Readers to our Author Interview Series are in for a treat. Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie, award winning author of Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury has agreed to make time and let you in her world. Who is she? On her site, readers learn Dixie Coskie is passionate about being a mother, writer, fundraiser, public speaker, and advocate for the disabled. She is not just the mother of 8 children, she is a mom holding her family together after one child suffered a traumatic brain injury. After having read her memoir and been thoroughly touched by it, I really want you to get to know this remarkable mom and her story too. Read the review of her book here.
Lorna: Welcome to our Special Needs Book Review site. Many people can classify their lives with “Before” and “After” events. What are the most remarkable changes in your lives since your 13 year old son’s traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he was involved in a car accident while riding his bike?
Dixie Coskie>> Well…traumatic brain injury does not just affect its victims; it changes entire families. It’s easy to see that the course of Paul’s life was changed after he sustained a TBI, but what often gets overlooked during the immediate chaos of a traumatic brain injury and the extended recovery process is how it changes every member of a family.
Suddenly our marriage, our jobs, and our family life was put on hold— and no matter how hard my husband and I tried to not be completely preoccupied with Paul and our circumstances, I know that at times Paul’s seven siblings felt isolated or resentful because they may have perceived that they were abandoned, unloved or even rejected. So on top of taking care of Paul and all his needs, we were dealing with our other children’s emotions, worries, and heartache as they tried to accept the realization first, that recovery from a traumatic brain injury could be a lifelong process, and second, that there was a possibility the brother they once knew might never be returned to them.
I wished I could have shielded the burden, the emotional suffering, and the ripple effects that TBI inflicted on my children, but I couldn’t. …In the last chapter of my book Unthinkable, each of my children share their thoughts and experience with how they coped to whatever degree with Paul’s traumatic brain injury. This special chapter gives great insight into the hearts and minds of my children, who were 6 to 16 years old at the time of the accident, when they were suddenly thrown into a world of very adult issues and adult stresses. My then 16-year-old daughter appeared depressed, crying without warning; she was unable to concentrate on her schoolwork and alienated herself from peers. My 15-year-old daughter became quiet and fearful about everything and starting having anxiety attacks. My 12-year-old daughter needed to be in control of something—and stopped eating. My 9-year-old daughter was scared, not wanting to go to school or even to leave my side, her stomach always hurting. My 7-year-old son complained about being the only boy in the house; demanding to be heard, he started acting out. My youngest at the time, my 6-year-old little girl spent most of her days crying in the school nurse’s office, missing any sense of family and daily normalcy.
But I’m here to tell you today that although first shocked with horror and despair after Paul’s traumatic brain injury, every member of my family did eventually grow to find hope, healing, and even greater love.
Lorna: You went from writing a journal at your son’s hospital bedside to writing a book. It seems a great undertaking. What motivated you, who encouraged you, and helped you to expend all this effort to put your story in print?
Dixie Coskie>> You can’t console a parent in crisis: the numbness that comes with trauma coats everything. And yet, reflecting on the images of my son Paul lying in a coma, the only noise from the ventilator to aid his labored breathing, I remember when the chilling realization hit me: even if he did survive, he possibly could be deformed, handicapped or impaired. During the early stages after the crash (Paul was involved in a car accident while riding his bike; he was not wearing a bike helmet and suffered severe trauma to his head), I was in shock and needed information on traumatic brain injury and a guide to help me through our grief — I did not find such a tool or book…A year after my sons injury I went back over my journal and new it could help another parent in crisis, –thus Unthinkable was created.
Unthinkable offers more than just another account of a harrowing personal journey. I’ve included numerous ready to use specific tips for the parents/caregivers of children with traumatic brain injury or other serious conditions, as well as practical strategies with suggestions for ways to deal with a medical crisis, ways to cope, and ways to help others facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Unthinkable gives inspirational as well as practical advice; it will ensure better support and help make a stressful, emotional time much easier for everyone. New caregivers need to be aware and informed and have answers to their many questions such as: What should I be doing in the emergency room? How can I find my way through the medical world? How do I transition my child from the intensive care unit to the rehabilitation hospital, then home? How can I best help my child? Are my feelings of anger, denial, and grief normal? What will it be like once my disabled child is home? What can I do to integrate my child back into the school system? How will my marriage or other children survive?… My heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story answers these questions intimately, directly, with sincerity.
Lorna: Now you have a second book out. Tell us about Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury: Brain Injury Survival Tips for Parents, Caregivers, Friends & Health Care Professionals.
Dixie Coskie>> My first book Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury is a memoir and narrative of my son’s first year of recovery from a traumatic brain injury. Though this memoir is seen through a mother’s perspective, it encompasses a large family. It shares how we all were coping through a horrific personal tragedy, while at the same time watching the Twin Towers in New York City fall to the ground. Our story shows how our marriage, family, and world were broken and ultimately made stronger. At the end of each chapter, I share in a bulleted format the tips and tools our family used ultimately to cope and survive during each phase of healing.
