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Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath
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Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  656 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Head Cases takes us into the dark side of the brain in an astonishing sequence of stories, at once true and strange, from the world of brain damage. Michael Paul Mason is one of an elite group of experts who coordinate care in the complicated aftermath of tragic injuries that can last a lifetime. On the road with Mason, we encounter survivors of brain injuries as they stru ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published April 1st 2008)
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Aug 31, 2008 Joan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: members of my family; families of the brain-injured
Recommended to Joan by: NYT Book Review
Shelves: science
Each chapter in Head Cases is a vignette of a particular traumatic brain injury: the person before, the accident, the effects on the brain, the losses/changes, and the person's struggle to overcome/deal with those changes. The gist of the stories is that these are real people with real families and real struggles.

Several of the stories are not for the weak of heart and some are not for the weak of stomach. The hells in which some of the patients live made me doubt whether I could make it into Ch
This could have been a much better book. The author can write well and he had a plethora of cases to pick from. However, Mason couldn't decide if the book should be a compilation of case studies (which is what the title implies) or a memoir of his job as brain injury case manager. So he tries to do both and the results are very incomplete. In case after case, Mason gives a lot of details about a brain injury victim but then, suddenly, ends that chapter. The reader does not find out how the perso ...more
So after a year and a half we finally finished this book. I'm so glad not to have it listed under my "currenly reading" section anymore.

We read a this a few chapters at a time as part of the journal club we have at my work for our certified brain injury specialist program. This book is a collection of case histories of various people who have suffered brain injuries written by a brain injury case manager (whatever the hell that is!)

The book presents some interesting though harrowing stories of
The first thing I'll say about this book is that I expected it to be a good deal more clinical than it is, which for a lay reader like myself turned out to be an excellent thing.

Mason brings his cases to life for the reader with compassion and skill. I noticed another review that criticized the way in which the stories seemed to end abruptly, which I just don't understand. Human stories, epic, tragic, triumphant and ordinary, don't typically wrap up neatly. The fact that they don't conclude neat
What makes you get up in the morning? Sustain your job? Helps you breathe? Makes sure your heart beats every day? It's frightening to think how much the brain is responsible for (essentially everything in your body), yet its only protection is a few thin layers of membrane, fluid, and bone. A simple tap on the head in the wrong place can create damage that will change your life forever.

Mason, a brain injury case manager, tells the stories of several of his clients: how it happened, how they and
Michael Paul Mason shows the inner workings of and political red tape involved with brain injury care and rehabilitation in our country while introducing his readers to real-life people and their families whose lives have forever been derailed. This book is powerful and informative and infuriating all at once as the reader discovers how laws, insurance providers and institutional guidelines determine just how much a person will be allowed to recover from a brain injury. We live in a time of amaz ...more
This book gives back to a charity. It is difficult to understand a person with a brain injury and what life is like afterwards, and it is hard to put it into the words as easily as it is for this author. As a TBI patient, I was grateful for this book, and could relate. I highly recommed it for anyone who knows someone with a TBI.
Books Ring Mah Bell

A case manager for the brain injured shares his tough cases in this book. The main thing: we do not do enough for the survivors of brain injury. It's expensive, demanding, and challenging. Meanwhile, these people are living in a health care purgatory of sorts. Terribly sad.
Brains! I've worked with people who have brain injuries for 20 years and have never ceased to be amazed by ways we hurt ourselves and others, and more powerfully, how we heal from these injuries. This book was fascinating.

