On a sunny spring day in 2002, in an ordinary suburban kitchen, the phone rings. There’s been an accident. In one heartbeat, a family’s life is changed forever.
After her husband, Hugh, is hit by a car while riding his bicycle, Rosemary Rawlins is plunged into 12 months of marathon caregiving, without the promise of a positive outcome. She works herself to the point of exhaustion to bring her grievously injured husband—who suffered a traumatic brain injury, necessitating the removal of half his skull—back home and back to himself. Then, as he slowly begins to reclaim his life, Rosemary falls apart.
Indeed, as Sarah Wheaton noted in The New York Times, when the family’s story was featured on the front page of the Science Times section on Jan. 10, 2012, “Doctors frequently warn uninjured spouses that the marriage may well be over, that the personality changes that can result from brain injury may do irreparable harm to the relationship.” In cases like these, how does a marriage survive? How does the injured spouse relate to his or her partner—and how does the non-injured spouse, often the primary caregiver, relate to him or her in return? What happens to their intimacy? Their children? Do they recognize each other—literally—as the people they fell in love with and married, in some cases decades ago?
Beneath the Armor: A Caregiver’s Story answers these questions with a rare combination of grace and candor. Based on the diary that Rosemary Rawlins kept during her husband’s treatment and rehabilitation, the book reveals the day-to-day thoughts, fears, hopes, and emotions of a caregiver who faces the confusion and stress of knowing that she, her husband, and her marriage may never be the same again. This deeply personal account demonstrates that what we fear can be more debilitating than any physical injury. And that starting over is, sometimes, exactly what we need.