Life with Gusto after Brain Injury

Professor Cromer Learns to Read: A Couple’s New Life after Brain Injury

By Janet M. Cromer

This book chronicles the seven year journey Janet shared with her husband after a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest left Alan with a severe anoxic brain injury. In an instant, the brilliant physics professor and prolific author lost his abilities to read, write, walk, talk, think, and remember. With intensive rehabilitation and ongoing cognitive rehab with janet at home, Alan did regain his essential abilities to varying degrees. 

In a memoir brimming with information, Janet describes how the couple composed a new life with meaning and gusto. While a full recovery was not possible, Alan made an equally valuable “Best Choice Recovery” by making the most of every opportunity to learn, contributing to others, and finding new ways to enjoy life.

The story is told from both Alan’s perspective, and Janet’s perspective as his caregiver. She honestly explores the changes in their relationship, ambiguous  loss and grief, caregiver stress, and the process of empowerment and reinvention. The challenges faced and coping strategies shared are relevant to families of adult survivors of all types of brain injury.

About the Author:

Janet M. Cromer is a psychiatric RN, licensed psychotherapist, support group facilitator, educator, and advocate. She speaks widely at conferences, hospitals, support groups, and community events. 

As a freelance writer, Janet specializes in feature articles for publications serving healthcare professionals, patients, and the public. The American Medical Writers Association/NE Chapter awarded Janet a Solimene Award for Excellence in Medical Writing in 2006 and 2008.

Janet also writes personal essays and poetry. As a Registered Art Therapist (ATR), she encourages people to get in touch with their creativity in any form or media. Creativity is much more than an artistic process and product. Creativity is the energy, goodwill, and attitude we bring to daily life.

You may  contact Janet at or visit her web site at


Professor Cromer Learns To ReadProfessor Cromer Learns to Read: A Couple’s New Life after Brain Injury

By Janet M. Cromer

Professor Cromer Learns to Read: A Couple’s New Life after Brain Injury is the recipient of a Solimene Award for Excellence in Medical Communication and Neal Duane Award of Distinction from the American Medical Writers Association – NE Chapter.

To order, click here!

20 responses to “Life with Gusto after Brain Injury”

  1. Erica says:

    Hello I am a significant other to a 48 yr old male that suffered cardiac arrest with an anoxic brain injury. It has been a long hard battle for 90 days. There has been no encouragement or change by the hospital and we’re demanding to take him off life support within one week of hospitalization for organ donation with NO chance of purpose or coming out of ICU. Within 2 weeks he was “awake” off ventilator,gag/cough reflex, painful stimuli, pupils reactive to light and responding to my voice. Never have I felt the hospital to be supportive of any progress he has shown and have just left him to pass. He aspirated in Dec and Nguyen tube feeds and hydration were stopped. With a court order fluids were given back 2 WEEKS LATER STILL NO FOOD. In 4 days he will be 4 weeks without food. Please any help is greatly appreciated. He is a fighter with a strong will to survive please help in Spokane.

  2. Theresa Gail Rehfeld says:

    Hi Janet,i was wondering if you can help me? Im in su h desperate need of guidance

  3. Homepage says:

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  4. Rebecca says:

    My husband suffered cardiac arrest and an anoxic brain injury two months ago. After a month-long coma, he is now in Rehab and making strides that doctors all but said were impossible. It will be a long slow recovery process, but I am growing increasingly optimistic about what is possible. The extra therapy i invent based on what he loves to do is so important to his recovery, at least as important as the therapy from the truly talented and devoted experts we are fortunate to gave working with us, Because I know him so well, I often have better insight about what will spark his brain. just ordered your book. I hope to learn from you.

  5. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Shirley,

    I’m sorry that your father and family are going through such a terrible time. You are doing so much for your father, without guidance or direction from professionals. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) might be able to do a consultation at the nursing home and share ideas with family and staff for how to help your father swallow more safely. With intensive rehab,Alan made progress in his recovery for about three years. Then the brain injury contributed to Parkinson’s disease and dementia, so he slowly lost those gains. Alan lived for seven years after his heart attack and brain injury. He died of heart failure in 2009. i agree that hypoxic/anoxic brain injury does not receive the attention or funding that TBI does. I’m writing an article about hypoxic brain injury for the summer issue of Brain Injury Journey magazine I’m looking for experts to interview, and hope to stimulate discussion of our issues.

  6. Shirley Nadeau says:

    My Father suffered heart failure which resulted in severe anoxic brain injury. The doctors wanted us to pull the plug but we refused. We began to give him range of motion right away. He seems to be blind but does open his eyes and moves his head. He tries to move his body but seems to have little motor control. The hospital and rest home refuses to give him physical therapy so we have been training him to swallow and eat. He is moving his mouth a lot but we have no one to help us train him to eat. My father has responded to us (very slowly) but at times he doesn’t seem to be able to. It’s a frustrating diagnosis because no one seems to know much about it and the doctors just simply give up on these people. It’s VERY sad. We need to band together and get some legislation to protect our precious loved one. Please email me if you want to talk about your experience. My email is

  7. Christine says:

    My four year old nephew was pinned under a tree after hurricane Sandy. He was pinned under the tree for at least twenty five minutes and was without a heartbeat when the tree was finally lifted. He was without oxygen for over thirty minutes and now has severe anoxic brain injury. The boy we knew is gone but he’s still with us. While o ur doctors have no hope we continue to fight for his recovery and we hope a miracle. I plan to purchase your book in hopes that I will find it useful. My question to you is what do you believe helped your husband, did you research in books as I’m doing along with doctors advice? Any advice you have is greatly appreciated. Thank you

  8. Isabel says:

    Hi my brother has anoxic brain injury he has been like this for 7 months not and from being stiff and not moving he is now begging to move and he tryed to focus.what can we do as a family to help him?

