Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery

Maxine Kumin, Author W. W. Norton & Company $21.95 (206p) ISBN 978-0-393-04900-8
A skilled horsewoman and lifelong athlete, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Kumin (Quit Monks or Die!) was 73 in July 1998 when a riding accident left her with two broken vertebrae in her neck. Although 95% of such injuries are fatal, Kumin survived--only to face overwhelming odds that she would be paralyzed for the rest of her life. Miraculously, however, she was walking again within weeks of the accident; now, though one hand and an arm remain partially immobilized, her life has largely resumed its normal course. Here is the journal of her first nine months of recovery: a slow process in which she regains sensation in a toe or heel, struggles to put one foot in front of the other and is liberated from her catheter. Largely a story of pain and frustration, and of milestones that impressed her medical team but seemed to signal inordinately slow progress to Kumin herself, the volume also serves as a paean to the supportive family members, friends and fellow patients who helped her through the ordeal. The ""halo"" of the book's title was a very real immobilizing metal cage in which her head was enclosed for nearly three months. A profoundly uncomfortable device that induced claustrophobia and made sleeping impossible without the aid of narcotics, the halo saved Kumin's life by allowing her broken neck to heal; she makes it a symbol of both the positive and negative aspects of the recovery process. Candid about the many tribulations that accompany recovery from a serious injury, Kumin also meditates on how one can take a life that's interrupted with brutal abruptness and put it back together again. As such, this account offers both honesty and hope to others who face such traumatic experiences. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
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