Learning by Accident after Brain Injury

Learning by Accident


Rosemary Rawlins

 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.

Learning by Accident

By Rosemary Rawlins

To order your copy today, simply click here.






“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

9 responses to “Learning by Accident after Brain Injury”

  1. Leticia Vargas says:

    I am reading this book for the second time. The first time was a couple weeks after my brothers motorcycle accident. I’m re-reading it since we’re at the 4 month mark because it’s very tough being a caregiver for a TBI patient. I can relate to the book and it feels like I have someone going through it as I re-read. Thank you!

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  3. Annette White says:

    I met you in the bookstore in LR National Airport today. I am looking forward to reading your book.

  4. I am a facebook friend of Rosemary’s and would love a chance to talk to other wives too. My husband was hit by a DUI driver while jogging on the sidewalk. He has had a good recovery after a cranioatomy and cranioplasty, but the connection to other caregivers in our situation would be healing. My email is mphelps9@wi.rr.com.

  5. faith says:

    Your book points out in very real terms the need for persistent rehab in order to gain as much function as possible!

  6. Joan Enker says:

    I have been looking for a connection to other wives who have experienced and lived with the trauma of their husband’s having a TBI. My husband was hit by a truck while crossing a street, this summer and underwent neurosurgery July 4, 2011. His recovery has been nothing short of miraculous thus far. There are changes and struggles that I would like to be able to discuss with other wives and learn how they coped, what helped them, what failed them. I am looking forward to reading your book and learning from your experience.

  7. Nora says:

    My brother is in his 7th week of recovery from a TBI due to a motorcycle accident. My friend from work, Carol Grotheer, recommended your book. I am halfway through it, since starting it last night, and am amazed by the similarities of our experiences. From the physical effects on the victim and the emotional effects on the families and loved ones, you have written precisely the toll it takes on everyone. As difficult as it is to be living this nightmare right now, it is a comfort to know that others have been through it and we are not alone. Thank you!

  8. Rosemary Rawlins says:

    Thank you Janet! The response so far has been very encouraging. I appreciate your comment.

  9. Janet Cromer says:

    Hello Rosemary,
    Congratulations and thank you for writing a much-needed book. Your emphasis on the persistent secondary trauma that caregivers experience will be vital information to many families. Can’t wait to read the book!

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