Learning by Accident after Brain Injury
Learning by Accident
Learning by Accident depicts the slow unraveling of a caregiver after her husband suffers a life-altering head trauma. It is the true story of Rosemary and Hugh Rawlins, and their teenage daughters, cushioned by a community of family and friends, during two tumultuous years that began in April, 2002.
After the phone call, the rush to the hospital, two emergency brain surgeries, and a coma, Rosemary is determined to help Hugh find his way back home to his children. But everything Rosemary learns about brain injury shocks her system anew. A large chunk of Hugh’s skull has been removed and put on ice in the hospital freezer. Once an athletic business executive, her husband must now relearn the most basic activities like brushing his teeth or putting on his clothes in the right order. He has no short-term memory and a myriad of symptoms she has never heard of before: pocketing, left neglect, and loss of executive function. With his strong character, management salary, and athletic resilience, Hugh once supported the family in nearly every way. Rosemary’s task of holding their lives together while helping him heal feels daunting enough, but she cannot counsel or lean on the one person she needs most—her husband.
Learning by Accident is a compelling story of family love and commitment, and the secondary trauma that remains with caregivers after all the hard work is done. Touching and triumphant, Learning by Accident shows how fear can be more debilitating than any injury—and that shedding fear can lead to peace and to living the possibilities we had once only imagined.
Learning by Accident
On a sunny spring day, in an ordinary kitchen, Rosemary answers an unexpected phone call. A car has hit her husband, Hugh. He’s about to undergo emergency brain surgery. Plunged into twelve months of marathon caregiving, Rosemary works herself to exhaustion to bring him back home and back to himself. But just as Hugh begins to reclaim his life and ride his bike again, Rosemary falls apart. She can’t sleep. Her heart pounds. Her joy and trust in the world has dissolved into endless anxiety.
How can she let go of fear? What can she learn from it?
Learning by Accident is a caregiver’s story of ambiguous loss, family love, and emotional healing. This compelling personal account demonstrates with heart and humor that fear can be more debilitating than any physical injury. Along the way, Rosemary discovers that starting over is exactly what we sometimes need.
In an odd twist of fate, the accident becomes her greatest teacher.
About the Author
Rosemary Rawlins holds a Bachelor of Applied Studies in Human Resource Management from the University of Richmond, VA. She lives with her family in Glen Allen, Virginia.
By Rosemary Rawlins
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“Learning by Accident is an amazing love story, brain injury story, family story, and inspirational story all in one. The Rawlins’ difficult journey will leave you realizing that anything is possible if you have a strong family.”
– Jeff Ruskan, Chief Executive Officer
Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Virginia
“After more than 25 years working in brain injury as an Occupational Therapist, and as much as I know about its aftermath, Learning by Accident provided me with a much richer understanding of the emotional devastation it causes. This book will make you cry, laugh, give thanks, and believe in the power of love.”
– Anne McDonnell, Executive Director,
The Brain Injury Association of Virginia