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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: Unthinkable by Scott Rigsby with Jenna Glatzer


Scott was 18, handsome, a football player, heading off to college, when he was in a terrible car wreck. He was riding in the back of a pickup truck on the toolbox, heading back to his shift mowing lawns, when their truck was side-swiped by an 18-wheeler that punctured one of the trailers' tires causing a blowout. The other two guys in the back were okay but Scott ended up between the two trucks and eventually the trailer ended up on top of him, amputating his right leg. His back had third degree burns from being dragged on the pavement, and his left leg was mangled, with a compound fracture of the femur and his heel bone gone.

His left leg wasn't healing well. The bone grafts weren't taking, he kept getting infections, and the skin wouldn't close. Finally, Scott admitted that prior to the accident, he had been taking steroids, and the doctors then knew why their treatments weren't working. I wished he had addressed whether or not this was significant - would his leg likely have turned out okay if he hadn't been taking the drugs - or if it was just a minor speedbump that caused a small delay towards the inevitable result. And I think this omission, and a few other omissions throughout, are concerning. Such as he mentioned frequently that he had a traumatic brain injury, which caused volatile emotions, memory lapses, and trouble concentrating, and that in the late 1980s when his injury happened, few people including doctors were really aware of TBIs and what they caused. But he never tells us when he was finally diagnosed with that TBI and what impact that diagnosis had on him.

Scott's experience is representative of what typically happens to someone in this type of an accident. He has years of issues, mostly mental, as he gains money and loses it from multiple settlements, he ends up hooked to prescription drugs and depressed. But I wish he had taken more responsibility for the financial losses, the drinking and sleeping around, the lack of direction and follow-through, and the addiction (which never is addressed beyond that he has a problem. What pills and how many are another omission, as is how he got off them.) Instead, they are all blamed on the TBI.

The bulk of the book is mostly about his failures in school, in jobs, in getting on with life. He rarely mentions his amputation at all, and when it does, it's just a passing glance. I was shocked to find, a good way through the book, that he drives using the foot pedals, although it's his right leg that was amputated. He gives no explanation, just skipping along to the next story. Finally, after more than 10 years of dealing with his never truly healed left leg, he decides to get it amputated, which is the best decision he ever made. I can understand that, but I wish along the way that we'd heard more about the problems he was still having with it. Obviously, readers know from the front cover that he will eventually become a double amputee, so in that regard it wasn't shocking, but I think that if we hadn't been set up by the cover, it would have been, as he just doesn't talk about the medical issues much. That said, the second amputation does seem to turn his life around to a large degree.

He sees an article about Sarah Reinsertsen and decides to start running. He dives in without any research or preparation but he figures it all out and does get coaches and sponsors. I was particularly amused when his swimming coach and he are first trying to figure out how this will work and his coach gives him a kick board. Scott went backwards! And finally while preparing for the race, he does give practicalities about his amputations and his prostheses.

This is a fast and inspiring read. You really do root for Scott to get through the race and finally achieve something positive in his life. I think Scott, like all of us, has a long way to go to fully realize his potential, but I'm thrilled he's finally found a place where his skills and talents fit well (public speaking), and that keeps him happy and healthy. I hope he continues on this path to fulfillment.

I bought this from my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

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