Book Review

July 22, 2007

When I was contacted by Eleanor Divver from Three Story Press regarding an opportunity to obtain an early copy of Saul Raisin and Dave Shield’s new book, Tour de Life:From Coma to Competition, I jumped at it. I have been looking forward to reading the combination of Dave Shield’s cycling prose and the incredible story of Saul Raisin who just over a year ago was fighting for his life after a crash at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The book is actually two books in one. The first section is written in the third person focusing on Saul’s parents starting with that fateful day on April 4, 2006. From the moment the traditional text message “OK” never appeared on Yvonne Raisin’s cell phone, she knew something was wrong. Her son, Saul always sent those two reassuring letters to his mother after every race.

The first 136 pages chronicle the journey of Yvonne and Jim Raisin from a recently retired couple planning their future together to a frightened couple in a foreign land trying to save their son’s life. Jim and Yvonne find themselves in Angers France where they do not speak the language nor understand the customs. If they are to save their son, they need to learn and learn fast.

I was struck by the detail and day by day account of a family going through such a trauma. Generally, we seen the first few critical hours followed by the hospital discharge. We rarely see the hour by hour roller coaster ride that a family goes through. Unending tension wondering if Saul would survive the day. If so, would he be a vegetable? Also, the conflicting early medical information. Did they remove part of Saul’s brain or not? Finally how do you begin the conversation about when to pull the plug and of organ donation?

We see that minuscule progress, invisible to passers-by, can ignite hope. A twitch of a finger, a small movement. Finally it is clear that Saul will live so the question becomes how.

The second book is written in the first person. Saul’s voice. But the book captures Saul as he is those first early days and weeks after he comes out of his coma. I did not know that quite often brain injured patients need to relearn things that we learn as a child. Things such as controlling emotions, understanding voice inflection and that you can not always say whatever pops in your mind.

We hear the voice of this man/child as he tries to understand why he can’t always tell the nurses they are attractive, why he can’t act impulsively, and that he may never walk unaided let alone ride again.

Saul makes physical progress at a miraculous pace. We watch as the real struggle comes with the mental rehabilitation. Basic math, reasoning and decision making skills are tough. Equally amazing is the dedication of the members of the rehabilitation hospital, the Shepherd Center. I’m certain these people are not adequately compensated for the wonderful work they do.

It was amazing to read the details behind this truly amazing story

Dave Shields is selling early copies of Tour de Life through his website. The book will not be widely distributed through outlets like Amazon until September. Either way, I would suggest buying through the website since I think Amazon is doing OK and any additional percentage not shared with Amazon can go to those who did all the hard work binging this book to market.


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