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Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver's Tale

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  86 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Donna called 9-1-1. David slipped into a coma. At that moment, Donna was thrust onto the path of caregiver for her best friend and the love of her life. In her debut memoir, Donna shares how a neurosurgeon said that David would make a "great organ donor." She writes of arrogant doctors, uncaring visitors, insensitive ambulance drivers, and problematic nurses. She also tell ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published November 1st 2018 by WriteLife Publishing
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Average rating 4.52  · 
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Patti McLaughlin Jugenheimer
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Prisoners Without Bars is a heartwarming and inspiring true love story depicting the life of a wife who never gives up hope and fights for her husband's recovery after his traumatic brain injury. Once I started to read it, I couldn't put it down. It would be a wonderful gift for yourself or for anyone you know that is a caregiver. ...more
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had read the ARC of this book, and I am acquainted with Donna and David... but I read the final version even though I know how the story ends. It was still compelling and still held my interest and made me want to read ahead to find out what happens next. It was well paced. It is a story about traumatic brain injury, and a story about being a caregiver, but most of all it is a love story. Donna's strength and determination were amazing - she was a powerful advocate for David. I normally don't ...more
Angelle Barbazon
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You don't have to look far to find someone who is a caregiver, or has at least taken on that role at some point in their life. Donna O'Donnell Figurski is one of them. She was unexpectedly thrust into the position of a caregiver for her husband, David, when he suffered from a traumatic brain injury and never fully recovered. In Prisoners Without Bars, Donna walks readers through her personal journey, the triumphs and the tragedies. Her experience is a true testament to the strength and resilienc ...more
Marissa DeCuir
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I want to be best friends with Donna. In the midst of tragedy, she stands firm in what she believes and loves. She also isn't afraid to tell it like it is and have an adventure now and again (who says you can't go out and get a tattoo when you become a caregiver?). She's optimistic, resilient, and the kind of person you hope you'll get to meet one day. I loved getting to know her through this memoir! ...more
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am inspired and amazed by Donna's story. In the face of trauma and having to suddenly step into the role of caregiver, she is courageous! Prisoners without Bars does not sugar coat the role of caregiver but provides an encouraging tale of how to thrive through trauma. Not cope, not survive, but THRIVE! It's a book that will make you think from a new perspective and make you a better person for having read it. ...more
Lauren A.
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
WOW, talk about a couple to root for. When her husband David suffers a sudden and traumatic brain injury, Donna has to step into a caregiver role with no prior experience. The love Donna and David have for each other is inspiring and beautiful. Together, they overcome so much and will truly make you believe in the power of love.
Books Forward
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you're like me and you've ever had a family member who has gone through a medical struggle and requires a caregiver, you'll find a new appreciation and outlook from "Prisoners Without Bars." The author doesn't shy away from how hard it is, but she also shows triumph and hope in the midst of suffering. I would highly recommend this book to anyone! ...more
Nina Norstrom
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘Tis a memoir about two people and their lives. Let’s call them the “Extraordinaires.”

A lot of wonderful feedback has already been provided about this story. That’s a great thing!
And it proves my selection choice for this read was right on! I just love a good “show me” non-fiction story; especially, when seeing its characters and scenes come alive. This form of writing broadens one’s insight into another’s journey.
After reading this book, I learned a lot about the Figurski family (a.k.a the Ex
Saul J Silverstein
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In Prisoners without Bars, Donna O’Donnell Figurski regales the reader with the truth about traumatic brain injuries. Donna and David, married and in love, awake to the horror of David suffering from blinding pain after his morning exercises. Donna makes the call to 911 and enters the reality of what it means to have your way of life taken from you in a moment.

This is a story about their unremitting love, learning to cope with tragedy, and fighting to carry on their lives together. Here Donna a
A caregiver is a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a young child, disabled individual, someone dealing with an illness or an elderly individual. Most of the time a caregiver is a family member who must make radical changes in their own lives in order to care for their loved one. Donna's husband, an incredibly active and healthy man, suffered a traumatic brain injury one morning and both of their lives changed forever. While Donna's husband became a prisoner of his own body ( ...more
Connie Gonski
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very moving account of how life can change overnight, and the struggles to get the proper care.
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal story of love, determination and an acceptance of a new life. A must read for anyone going through a medical trauma that changes everything about who you were. This is about finding meaning where you are now.
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Prisoners without Bars author, Donna O’Donnell Figurski, unabashedly asks, “How was my vibrant, so-smart husband reduced to this?” when her husband, a respected Columbia professor with a PhD in molecular biology, struggled with the simplest of daily activities after his cerebellar hemorrhage. Her book is a testament to the importance of patient advocacy after brain injury, and their story of reinvention and resilience is a testament to the healing power of love.
Daniel H.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable accounting of a catastrophe. The story shows how a traumatic brain injury changed the trajectory of the lives of two astonishing people: David Figurski, a world-renowned scientist, and Donna O’Donnell Figurski, a nationally recognized teacher and author—and David’s wife. In this time of turmoil and suspicion, this book describes the generosity of spirit that defines us as human. Why is it that David and Donna received such universal support from family; bureaucracies, like H ...more
Yvette Robinson
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have just finished reading this insightful book. It is about a couple and the after effects they both go through when, the husband, David suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury.

