Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review, Sunday, Dec. 11 - Lifestyle

What a nice surprise to see my book reviewed in a local paper in southeast Texas! I guess word does get around! :) The review is short and sweet, but if it helps one person find the resource they need, then it's all for the better!

Book Review, Sunday, Dec. 11 - Lifestyle: Where Did Mommy’s Superpowers Go?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thank you, Brandeis Magazine!

Just opened up the Fall issue of Brandeis Magazine, where I went to college (yes, I stayed close to home--and hope Jason decides to do the same!).  Don't we all love to get these and check our graduating year to see what everyone's been up to?  Where do the years go--I can't believe it's already been 20 years!  Anyway, I was thrilled to see the nice mention of my book and also a great synopsis in the class notes.  I wanted to share it with you--check it out here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Gifts Money Can't Buy

Everywhere you look, especially at this time of year, there are countless opportunities to give back and support those less fortunate.  Whether collecting money, goods, or food, it’s uplifting to see all of the creative and innovative ways people are coming together and supporting their communities. 
But in addition to all of these generous programs, there is an often forgotten yet critical need for donations which can save a life.  The gift of blood, bone marrow or organs can mean the difference between life and death for a seriously ill person, and unlike food, toys, or coats, cannot be bought at any price.  We tend to forget how desperate the need is for these donations, but also how easy they are to give.  Perhaps 2012 will be the year you decide to give the gift of:

Blood:  My new issue of Shape Magazine arrived yesterday, and as I was reading it I was shocked to learn on page 32 that only 3 percent of Americans donate blood each year.  That leaves 97% of our population who do not.  Now granted, a portion of those people cannot give even if they wanted to due to health issues (like me), but what if more healthy people would donate blood?  I required a bag of platelets during each bone marrow transplant, and needed four bags of blood after each hip replacement.  That’s 10 bags of blood products just for me alone!  You don’t have to watch Gray’s Anatomy to know that blood is necessary for transfusions and major surgeries, and there is a huge shortage.  Often a patient can have their own blood collected prior to a big surgery, but if you’ve been sick or have low blood pressure, they won’t allow you to (this is what happened to me).  In the amount of time it takes to linger over a latte at Starbucks, you can donate blood at your nearest hospital or at a scheduled drive.  It’s as easy as a simple IV, and you can relax with a book or work on your iPad.  Afterward, you can help yourself to some tasty snacks.  For more info on how to become a donor, visit

Organs:  Becoming an organ donor is a simple, administrative process and has the potential to give someone a second chance at life.    Currently, over 112,000 people in this country are waiting to receive a life-saving organ, and the need for donors grows every day.   According to, a single organ donor can save up to eight lives!  Sadly, 18 people die every day waiting for an organ.  Registering as a donor is simple, and all the information you need is available at  The next time you find yourself at the RMV, you can register on the spot.  Also, don’t forget to make your family aware of your wishes, and indicate your decision on any legal documents, such as your will or Health Proxy.

Bone marrow:  Fortunately, I was able to collect enough of my own stem cells for both of my transplants, but not every patient is able to be an autologous (their own) donor.  Like a kidney, bone marrow can be donated from a living donor.  For more information and to register as a donor, simply visit; a simple cheek swab is all that’s necessary.  DKMS Americas is the world’s largest bone marrow donor center, and does not require any payment to register.

Good Search:  I recently discovered this wonderful search engine which donates money to the charitable organization of your choice each and every time you search online!  It’s as simple as Google, but your search is actually benefiting a deserving organization!  Simply visit and select the non-profit you wish to support (you can only support one organization at a time, but you can change it before any search).  From the website, you can also use GoodShop and GoodDining, and help raise funds while you shop online or make restaurant reservations.  From the homepage, you can download the GoodSearch Toolbar to display across your screen instead of Google, so every search automatically benefits the charity of your choice.  BRILLIANT!!!

Where Did Mommy’s Superpowers Go?:  My book is often purchased by newly diagnosed patients who have small children, or as gifts from friends and family members for someone going through a health crisis.  But don’t forget this book is a useful resource for a school or town library, a school nurse or guidance department, teachers, pediatricians, hospital social work and oncology departments, support groups, or child therapists.  Support your independent bookstores and shop local by picking up a copy at Willow Books and CafĂ© in Acton, or The Paper Store in Acton, Maynard, or Sudbury.  If you prefer to shop online, you can order a copy at  Of course, the book is available at Amazon and as well.

