Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury

Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury

Speechless, enlightened, pensive, inspired… these are but a few of the emotions I feel upon closing the last page of Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury.  Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie,  a mother of 8 children, pours out her heart in a memoir revealing her raw emotions and her family’s fight to bring back their son, Paul, to his former self. Read our interview with Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie here.

This amazing story of survival starts with her 13 year old son’s traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he was involved in a car accident while riding his bike; he was not wearing a bike helmet. The severe trauma to his head leaves Paul clinging to life, two months in a coma followed by almost five months in a rehabilitation hospital. Dixie continues her account by bringing us into her home to witness the years of gruelling out-patient therapies. We witness how her family moves on and the lessons learned from this life changing experience as Paul’s sibling go out into the world.

Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury is an open book to a mom’s heart.  The author lets us in her most private thoughts; we feel her fear, her anger, and her interior struggle with God’s will about life or death. Above all we  learn valuable lessons we can store to bring out when our lives are shattered. The reader should never take life for granted after reading Unthinkable.  The accident is not the story, the aftermath to it is. And what a story!

Feeling helpless and powerless, Paul’s parents sit in shifts next to their comatose child. Their hearts  are divided  and shattered, as they try to keep their home life stable and have one parent around the clock at their son’s bedside. On Paul’s fourth day in the hospital, still not knowing if he would live, Dixie started a journal. If her son woke from his coma, he most likely would have amnesia; therefore, this journal would preserve Paul’s survival. For Dixie, the journal gave her a daily distraction and a way to express her innermost thoughts and emotions. For the reader, this journal is “the fly on the wall” as she documents the most private thoughts of a mom who realizes their lives will never be normal again.

Unthinkable should be read by health professionals so they know how the family members of their patients feel and how they could alleviate some of their worries. Family and friends will read suggestions on how best to help others going through difficult times in their lives.

All parents will value this story showing the “power of the family” and how we should make every day count. Unthinkable is a called a Caregiver’s Companion. Parents of special needs children, be it the result of accidents, birth defects or child hood diseases, will treasure Unthinkable as their how-to-survival guide. Each chapter ends with bulleted format Tips on navigating the hospital routines, treatments, meetings, transition to rehab, transition to homecare, setting up an education program, and most of all how to care for yourself so you can continue to care for others that rely on you.

Parents going through hardships and coping with the various emotions this brings will be able to relate to how Dixie felt. They will feel they are not alone when they find themselves:

  •  Being lonely in the midst of the hospital bustle.
  •  Feeling guilty about time spent away from the hospital.
  • Feeling guilty about the time spent away from the siblings at home.
  • Feeling nothing seemed important except their children and family.
  •  Feeling no joy or interest in food, entertainment, and the outside world.
  • Wondering what could they have done differently to prevent this illness, or accident.

Dixie writes, “…looking desperately for freedom from this prison we found ourselves in… I passed these depressing rooms knowing the sadness, despair, and grief that we all were experiencing, unable to remove the persistent misery and hopelessness that had caved and spun and weaved around us.”

Moreover, Unthinkable shows how, with patience, fortitude, and perseverance, we can transform our lives.

Paul was putting up a fight! Read about the many setbacks they had to conquer. The readers rejoice with the Coskie family with each milestone Paul achieved.  Amanda, the eldest child, explains how every day her family agonized as they watched Paul incrementally manage his condition. In that collision not only had Paul’s life been changed but the lives of six siblings and certainly the lives of Dixie and Steven. Read this book and its valuable lessons of love, family, and perseverance will stay with you.

Dixie Coskie’s book is rich in expressions and  profound lessons. Unthinkable MAKES you think. Makes you think of serious topics like euthanasia, your faith, and your relationships. Dixie shares:

  • “I did not want my son to die! But having him survive as a vegetable seemed inhumane, unthinkable, and cruel. … He would be spared a life of suffering, loss, and torture.”
  • “Paul’s eyes may have opened, but he is a captive inside his body, with no way to express anger, hurts, needs, or wishes… I’m afraid to believe and trust in God, the doctors, my husband.”
  • Once more in a life-and-death situation, we learn that Paul’s mom whispered in his ears, “Paul, you now have my permission if you see God’s face, to rest your head upon his heart; it’s okay, someday I will greet you in the heavens…
  • When thinking back to their wedding vows –“through sickness and in health, good times and bad”, the author points out, “Wanting to believe that love could conquer and prevail, I prayed that my Paul, my family, my marriage could survive the unexpected.”

Yes, not one family is immune from that one phone call that can change lives forever. It is impossible to shield our children from all suffering. Parents can be proactive and be present in the lives of their children but this does not guarantee a fairy-tale ending. The last pages of Dixie’s memoir leave us with more questions than answers. What does the future hold for Paul? How will the Coskie family deal with another life-threatening hardship? How long can hope and prayers push a family along to keep their spirits alive, their souls hopeful and their lives in motion?  What will happen now? Will this mom, now of eight, have the time and  courage to write a sequel? This story can’t be over; we have to know more about the last crises her family faces.

I recommend all parents to read Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury and remember  that bad things that happen to families are not the parent’s fault and like Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie wrote, “How you choose to react is the only thing that is in your power!”

About the Auhor

From Dixie’s site we learn, “Dixie attended Pine Manor College and has worked as a teacher’s aide at the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Deaf and at the Kennedy Day School in Brighton, Massachusetts working with emotionally challenged children. Dixie also currently works as a Personal Response Associate for a medical alert company, helping those in need. Dixie lives in Upton MA. with her husband and eight awesome children.”

Dixie is passionate about being a mother, writer, fundraiser, public speaker, and advocate for the disabled. She is not just the mother of eight children; she is also the mother of a child who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Dixie helps raise awareness and funds for traumatic brain injury through working with both national and local organizations, as well as through many charity events that help benefit children.

Dixie has become a writer of caregiving articles, both on the web and in health and medical-related magazines such as the Health Monitor. Dixie shares precious tips for other parents who face a traumatic injury or illness. She also provides caregivers support, resources and advice.

Follow Dixie Coskie:

Dixie Coskie, by popular demand, compiled the tips from her book Unthinkable, and published a booklet, Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury. This booklet of 94 pages gives both parents and healthcare professionals practical tips and tools to help them better navigate the doctor/nurse/therapist/patient relationship, and ultimately to cope and survive through TBI.



Buy Books by Dixie Coskie

  • Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury Amazon.com  Amazon.ca


  • Best Body/Health Book of the Year! Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury wins 2011
  • Reviewers Choice ~ Polka Dot Banner Award.
  • Unthinkable wins FIRST for the 2011 Reviewers Choice Award–Health/Fitness.
  • Unthinkable wins 2012 National Indie Excellence FINALIST Award – Health/General.
  • Unthinkable wins 2013 International Book FINALIST Award – Health/General!



This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.