BECOMING KARL –
A brain-injured baby’s
journey to recovery
AUTHOR: Norma DELGARNO
ISBN: 978-0473-19565-6 (paper-bacK)
Publisher: Wildcat Publications, Rotorua NZ
Cover Illustration and Epilogue: Karl ROTHKO
McCloud’s Book Shop, Rotorua NZ ($NZ30)
www.amazon.com, ($c. NZ48)
also via www.normadelgarno.com
Within the pages of Norma’s book, I found inspiration, shared her frustrations and dreads, admired her stubborn determination to raise Karl. I delighted in Karl’s accomplishments, miracles and successes. I discovered much about health conditions of which I’d never before heard, and even more than I would have expected about myself.
Karl’s birth was five weeks premature, and a breech presentation. His life was spent fighting against physiological and neurological damages that had arisen in utero from a rare and little known condition (Toxoplasma gondii, a form of parasite that invades important systems – including the central nervous system – within the developing foetus) commonly referred to as Toxoplasmosis. The condition – which never presented any symptoms to Karl’s mother while pregnant – caused numerous ailments: “anaemia, anoxia, hypoglycaemia, thrombocytopenia; enlarged heart, spleen and liver, dangerously low platelet counts, twitching and trembling [spasms]”. The condition of his blood caused purplish skin lesions “thrombocytopenia”, which gradually faded or healed with transfusions and blood treatment. There was a likelihood of Karl having or developing leukaemia. Eye lesions which caused loss of sight were discovered, and Karl had developed hydrocephalus (“water-on-the-brain”). Karl’s parents were warned that toxoplasmosis can invade the very substance of the brain itself, consuming healthy brain cells, leaving scarring, holes and gaps.
Karl and his mother had to fight ignorance, apathy, prejudice – from medical personnel, teachers, frightened and embarrassed family and friends. Yet Norma also found support from kindly nursing and neurological staff and specialists, teachers, and “true” friends” who not only helped Norma look after Karl, but to look after herself.
A reviewer probably should not include a “spoiler’ – but look at by whom the book’s cover is illustrated and the Epilogue is written. Karl is a successful artist, holds a working job, and has a wisdom of life many “abled” among us fail to achieve.
This is a “must read” for anyone – a general readership, not only those with interest in children with special needs. (Although, as a retired teacher who met many children with special needs, I found myself wishing now I’d been armed with Norma’s experiences, skills and devotion.) Norma has also provided an Appendix defining clearly three significant challenges Karl had to face.
Norma’s writing style throughout is anecdotal, conversational and flows easily. I read this solely for two days, turning aside from other media as it so readily drew me into their lives. A most pleasurable read, with such a satisfying outcome.
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