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Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Diane Roberts Stoler, Ed.D., and Barbara Albers Hill 07/04/2015

If I were going to a desert island (to try to win a million dollars) and could only take one book about MS with me, this is the book I would take, and it isn’t even ABOUT MS. I’m going to review this wonderfully written and useful book by writing first about a subject that, in my experience, seems something of a taboo among many with MS….. brain dysfunction.

MS damages the central nervous system; the brain and spinal cord. If you have MS the chances are good that your brain has been affected…. not necessarily your mind, but, yes, your brain. The degree to which you experience this depends on where in the brain the damage has occurred. It also depends on whether the damage involves “eloquent” areas (i.e., those which express themselves, those you are aware of using.) In truth, we have more brain matter than we “need.” That’s why a person can drink alcohol, which destroys brain cells, and not experience immediate and profound mental retardation.

You may have many plaques or inflamed nerves in your brain without it affecting your life. Conversely, you may have one little plaque in a very eloquent area and find yourself very much affected.

This book was written for people who’ve suffered externally caused brain injury. But almost all of it is compellingly applicable to people with MS. For those who read helpful books about MS it covers some familiar territory— physical, mental and emotional issues raised by the need to cope with a neurological disorder. The advantage of THIS book over many specifically for MS is that this book was written by a health professional, a trained psychologist, who herself suffered mild brain trauma. So, not only did she understand an awful lot about brains to begin with, she then, to her misfortune, became her own laboratory for the study of how one copes with the result of such trauma. Consequently, she has written a book that is so carefully designed, well organized and simply presented that those of us with cognitive difficulties can actually read, understand, and, thus, benefit from it.

The first part of the book describes mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), and covers diagnosis and treatment approaches generally. This is the only part that a person with MS may not find applicable. It is, however, very simply written and explains much about how the brain works and responds to trauma. The next three parts cover physical, mental and emotional aspects of brain trauma. These parts are further broken-down into topics. For example, under Mental Aspects are included (among others) memory, reasoning, attention, and speech and language, all as separate chapters. Each of these chapters is outlined in exactly the same way. If you want a particular category of information you will find it, under a heading, in the same part of each chapter. For instance, say you want ideas for coping with a number of issues. Each chapter ends with a list of suggestions based on the topic covered. All you need do is page to the end of each chapter and there you will find your suggestions.

The book also includes vignettes about people coping with whatever topic is under discussion, as well as personal statements from Dr. Stoler as to her own experience with the topic. These ‘case studies’ are very readable and engaging. And if you want to skip them, and cut to the chase that is possible too, because Dr. Stoler has thoughtfully used spacing, type variation, and italics to separate the vignettes from her own meditations and both from the body of the text. This attention to the book’s appearance contributes a great deal to its accessibility. As MSWorld’s book-reviewer I have seen many ‘helpful’ books containing masses of closely typeset pages. I become exhausted merely looking at them. Anyone with problems of concentration or comprehension would take one look and say “faggedaboudit!” This book contains a lot of ‘hard science’, solid explanations for WHY symptoms occur along with very responsible suggestions for treatment. Many of the drugs discussed are also used by people with MS. Almost every one of the chapter topics has some applicability to MS. The suggestions are simple, convenient, and easy to incorporate. Both conventional and alternative approaches to symptom-management are covered. But because the book is simply written and the information presented in short, easy-to-read paragraphs, I had no trouble at all.

I also want to mention that Dr. Stoler’s empathy for those with brain dysfunction is very apparent in her writing. The book does more than inform, it comforts and strengthens. 
There are issues MS raises that could not be covered in this book. There are symptoms, not covered by Dr. Stoler, with which we people with MS cope. Chapters about those issues and symptoms as well organized and simply presented as those in this book would be welcome, indeed. I believe that the combination of her knowledge and her personal experience put Dr. Stoler in the position to make a unique and valuable contribution to the body of MS literature. It is my fervent wish that she and her co-author considered writing a book that is specifically about MS. But, since they have not, let me recommend “Coping With Mild Traumatic Brain Injury”. It is very worthwhile reading.

Reviewed by: DeanOP

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The book review represents the opinions of the writer only. You may have a different opinion when you read this book. Information shared here is not for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. For specific information and advice, consult your personal physician.

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