collins was a singer-songwriter with an international reputation, a founder of Glaswegian band Orange Juice, and with the hit ‘A Girl like You’ to his name. In February 2005 he had two haemorrhagic strokes, followed by neurosurgery, a period of hospital isolation due to MRSA, and a prolonged time of hospital rehabilitation. Eventually he returned home in August in time for his 46th birthday. The strokes left him confused, aphasic, unable to read or sing, and with severe weakness and loss of sensation in the right side. Over the next eighteen months of … Read more...

Lisa Genova – Left Neglected

The challenge: how to portray someone’s experience of the world which is ‘normal’ but only incorporates half of it – a bit like writing about are awareness of what is behind us. Sarah, the central character of Lisa Genova’s novel, is conscious of herself and of herself in the world, but the bit she is conscious of is her right side only. The focus of the novel is Sarah’s experience of the world without her neglected left side. In other words, the novel is about what the narrator is unaware of – so how does that become the subject of … Read more...

Henry Fraser – The Little Big Things

The facts are simple: on a holiday in Portugal 17 year-old Henry Fraser had a complete cervical spinal cord injury which left him paralysed and needing ventilation. Over the next two years he went through rehabilitation both at Stoke Mandeville hospital and at home, trained himself to survive without a ventilator and learnt how to balance in his wheelchair. He became an accomplished mouth painter and motivational speaker, and wrote this book.

But this book is much more than a factual account, however useful that might be for clinicians or for others in the same situation. Henry Fraser is an … Read more...

Holly Gerlach – Happily Ever After

What happens when a normal person experiences an abnormal near-death experience? Answer – it depends on the person. Holly Gerlach appears from her memoir to be a normal 26 year old, a Canadian who liked to shop till she dropped, or to hang out with her friends, or to get some tanning sun. Happily married, and having recently given birth to her first child, Holly was suddenly struck down with Guillain-Barré syndrome, and experienced months of pain and paralysis, including ventilation in ICU, followed by months of rehabilitation. Perhaps the miracle after all this is that she still retains intact … Read more...