The Journey of Brain-Injury Survivors and Their Healers.

By Ralph B. Lilly, M.D. & Diane F. Kramer with Joyce Stamp Lilly

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"Discharged from a hospital just means you're not dead. " These words of Ralph B. Lilly, M.D., describe his early struggle to recover from a traumatic brain injury. Lilly was a forty-four-year-old practicing neurologist sitting on his motorcycle at a red light when a drunk driver rear-ended him in 1980. In the ICU, after regaining consciousness and being told what happened, he asked, "What's a hospital? What's a motorcycle?" This tragic experience transformed his life and his approach to his neurology practice: doctors treat those with brain injury; but loved ones heal them. Second Lives: The Journey of Brain Injury Survivors and Their Healers is written by Dr. Lilly and Diane F. Kramer. After his death in 2021, Kramer completed the book with the assistance of Lilly's wife Joyce Stamp Lilly. This memoir weaves together Ralph Lilly's experience with a collage of stories about his patients and their healers. After his recovery, Lilly retrained in the emerging field of behavioral neurology, which focuses on behavior, memory, cognition, and emotion after brain injury.

His clinical skills and expert witness testimony were sought by physicians, survivors, families, and attorneys to secure the best "second life" for survivors. His many patients marveled at his uniquely compassionate approach: "What doctor gives you his cell number and says call any time?" Lilly's pioneering career spanned forty years from Brown University's Butler Psychiatric Hospital in Rhode Island to Nexus Health System and private practice in Houston, Texas. He treated ER and hospital inpatients whose loved ones were in acute quandary, as well as outpatients who'd long given up finding a doctor who knew how to help. Lilly's memoir is full of heart, not science, and will provide insight to general readers, family, and friends of patients with brain injury, as well as those who treat them.

His narration is unintentionally poignant, often punctuated by wry humor. He generously incorporates the words of his patients and their families in telling their stories. Their gratitude for his care is profound. As one former patient said, "Without Dr. Lilly, I'd be dead or in jail."

RALPH B. LILLY, M.D., a neurologist for over half a century, suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1980 that led him to study how brain injury affects behavior. He was a clinical assistant professor with Brown University and the University of Texas and a behavioral neurologist with the Neurobehavioral Institute in The Woodlands, Texas. He focused his life's work on treating brain-injury victims and counseling their families. Until his death in 2021, he lived in Washington, Texas, with his wife, Joyce, three dogs, six cats, and two horses.

DIANE KRAMER retired from the counseling and psychology departments of Austin Community College in 2008 and began writing essays, family histories, and fiction. As a volunteer with the Brenham Animal Shelter, she wrote a weekly column on animal welfare for The Brenham Banner Press. Her writing has also appeared in Alamo Bay Press anthologies and blogs Peace through Pie and Drash Pit. She currently writes website copy and press releases for Brenham Lifetime Learning and the Read of Washington County. She lives with her husband and their rescue dog and cat in rural Texas.

A Message from Joyce and Ralph


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Second Lives by Ralph B. Lilly

Second Lives

by Ralph B. Lilly

Giveaway ends May 18, 2023.

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Second Lives


"These are remarkable stories of both disaster and courage. They are told in people’s own words and the story of Dr. Lilly’s recovery from his own brain injury is riveting. I urge you to read this valuable, extraordinary book".

—Paulette Jiles,News of the World

"Dr. Lilly concisely describes the unique experience of TBI families. He writes, “Somewhere early on came a concept I will never forget. I had died and that somehow my body had been replaced by a similar but not identical person.” The families see the form of the person they love but experience the personality of someone new. It is a heartbreaking transition to embrace the concept that the “first life” person is gone. Dr. Lilly was instrumental in helping me accept this change and move forward."

—Karen Conti, mother of a teenage TBI patient of Dr. Lilly 

"Ralph Lilly was a trained neurologist who not only survived a serious brain injury himself but reinvented his focus to care for patients with serious brain injuries. He cared for his patients with equanimity, kindness, patience, and an insight like no other. In this book, Ralph tells his story and allows his patients and their healers to tell theirs. As if in a conversation with the reader, we learn of mighty struggles to recover and then to adapt. This was accomplished always with hope and finally with hope fulfilled."

—Guy Clifton, M.D., Principal, ACTIN Care Groups

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