"A brain injury can shatter your notions of the future, splinter your past, and send your sense of time whirling in any number of directions. And that's just the beginning. A brain injury is never an isolated incident; it affects nearly everything associated with the survivor.
Anna Engel
[3.5 stars]

"Head Cases" was much less clinical than I expected. The book is a collection of anecdotes/case histories that help to humanize traumatic brain injuries for the reader. They're very well-written and interesting, but I've found it's better not to dwell on the possibility of someone I love suffering such an injury because there is so much due to chance -- a brain in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It's not an uplifting or optimistic book. The author points out many of the hardships th
I couldn't have different tastes from my mother in most things, books included. Her literary diet consists mainly of Chicken Soup for the Soul and self-help/inspirational non-fiction. She's also a chronic worrywart, and feeding into this is her taste for non-fiction dealing with medicine, disease, and mental health. Which brings us to "Head Cases," which I stumbled upon while visiting my parents in Amish Country.
"Head Cases" is a collection of anecdotes from Michael Paul Mason, a brain injury c
This was a quick read; Mason's tone was different than that of most non-fiction authors. I like to read the first few pages of a book before checking out the author's picture on the inside back flap; it's interesting to see how they compare to a quick mental picture that's created in the first few pages. With this book, I could tell right away the author was younger; not from any context clues, but just from his style. Which is intereting, since he comes across as almost weary; his work as a bra ...more
There's no doubt that Mason is indeed an elite figure in the field of neuroscience and brain injuries. His understanding of the human brain is phenomenal. What I liked about the book was that this understanding shone through Mason's voice, not through hard clumps of science-science-science. I was a bit dubious, I'll admit, buying this book because I knew so little about this field to begin with, but Mason's writing style is so well developed that it never became a problem at all. He writes this ...more

I found this book to be really interesting. The stories about the clients the author visited were compelling and I wanted to give this book 4 stars. However, I thought that the book jumped back and forth a little bit and it was too littered with famous quotations and anecdotes. I believe that the client stories themselves would have stood better on their own without the other items woven in. I also wish that the author would have provided the readers with some information about how the clients
A fascinating and varied, if depressing, read. Narrated by a Brain Injury Case Manager, Mason tells the hopeful and gritty stories of a variety of people with brain injury, who, thanks to American (lack of) healthcare, pretty much lead less than stellar lives or went through really terrible circumstances because of lack of appropriate care for people with brain injury. It talks about the problems at all levels of care, but the problem is most glaring in the post-acute and long-term care of the b ...more
MPM writes with an engaging blend of clinical and professional experience and enlightened personal insight. At once this book points to a glaring inadequacy in the healthcare system and medical practice and raises a rich variety of philosophical questions about the nature of identity, perception and our connections with the people we know and love.

It deserves criticism in that, yes, these stories are frightening and sad almost to an excess, and no, there isn't any explicit redemption for having
Rena Sherwood
One of my favorite painters is George Stubbs (hang on -- there's a point coming.) He did a series of paintings of a lion attacking a beautiful horse. These paintings of horse dying in a really EWWWW manner are set in gorgeous landscapes with butterfly-soft light.

Head Cases reminds me of these George Stubbs paintings. This is a gorgeously written book about one of the most horrible things to ever happen to a person or that person's family -- a traumatic brain injury. Highly recommended.
Although the author gives us all the details we brain injury voyeurs crave, he neglects to give conclusions to any of his mini snippets of the lives of the many people he talks about. I certainly didn't expect life long updates, but he seems to cut their stories short. It's very noticeable, and distracting.
The author writes by telling you a paragraph of the incident that caused the brain injury, and then a paragraph of the technical details of their brain injury and what's actually happening in
This book is a compilation of stories about different people who have brain damage. It's written by a guy who is a case manager, he goes around the country meeting people with brain injuries and damage from tumors and such to see if there are any programs out there to help them. For most there is nothing to be done for them, they aren't brain damaged enough, they don't have the right kind of brain damage, they are too high functioning, they have too many behavior problems associated with their b ...more
Very good look into the endless and diverse challenges that people with brain injuries endure. Something everyone should read because not enough people know about the severity and hardships that people suffer when struck with a TBI. More people than you think probably already have a brain injury, even if it's mild it will still effect their lives.
Head cases by Michael paul mason was a verry good nonfiction book about a verioty of brain injories tha the had stutyd. I feel that it was a verry good book wih alot of explanations to why and how people get brain indureies. it also explained how different indureies can effect peoples lives. He studies people who have disabilities that barraly affect there lives, yet other people who turn into veggitabels because of there indureies.

