'The Gift' describes briefly how its author, Nigel Williams, came to be the person who suffered a catastrophic brain hemorrhage on August 18, 2005, and then focuses on what he and his newlywed wife Dorothea did about it: their pursuit of a self-devised rehabilitation program, in the absence of effective medical alternatives, their activities on behalf of fellow patients, and their successful battles with post-stroke central pain syndrome, and with the depression linked to it.
Leading neuroscientist Professor John Krakauer, of Johns Hopkins University, describes in a foreword the full extent of Nigel's injuries, the unusual nature of his recovery, and the sorry state of stroke rehabilitation in the United States. Thereafter, the first part of 'The Gift' tells the story of Nigel's recovery from his viewpoint, and the second part contains Dorothea's observations on Nigel's narrative.
The first three chapters of 'The Gift' move us briskly from the two bright starbursts that were Nigel's first indication that he was having a brain hemorrhage, through six weeks of acute care in hospital, to his return home, his commencement of outpatient rehabilitation, and the marriage of Nigel and Dorothea. Chapters 4 and 5 then cover the previous thirty-five years, of first love at Oxford University, a highflying career, and two marriages, leading up to Nigel's meeting with Dorothea. Chapter 6 returns us to the present, and tracks Nigel's and Dorothea's progress in his rehabilitation over the next five years. Chapters 7 and 8 address their response to a major Manhattan hospital's request that they share the lessons from their unconventional rehabilitation approach with patients and caregivers, which they did through literally scores of group talks and peer visits, described selectively in the two chapters. Finally, two further chapters describe how Nigel and Dorothea came to grips with the unending post-stroke central pain that Nigel suffers, and with the depression that invisibly came to weigh on them both, though they recognized it only dimly at the time.
Dorothea's perspective in part two of 'The Gift' makes clear the huge role that the caregiver plays in successful brain injury rehabilitation, and the effort that this requires. As both of them remind us, an essential part of recovery is frequent, large doses of laughter along the way.