Recap: Lawrence resident discusses recovery from brain injury, new book
March 14, 2012
Lawrence resident Louise Krug will be available at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, to discuss her new book, "Louise: Amended."
The book is about a brain bleed she suffered at age 22. It chronicles her life before, during and after a brain surgery that left her with disabilities, including paralysis. The book is available at The Raven bookstore in downtown Lawrence.
Krug's now 29 and pursuing a doctorate in creative writing at Kansas University, where she also teaches writing and literature classes part time.
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
Thanks for coming in today to participate in this chat and answer some questions. I am health reporter Karrey Britt and will be moderating. For those who haven't read the book: What's it about?
Thanks for having me, Karrey. The book is about two brain surgeries I had when I was 22 to remove a cavernous angioma (basically, a blood vessel that bled, about the size of a marble). It's also about my recovery and how this all affected my family. The book is told from rotating points of view, including my then-boyfriend, my mom, my dad, and one of my brothers.
Great book! I like how you wrote it. Will you tell us more about that? Did you "interview" family members, doctors, the boyfriend, etc.? Or rely on memory? Or some combination?
Thanks, Caroline! I certainly did a lot of informal interviewing, like calling up my mom, dad, stepmom and brothers and asking them what they felt at certain times --- for example, how they felt when the first brain surgery wasn't successful, or when we found out my double vision wouldn't be going away, etc. And I looked at my medical records and researched a little bit about the brain to make sure I had specific procedures and terms right, but I didn't do any interviews with doctors. I relied a lot on my memory, but more so on my imagination, if that makes sense. Because the chapters follow around different narrators, I spent a lot of time imagining how they reacted to certain events, or what they wore, or worried about.
Was it difficult to expose your life like this for all to see? What kept you writing about your ordeal?
It wasn't as hard as it probably should have been:) Well, some of it was hard. I think the toughest part of it was admitting how affected my self esteem was by my looks being affected. It's humbling to admit that I'm that vain. But it got easier the more times I did it. I think what kept me writing about my experience was that I was using the writing process to help myself figure out who I was now that my life was different, and what the ordeal meant to me. Only through examining, and, in truth, obsessing over my experience could I get to the bottom of what it all meant.
You are a real inspiration for all of us in your ordeal and how you have come to live a more normal life.
With all the talk these days about medical coverage, I was wondering how your many medical interventions were paid for. What sort of health insurance have you had that enabled you to receive such wonderful treatment?
Thanks for your information.
Well, I'm lucky that I was under my mom's health insurance when the cavernous angioma bled -- I was 22 and her policy covered me until I was 23. I'm also lucky that since then I've been able to afford insurance as a KU student and that I've always had my parents to cover additional costs, but I know that I've been very fortunate.
What was the recovery process for you after the surgery? From my understanding you had to relearn to do many things like walk and talk. Your mom said she couldn't understand you at one point. She said it sounded like you had a mouthful of marbles.
Ha! My mom...Yes, I did go to speech therapy for a while. I remember when I first got to my dad and stepmom's house in Michigan I ate a sub sandwich and it was so difficult I had to use my fingers to close my mouth around the food (I know, great visual) because one side of my face was so weak. It was embarrassing to eat in public for a while because it was a messy process, I would dribble drinks, etc. Anyway, right after the surgeries getting to a standing position was something that was very tough, I had such bad vertigo and I had no center of balance. So, to answer your question, the recovery process was full of baby steps, lots of time shuffling down hallways with my physical therapists and playing pick-up-sticks with my occupational therapists. When life is like that, so slow and seemingly unchanging, it's the littlest victories that cheer you up. I remember that dinnertime conversation would be over something as small as how many leg lifts I did that day.
Seems like you wrote about a lot of sensitive topics in the book. I was just wondering what the response has been from family members and friends that are mentioned in the book.
So far, everyone has been very laid back about it. My mom thinks I made her sound stupid in some parts, but I think she's just kidding:) I haven't heard from everyone who's in the book, though, like Claude. It's tough when, as a writer, you want to portray the situation honestly, but that sometimes means invading other people's privacy. It really makes you think about how our lives are all connected and it's impossible to tell your own story without telling others' stories as well.
Many people have asked whether you used real names or not in the book. Can you explain what you decided to do and why?
The only real names are mine and Nick's. It was easier for me to think of my family members and Claude as characters if I used different names, and it also protected their privacy. I don't really know why I didn't change Nick's name...maybe a therapist could weigh in on that one?
When and why did you decide to go back to school? Why did you decide to go into creative writing after doing your undergrad work in journalism?
I decided to go back to school when I was recovering at my dad and stepmom's house in Michigan --- I needed something to do and I knew that I didn't want to go back to working as a journalist in Southern California. It would have been too difficult looking how I did, dealing with all of the physical recovery I still had to do. When I started the MFA program at KU, I was still going to physical therapy pretty regularly, and the flexibility of being a grad student made that possible. I decided to go into creative writing because...well, let's be honest, I wasn't very good at being a journalist:) But also because when I was recovering in Michigan I went to a creative writing class on a whim (my dad saw a flyer at a coffee shop and showed it to me) and really liked it. There I was, in a place where I could write about whatever I wanted! Jackpot! At that time, I really needed to write about everything I was going through. I think that without writing about my experiences I would have taken a lot longer to get in a better place, mentally. It was definitely part of my therapy. Another great thing about entering a writing program is all the reading you get to do. Reading allowed me to escape, to keep exercising that empathy muscle, to feel human.
With this accomplishment, what are your future goals?
To keep working on new writing projects, always, to be a good mom and person in general...nothing much:)
Where can people get a copy of the book?
Several places -- you can go to my publisher, Black Balloon Publishing's, site at www.blackballoonpublishing.com, or you can go to the Raven in Lawrence. You can also pre-order it on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, but I'm for supporting Black Balloon or the Raven!
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to participate in this chat. You are a true inspiration! And, a big congratulations on the book — what an accomplishment. I highly recommend it.
Of course! Thanks so much for having me. The Raven is kind enough to host a book signing for me on April 13 at 7 p.m. Everyone should come!