Review: Prognosis - Sarah VallanceExtraordinary story of living with traumatic brain injury.

This is one of the most astonishing books I’ve read in a long time. I knew nothing about traumatic brain injury (TBI) before I opened the first page and now that I do, I am in awe of the author and all that she has achieved.

Although thrown from a horse and suffering a blow to her head on a rock, Sarah walks away from the accident believing nothing lasting has occurred. However, by the end of the week she has been advised by a neurologist that the traumatic brain injury she’s suffered has caused her IQ to dip alarmingly from its previously high level. What was possible before is no longer—she’s deemed unfit to work, and scoffed at when she mentions that she was partway through her PhD. No chance of ever finishing that, the doctors say.

Spiraling downwards into depression and anxiety over her loss of function, Sarah spends her life alone at home with her beloved dogs. A chance encounter on a walk with the dogs gives her a glimmer of hope that her life is not irretrievable. She’s determined to retrain her brain and in doing so, rebuild her life.

Over the years she experiences many successes and just as many setbacks. The people she encounters through that time, from girlfriends to work colleagues and medical professionals, all help or hinder in their own way. And just when she believes she’s hit rock bottom, another chance encounter changes her life once again and hope shines brightly on the horizon.

This story is an emotional rollercoaster. There were times when I laughed out loud, then cursed or cried within the next few pages. It was terrible to discover that the medical profession were, mostly, dismissive of her situation. Many TBI sufferers are deemed responsible for their own injury through recklessness or stupidity and somehow not worthy of support or help as a result.

Throughout the book we get snippets of her life before the injury, and in particular her relationship with her parents. This seems to have had a fundamental influence on her life and her reaction to her injury, and not in a good way. Her relationship with her mother is pretty awful, and painful to read in places. Her two long-term relationships, over the span of about fifteen years, are with women who are at the same time good and bad for her. And underlying all that is her own personality, which she freely admits does rub a lot of people up the wrong way a lot of the time.

The story sucked me in right from the first chapter, and no matter how infuriating I sometimes found Sarah or the people in her life, I cheered her on every step of the way. That she’s come as far as she has, after all of that, is testament to the determination of the human spirit to just survive, and live. I highly recommend this incredible memoir!