I think book can verry much relate to real life beucaus more tha
If you're looking for a group of short stories with uplifting endings, this is not the book for you. There are uplifting poignant moments in some of the stories. This is a book that chronicles the gamut of brain injuries and the reality of how devastating these injuries are to the patient, their family and friends. It also makes you realize the significant shortcomings of health insurance particularly with regards to Medicare and Medicaid. These shortcomings are not just limited to the US either ...more
Favorite tidbits:

Forgetting is hell, forgetting is heaven.

Ounce for ounce, a walnut enjoys more protection than the human brain.

Although I don't find myself agreeing with him too often, Satan has an undeniably intuitive grasp of the human condition. After a humiliating fall from grace in Paradise Lost, he finds himself unable to fly out of hell - it follows him wherever he goes. Bereft and exasperated, he concludes, "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of h
Pr Latta
Jun 30, 2014 Pr Latta rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Pr by: Review of Where is the Mango Princess
Read as my son with a TBI was finishing up outpatient rehab and heading back to college. Sobering. It might have been devastating had I read it earlier in my son's recovery. This is series of essays, each featuring a separate individual with a brain injury. Woven among the life histories are such topics as seizures,suicide, safety equipment development, grief, TBI organizations and advocacy, how location plays a role in one's options, violence, the advancements prompted by the military's experie ...more
Yes. It is every bit as horrifying and depressing as the title suggests. It is also one of the most fluid and poetic books I have read in a really long time. Perhaps that is a testament to the skills and insights of the author, and perhaps it is just the place you 'go to' when you are reading about something like a brain injury. You have to stop thinking while you are reading it.

It is absolutely freaky how fragile we really are -- reading the book makes you realize that so much of what we think
Mr. Roboto
Aug 01, 2008 Mr. Roboto rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in people's personal histories
Recommended to Mr. Roboto by: Hyattsville Public Library
I'm really enjoying this book so far. This author feels like a hybrid of Oliver Sacks and Bill Hayes, two of my favorite science writers. Each chapter in Head Cases features the story of injury, survival, and coping of persons with traumatic brain injuries. I'm reminded yet again why I wouldn't mind going back to school to study neuroscience.

I finished it. Swallowed the book nearly whole. The author is so gifted when it comes to creating a human portrait in writing. I applaud him for be
This book is eye-opening. And difficult. I expected it to be about the biology of head injuries - you know, different parts of the brain and how injuries to the different areas cause different symptoms and how the plasticity of the brain works to bring back unexpected functionality. That stuff is fascinating to me. However, this is about the effects of brain injuries on the victims' lives and their families. This book taught me that there are very few resources for rehabilitation and recovery fo ...more
Wow, this was too depressing to finish...I read the first few case histories and just couldn't read any more. A snowboarder who banged his head in a fall, began experiencing seizures, and now has up to a hundred seizures a day, completely destroying any chance for him to lead a normal life. A woman brain-injured in a car crash that killed her young daughter; she lost her memory permanently, can't remember anything more than a few minutes; her husband in despair over this person who doesn't know ...more
I gained a few insights reading this. There is an interesting chapter about TBI triage in Iraq. Page 212 discusses who we are spiritually as opposed to the brain that gives us abilities and personality. Pg.213 - Zen Buddhism and The Gateless Gate written in the 13th century by the Chinese monk Mumon "is one of the world's most enigmatic and profound sacred texts." It contains koans which relate encounters between monks and Zen masters. The koans are studied in search of enlightenment. Also inter ...more
I struggled as to whether to give this book three or four stars. It offers stories of a variety of people suffering from brain injury written from the perspective of the author, a brain injury case manager. I was a little put off by the disgruntled attitude that the author seems to have towards doctors and he also seemed jaded and hopeless regarding his work. Fortunately it was pretty easy to look over those things and focus on the informativeness of the book and the issues it raises concerning ...more
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Bookstore Event in NYC on April 9th 1 12 Apr 04, 2008 09:43AM  
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