ROLLING INSPIRATION sat down with author Irene Fischer to discuss her memoir I Am Still Here, which tells the story of her car accident in 2009 that caused extensive damage to her brain, and her journey through rehabilitation. The book recounts her feeling and thoughts about herself, human nature and self-motivation after her accident.
Why did you decide to write a memoir?
There are two reasons. The first was that in South Africa there is very little info readily available concerning traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its possible consequences. I heard from my family how much they struggled to find any information, any hope, any encouragement after I sustained a TBI.
The second reason is that there is a massive information deficit regarding brain injury, and most people don’t know how to act around me or treat me. I decided the best way to change this is by educating as much as I can. US poet and author Maya Angelou said it brilliantly: “The need for change bulldozed a road down the centre of my mind.”
What was some of the challenges of writing the book?
It took me four years mainly because I have never written a book and no-one can tell you how to do it. There is no formula. Secondly, I wanted my book to be informative and factual as well as to tell the emotional part of my journey. I had to do extensive research by asking questions of my various therapists, neurosurgeon, psychologist and psychiatrist.
You include lots of personal items, such as photographs, email correspondence and excerpts from your sister’s diary. Why did you put these in?
I wanted my book to be personal, to hit home. I used the diary my sister kept during my stay in hospital because it told part of my story that I couldn’t tell due to amnesia. I thought it was very important to show how it affected one of the people dearest to me. A picture tells a thousand words and I think the photos said much more than I ever could. The email correspondence is to make my book multidimensional by offering the opinion of others, also to lend it more credibility.
The cover is very beautiful and interesting. Did you decide on the cover for a particular reason?
Yes, because I am a hemiplegic half my face is kind of blotted out. That is to tickle people’s curiosity, because hemiplegia is relatively unknown, unlike paraplegia and quadriplegia, which are almost household terms. Hemiplegia is when one half (hemisphere) of a person’s body is either completely paralysed or weaker than the other half of the body. I tried to hint towards that with this cover.
Would you ever consider writing another book?
Yip! But this book would be a work of fiction, not nonfiction, because I feel I’ve now told all I can to create a healthy platform for compassion, consideration and respect for all disabled persons.