By Kathleen Canrinus
When author Kathleen Canrinus was 15, her mother barely survived an accident that totaled her car. A woman of extraordinary vitality, she awoke from months in a coma to struggle with suicidal depression, finally reaching a new normal defined by losses unimaginable to most. Brain damage on top of the inevitable friction between any mother and daughter almost guaranteed an end to a loving connection. Yet theirs endured and grew.
Kathleen, married and the mother of two daughters herself, became her mother’s caregiver and conservator, silently adjusting to her own loss. She was puzzled by her mother’s repeating how lucky she considered both of them to be. How could she?
The Lady with the Crown explores how unforeseen trauma can, in the blink of an eye, transform a normal happy family into a uniquely wounded one. It charts not only their resilience and courage but also Canrinus’s indomitable pursuit and reinvention of joy.
Tragic and uplifting, hopeless and hopeful, heartwarming and heartbreaking—these are the feelings in store for the reader of Canrinus’s unbelievable, but true, memoir of life before and after a devastating traumatic brain injury. It is a testament to the physical and psychological indomitability of Canrinus’s mother, Dorothy, who, when Canrinus was 15, barely survived a car accident that left her irreversibly incapacitated. It is the memoir of the equally indomitable daughter, who, for half a century, continued to take care of, love, nurture, encourage, and support her mother, all while refusing to give up hope. It is a story that everyone, especially physicians, families, and patients dealing with irreversible neurological dysfunction, should be required to read because of its gritty, matter-of-fact account of tragedy and how to make it a beginning and not an end. No one could have made this point clearer than Dorothy Canrinus herself, who, late in her life said “I am dumb. I can’t remembe’ anythin’. I can’t do anythin’, but I’m smar’ enou’ to know I’m lucky.”
David B. Teplow
Professor of Neurology
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
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