RSD in Me! by Barby Ingle

cover_design.frontRSD in Me! by Barby Ingle is a guide to Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and other chronic pain conditions. It is full of information and advice for patients with RSD and their caregivers—doctors, therapists, families, and friends. The author shares her personal experiences with RSD after a car accident in 2002. It affected all aspects of her life—from daily routines to her career to her marriage. She includes definitions, causes, and tips from a personal perspective.

The cover is simple, mirroring the format of the book itself. It’s just text on a background, leading the reader to focus on the content. The content itself is fairly straightforward. Ingle breaks down the complex medical disease into categories. She seems to write from her heart—including personal bits throughout. At the end of each chapter is a “recap” section that lists all the important bits. The format makes it easy to gleam pieces of information out of this dense work. RSD is not a straightforward disease because it can literally be caused by anything and have symptoms ranging from pain to depression.

Writing about a medical condition is not easy, especially when the author adds personal experiences. The reader should applaud Ingle’s emotional strength in sharing such a private journey with the world in order to help others suffering the same. That being said, it can sometimes be difficult to understand what Ingle is trying to explain. This could be due to the complexity of RSD itself, the vagueness of the medical terms, or the writing style. Readers dealing with RSD will appreciate their feeling being validated, and doctors may gain a deeper understanding of their patients, but someone who has not experienced RSD may walk away from this book more confused than when they started.

Ingle achieves her goal—to get knowledge of RSD out there, to show support for her fellow suffers, and to reach out to the medical community. RSD in Me! reads more like a textbook than a memoir. The general population of readers may have gotten more out of this work if it had included more personal experiences and if the medical side had been illustrated with examples.

Trigger by Susan Vaught

Trigger by Susan Vaught is a story narrated by Jersey Hatch, a high school senior who has suffered a brain injury and cannot remember the last year or so of his life.  His story begins as he is being released from Carter Brain Injury Center after nearly a year of therapy and rehabilitation. The subsequent tale is a jumble of words, thoughts, emotions, and relationships as Jersey tries to re-establish his identity and continue living his life.

Because Jersey is the one narrating the story, the reader only knows what Jersey knows as he figures it out.  In the first couple of chapters, the reader learns the details of Jersey’s situation.  As Jersey returns home from Carter with his parents, he shares numerous details about his new life.  The reader learns that he must keep a memory book with him so that he can write down ideas that he does not want to forget, that he doesn’t remember the year before his injury and almost a complete year after.  As a result of his brain injury, he has lost motor function in his left leg and arm as well as his eyesight on the right side.  In addition to the physical effects, he also seems to have no filter in his brain and he cannot help but say words that pop into his head – over and over again.  This repetition sometimes makes his conversations hard to follow.

The reader begins to feel sorry for Jersey because of all these hardships; however, as the car approaches his home, the reader learns a shocking fact: Jersey Hatch took his father’s gun and shot himself in the head.  The big mystery – he has no idea why.

Inside the house, the reader learns even more about the situation. Before, Jersey was on the football team, the golf team, an in ROTC. He had a best friend, wanted to be a lawyer, and got straight A’s.  Now, his best friend Todd hates him, his old friends are ignoring him, and his parents are acting strange.  The only two people who seem to accept the new Jersey are Leza, Todd’s younger sister, and Mama Rush, Todd’s grandmother.  As the novel continues, these two seem to be his only functional support.

Vaught has written an extremely poignant novel.  Throughout the entire novel, the reader is inside the head of a young man who decided to take his own life and is now attempting to rebuild it.  It is a novel that attempts to address the question of why anyone would decide to commit suicide and if there are any reasons that would bring closure for surviving loved ones? It is also a novel about moving forward after tragedy – how does one rebuild relationships, trust, and self after something so horrific?  There are times the reader will want to comfort Jersey and there are times when she will want to shake him and ask “why did you put your family and friends through this? Did you mean to be so selfish?”  This entire novel is intense: the emotions are intense, the ideas are intense, and the descriptions are extremely vivid.

Trigger

Susan Vaught

Copyright 2011