  9. Janet Cromer says:

    Hello Nita,
    You are taking so many positive approaches to connect with your husband and keep his brain stimulated and his heart soothed by your presence. The early months are terrifying, and it’s very hard for doctors to make an accurate prediction about a person’s recovery. Alan was fortunate to receive 3 months of excellent in-patient rehab. That made a huge difference. We continued doing cognitive rehab at home for years, and he made progress in specific language and thinking skills for 3 years. He remained a man with a severe brain injury, yet he usually considered his quality of life to be pretty good. The brain injury changed his personality and abilities, and we eventually made a new marriage to accommodate that.It was often difficult, yet worthwhile to give Alan the best life he could have.

  10. Janet Cromer says:

    Hello Joann,
    I’m so sorry about the tragedy and stress your family has endured. Many public libraries carry my book, so you might be able to get a copy through your library. Have you contacted your state Brain Injury Association for resources? They will also have a list of free support groups for families. The local hospital or community mental health center may have a therapist who could help with the children.

  11. joann ekdahl says:

    I wish i could afford to get your book My daughter 32 suffered a cardiac arrest and anoxic brain injury in October and boy what a change in our lives. She lives with us now and we have her two children but with no financial help or help with her care,our resourses are challenged. Friends and family dont understand about the event and all the changes. Her children have a hard time. It is nice to know other people have lived through this and can give pointers.

  12. Nita Shaw says:

    On March 24, 2011 my husband had a massive heart attack and was left with an anoxic brain injury. If left to physicians, they would have pulled the plug 7 weeks ago. We have a friend who teaches a class at UT Austin in brain injury. We keep him stimulated with reading, singing, talking, music. I see minor improvements and he continues to respond to new stimuli. He is definitely aware of my presence. He smiles, grimaces, responds to pain stimuli, shows emotion, is beginning to show eye movement.

    The pathway has been tough and while I have considered the possibility that I might need to let go, my faith in God tells me to hold on. I look forward to your reply. Thank you for your book which I plan to order.

  13. Janet Cromer says:

    Hello Tarveen,
    I’m so sorry that you and your husband have gone through such a rough time. Alan and I worked together every day for seven years on specific skills and activities that interested him. We had to pick just a few areas since he needed intense concentration and repetition for each task. We had to learn to be realistic about our expectations, even while hoping for good progress. Alan was eventually able to ‘think for himself’ about opinions and basic problem solving. However, he was never able to be completely responsible for his own safety due to memory impairment and poor judgment. There is a lot of specific information in my book and on my website, You can also email me at staff at your husband’s nursing home can share some ways in which you can practice communication strategies together.

  14. Tarveen Thadani says:

    Dear Janet,

    I just stumbled upon your book (on this website, have not bought it yet) and there are many similarities between your and my situation. My husband, 5 years ago had a cardiac arrest at home and has severe brain injury. He cannot read, write or recognize faces and objects. Although after extensive therapies in Holland, India and US he is able to walk and talk but requires 24 hr care and so is currently residing in a nursing home.

    I would like to know from you what strategies you used to help your husband to “think” for himself and make some strides into his own progress together with your support. I am at a loss and lost hope. Yes, I do believe in miracles and think that I shall receive a signal of when I need to dive into and dedicate time to his care.

    Thank you,

  15. Janet Cromer says:

    Thank you to Lash & Associates for the opportunity to write a weekly article for the Brain Injury Blog Postings section. I’m joining a fine group of writers who are all experts by experience. Please check out the range of viewpoints and interests.

  16. Dear Janet, my husband Bill has also lost his ability to read, and now almost 5 years into the TBI, we are being told he is at baseline and I should begin to look after myself, and basically I think don’t expect more from him. It does not appear to be in my nature.

    I will order your book and hope to read it to Bill. He will relate to your husband’s story, and we will both relate to yours. Caregiving and love go hand in hand. I do hope to hear from you all as well. I agree with your statement Janet, we all have so much to learn from each other. Thank you, Ginger

  17. Trina,

    We will call you this week and see how we can help you.

  18. Trina says:

    I would like to talk to you. I am in need of help with my husband. We are going through the same thing. I need some answers. please call anytime

  19. Mary Ann Ozug says:

    Nearly twelve years ago, at age 47, my husband suffered cardiac arrest. Since that day he has been living with an anoxic brain injury and I have been his primary caregiver. When I heard about Janet Cromer’s book, I was reluctant to read it because I was afraid that it would be too depressing. That was not the case. Her book made me laugh, cry and most importantly, learn. She has an amazing ability of telling a compelling story while at the same time sharing important medical facts and information. Reading this book left me with a feeling of enlightenment. I have shared the book with many family members and friends with the hope that they may be able to better understand what our life has become since my husband’s acquired brain injury. I truly believe that it is a must read for anyone who is a caregiver for a loved one with a chronic disease, as well as his or her family and friends. Thank you Janet for writing this wonderful book.
    Mary Ann Ozug

  20. Janet Cromer says:

    I am looking forward to hearing from readers about their experiences and their thoughts about Professor Cromer Learns to Read. We all have so much to learn from each other! Thank you.
    Janet Cromer

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