Through the sharing of her memoir, released this past September by Globe Pequot press, Roy-Bornstein and her son are still connecting some of the scattered dots to piece together what happened that night, since Neil recollects very little due to the nature of his injuries. And over time, Roy-Bernstein says she is finally able to say without fear or shame that it’s been hard.
“The reason I started writing the book is just to talk about the disenfranchised grief of being the mother of the child who survived,” said Roy-Bornstein. “For many years, I felt guilty for grieving for everything Neil went though. I’d ask myself, ‘Shouldn’t I just be grateful he’s alive?’ And of course, I am. It took me a long time to realize this is a pretty serious thing we went through — are still going through.”
Throughout his college days at Skidmore in New York, Neil struggled with depression and anxiety, along with debilitating headaches — all trademarks of traumatic brain injury. But Roy-Bornstein said her son also presented early on with a baffling set of symptoms that were sometimes difficult to understand, even for her, a practicing pediatrician.
“Initially, his personality was altered,” she said. “In the hospital he was kind of disoriented and confused and belligerent and demanding and that was not him at all.”
Though his leg lay shattered beneath him, in a hospital bed in Boston, he wasn’t curious about how it all came to be. He didn’t wonder why he had a broken leg.
“It was like his whole brain just shut down,” said Roy-Bornstein.
Between administering pain and seizure medications and orchestrating a team of therapists to tend to Neil at their home in Newburyport, Roy-Bornstein began a 10-year quest to gather as much research as she could to help her son get well. She read everything she could about breakthrough work being done with brain injury victims.