Helping a Brain-Injured Person - Part Two

Last month, Dr. Kerpelman described exactly what a traumatic brain injury is (TBI), the signs and symptoms to look out for, and what to do if you suspect an injury has occurred.  Explaining to children that a loved one may have "pieces missing" after hurting their head is a simple way to convey the changes in memory, language and behavior they may find confusing.  In this month's article, you'll learn the challenges a brain-injured person faces, how you and young children can support the patient's recovery, and most importantly, how to help children empathize and interact appropriately and compassionately with anyone we may encounter with a brain injury or other disability.
By Larry C. Kerpelman, author of Pieces Missing: A Family’s Journey of Recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury (Two Harbors Press, 2011)
In Part One last month, I described how my wife sustained a moderately severe traumatic brain injury after falling while jogging, and I described the many symptoms that can result from such an injury to so sensitive (and important) an organ of the body.  It took three emergency room visits, two hospitalizations, one brain surgery, and months of rehabilitation for her to regain the pieces missing from her speech, thought, reading, confidence, and zest for life.  In Part Two below, I discuss some of the things you can do to help a brain-injured person’s rehabilitation.  Even young children can play an important role in the healing and recovery process.
1.)    Support the person in their rehabilitation, whether it’s through reminding that person to do the exercises prescribed by the medical and rehabilitation therapists, helping with those exercises, or understanding and accommodating the sufferer's limitations.  Kids may enjoy being a “personal trainer”, doing the exercises alongside their relative, and coaching them along.
2.)    You can expect that a brain injury may cause disruption or even disappearance of previously normal physical, cognitive, and emotional functions.  Ensure that daily activities can be carried out safely.  A brain-injured person may have balance and strength issues; the worst thing that can happen to a person during the first year after the original injury would be to suffer another fall or bump that injures her head.  Children can also take an active role caring for their relative…they can play “Police Officer”, reminding the person not to forget their cane or walker.  Or they might want to be a “Bodyguard”, and escort their relative by the hand to their destination.  Until the injured person’s physical strength, balance, and coordination is substantially restored, a family member or friend should be near her when she walks or goes up and down the stairs in case she loses her balance.  It’s especially important to follow this practice when outside the house because outside surfaces are a lot more uneven than those in a house.  The brain-injured person should not be hurried to resume any normal activity until she feels ready to do it and do it safely, and even then, a friend or loved one should monitor the activity to ensure that it is indeed being done safely before she is left on her own to do it independently.
3.)    Be patient and understanding.  In the cognitive area, the person’s memory, reading, problem-solving, and logical sequencing of activities may be impaired.  If a person with a TBI cannot remember a person’s name or the name of a place, encourage her to describe the person or her associations with the place.  Using different thought processes may help her to recover the name.  The speech and thought processes of someone with a TBI may be slower and punctuated by pauses as she searches for the next words.  If that person’s speech becomes hesitant because he or she cannot get a word out she is trying to say, you should resist the natural urge to supply the word or finish her sentence for her.  Ask your kids to do the same, although recognize that it will be harder for them not to prompt the person than it will be for you (and it is hard).  Only by working through the cognitive processes to find the word or words and say them will the brain-injured person gain practice in being able to recall or recognize words.
4.)    Remember that the injured person may feel more fragile and vulnerable.  A person who is recovering from a brain injury may very well appear physically to be just the same as before the injury, but there may be incredible changes within the person emotionally.  He or she may think, feel, or act differently than before.  Children may pick up on these new behaviors and become confused.  You can do your part by recognizing this new reality and working with the injured person to accommodate to, and possibly gradually improve, the new emotional state.  Emphasize to children that this is still the same relative they know and love, and the changes they see are part of the injury.  Some changes may resolve over time, and some may not, which might be difficult for children to understand.  Counsel children to be patient and understanding and, even more importantly, model the behavior for them.  Kids do what you do, more often than what you say.   
5.)    Treat him or her with respect, and be ready to help that person.  Above all else, remember that a person with a brain injury is a person first.  Also remember that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. The effects of a brain injury are complex and vary greatly from individual to individual. Those effects will be different depending on the injury’s cause, extent, location in the brain, and severity.  Consequently, I can only give a partial picture here of what to expect and how to interact with a person who has suffered a brain injury.  For more information on other support mechanisms, go to the excellent website of Brainline, 

Would you like to use this article for your own website or newsletter?  No problem!  But here's what you must include: 
“Larry C. Kerpelman is author of Pieces Missing: A Family’s Journey of Recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury (Two Harbors Press, 2011). Dr. Kerpelman is a psychologist and award-winning health care communicator who never would have imagined his writing would be inspired by experiences in his own family.  When his wife suffered a brain injury from a freak accident, the journey toward recovery took his family through the maze of a less-than-perfect healthcare system.  The book inspired by this experience provides a moving story of the endurance of the human spirit, combined with insights about brain injury and recovery and pointed questions about how our health care system functions. For more book details, please visit him on If you or someone you know would like to buy Pieces Missing, you may order it from,,, or your local bookseller.”
Dr. Kerpelman will be speaking at Sargent Memorial Library in Boxborough, MA on January 24, 2012 at 7pm (snow date January 31).