Dixie Coskie>> Well, every brain injury is unique, depending on the specific circumstances and severity of the injury, and the need for immediate and long-term medical care, rehabilitation services, and the individual patient and family’s situation, so each TBI patient and family may experience similarities in the healing process, but ultimately, they will have their own journey, recovery, and experiences through TBI. My first book chronicles “our” story of hope and survival throughout the first year of recovery after our son sustained a TBI. What is special about my second book, in Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury is that it is just the tips chapters from my first book which have been extracted and are now in a format all their own without my emotional story attached; but with the lessons learned on how to survive a child’s traumatic brain injury from a mother who has been there. Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury is universal in its message to help guide another parent/caregiver through a child’s TBI and is a quick, easy read in a bulleted format geared for someone in the midst of tragedy, sharing a mother’s knowledge and experience from surviving this tragedy. There are also blank pages at the end of the book so readers can begin to write their own notes, their own story of survival and perseverance.
Lorna: The last pages of Unthinkable: A Mother’s Tragedy, Terror and Triumph through a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury leave us with more questions than answers. I asked myself, “How long can hope and prayers push this family along to keep their spirits alive, their souls hopeful and their lives in motion. 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.” Can you tell us if there is a third book in the near future?
Dixie Coskie>> Sadly, I have come to find that when parents are suddenly thrown into a catastrophic situation—such as being told that their child has been born with a significant birth defect, or has been severely injured, or has been diagnosed with a life-changing or life-threatening disease—they all experience the same universal emotions: fear, grief, helplessness, and hopelessness. What every parent in these situations craves is HOPE. Hope that their child will survive. Hope that their child will not suffer. Hope that their child will get better and have a meaningful and happy life.
I will keep writing and sharing my family’s experiences, because childhood cancer is a different beast from traumatic brain injury and its horrors too deserve to be brought to the forefront, exposed. I would not wish cancer or head injury on anyone. Both kill or mangle and shatter lives.
I have come to see that death is not the worst thing that could happen. Perhaps, the ultimate loss would be… to lose our souls while still living. To give up on God, ourselves, our world.
My family chose to react to our situation with a sense of faith, hope, patience, and a lot of love, humor, and passion. Those of us who have had a brush with death realize more deeply how fleeting life is. Make it great! Tell others often how much you love them and try never to take any one for granted.
Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie
Lorna: For a family to survive and go on after a terrible event, they seem to be the ones who can see a “silver lining” in all of this or the ones who can take that terrible event and make something positive out of it. Does this apply to your family?
Dixie Coskie>> The reality is…every brain injury and recovery and every family’s experience with traumatic brain injury will be unique, depending on the specific circumstances and individual patient. HOW YOU CHOOSE TO REACT IS THE ONLY THING THAT IS IN YOUR POWER! My family chose to react to our situation with a sense of faith, hope, patience, and a lot of love, humor, and passion. Those of us who have had a brush with death realize more deeply how fleeting life is. Make it great! Tell others often how much you love them and try never to take any one for granted.
Lorna: In my review, I wrote,”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.” I feel I know you, if we were to meet, my first instinct would be to want to hug you as if we were friends… knowing most likely other people must feel this way, does that empower you or motivate you to advocate for your causes knowing you have this already “believe in you” group of people out there? For one thing, it is a “feather in your hat” showing how powerful your memoir is!
Dixie Coskie>> I have received so many awesome reviews and responses of praise from people all over the world who have read my books. It is amazing that I have been able to impact so many people and to help so many families through this devastating injury and to hear their stories as well.
Lorna: Your second book is all about tips for parents, caregivers, friends and Health Care Professionals. What parenting advice do you have to help siblings of a child with high needs feel they are also loved, appreciated, and understood?
Dixie Coskie>> In my second book Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury, I have added a very important chapter called Siblings: The Forgotten Ones, How Parents Can Support Siblings. This chapter addresses how parents can best help their other children to cope and survive and gives real insight, tips and tools to help their other children feel loved and not forgotten during a catastrophic situation.
Lorna: Thank you so much for writing your much needed books about traumatic brain injury and thanks for this interview! Please give us your links so we can follow Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie and buy her books.
Dixie Coskie>> Lorna, hugs to you and thank you for this interview and for taking time out of your busy days to read of our harrowing journey through traumatic brain injury For more information please visit my site at www.dixiecoskie.com
Follow Dixie Coskie:
- FIRST in the 2011 ReaderViews Health/Fitness category. The annual literary awards honor writers who self-publish or have their books published by a subsidy publisher, small press, university press, or independent book publisher geared for the North American reading audience.
- Wins 2011 “Polka Dot Banner Award for the Best Health Book”.
- Won first in 2012 ReaderViews awards for Health/Fitness category
- Lands 2012 Polka Dot Banner award for BEST HEALTH BOOK OF THE YEAR
- Won 2012 Indie Excellence FINALIST Book Award (Health- General Category)
Buy Tips for Surviving a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury: Brain Injury Survival Tips for Parents, Caregivers, Friends & Health Care Professionals Amazon.com