My partner recently underwent open heart surgery and when, the wife, Donna expressed her anxiety whilst waiting during the operation and all those negative thoughts. I too had experienced those thoughts. I called to check on my partner and his op was also much longer than anticipated. Her words brought back those feelings and
Emma Filbrun
Jun 12, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-review-2021
Traumatic brain injury. It's something I have had no experience with personally, but I know a woman whose husband has experienced it. Also, my daughter has been a caregiver to a young person with a degenerative disease, who is also a “Prisoner Without Bars.” I found this book very interesting, as Donna told her story about her husband's brain injury and the resulting on-going challenges they face as a result. I greatly admire her faithfulness in caring for him and supporting him through everythi ...more
Jared Figurski
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When anyone is faced with an extreme medical emergency there is a great sense of hopelessness. They feel as though they are alone and are afraid of what the future may hold. At times like these a book like "Prisoners Without Bars" is worth its weight in gold. Throughout the tragedy that she and her husband David survived, Donna managed to document her experiences in great detail. Her account of the tragedy, the medical response, the long journey toward recovery and the saga of caregiving is sple ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title is a true statement about caregiving. The author did not seem to be tied to caregiving as many people truly are. Some of us did not have much help and did not have any outside life. She may have been bound more than in her usual previous life, but I know many who have taken care of others who dare not leave their house to go to church, grocery or visit anyone. These are true prisoners. Many cannot hire help or have family or friends to step in and help. I do not deny that she had a rea ...more
Steven Thau
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Only someone who has been on this journey could ever begin to understand that, with all the pain, we are still so very grateful for our new life. Donna O’Donnell Figurski tells her story of grace, love, frustration, anger, disappointment, strength, joy, and above all hope. I believe Donna and David’s beautiful, painful, and inspiring story will bring comfort, insight, and the hope that all does not have to be lost, even for a prisoner without bars and the person who loves him or her.

Judy, careg
Lisabeth Mackall
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I feel that Donna and David’s story reflects the heart of what many families experience during a critical, life-altering event. Stories such as theirs help others facing these events to better understand that life can go on - be it a new and different life - but you can move forward.

Lisabeth Mackall, MS CCC-SLP, caregiver for her husband, Frank Mackall, former police officer who suffered a brain injury in the line of duty; speech pathologist; author of 27 Miles: The Tank’s Journey Home and upco
Lynn McLaughlin
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Prisoners Without Bars is a beautiful and inspiring book. The author becomes her husband's caregiver when, in a moment of time, life changes dramatically. She is courageous, loyal and driven ... always by what is best for him at each fork in the road of survival and recovery. This story is a genuine one - the strength of a family, friends and a support network. As I read, I remained in awe of both the author and her husband's (the patient) strength, love and resiliency. A MUST READ! ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I share a similar story and it was so inspirational to read about David and Donna’s story, knowing we aren’t alone. To me, this book is about survival but more importantly LOVE. Donna has a knack for writing in such a way that you feel like you are right there with them. I’m amazed by David’s progress. I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for inspiration or just information from someone who has had to care for the love of her life!
Anna Marie
DNF. Just like reading a stranger's diary where you don't really care what happens to her because she's a stranger. The author said she was happy she had written emails to family during her husband's hospitalization and rehab for his TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) because she could then remember all the details of her experiences. Trouble was too many details, took too long for the story to go anywhere and didn't really have an ending because recovery after 13 years is still ongoing. ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A story of how one couple's life turned upside down with TBI and took several twists and turns...ultimately landing at their new normal. Donna shares how it happened and how they coped. I appreciate how she found help from her children and professionals so that she could continue her own passion of writing. ...more
Diane Secchiaroli

Interesting book about a prominent professor at Columbia who suffers a TBI. The book chronicles his wife’s journey from beginning to 12 years later. The book also has a section written by David, her husband. Must read for caregivers of TBI patients.
Lori O. Bennett
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Sickness and Health

Prisoner without Bars is a wonderful testament to never-ending love, dedication, patience and perseverance. So happy that David and Donna's difficult and long journey to their "new normal" has a happy ending! Will certainly recommend this book!
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Deeply personal & moving account of two lives completely changed by a TBI. Donna & David are amazing people & prove that love is the greatest healer of all.
Christine Cazeneuve
A true story of love

A must read for any caregivers regardless of the reason. Gave me inspiration for what I am personally dealing with. Thank you both for sharing your story.
Hayley Katzenstein
Too many exclamation points
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book chronicling the events of a couple very much in love who endure the trials and tribulations of a TBI. Also some cute and funny moments that prove that humor can help get you through the tough moments. This book is a nice easy read and would definitely be a help and encouragement for any caregiver. Totally enjoyed and would recommend this book!
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