The Journey of Brain Injury Survivors and Their Healers

Second Lives: The Journey of Brain Injury Survivors and Their Healers is written by Dr. Ralph 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.

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About The Authors

Ralph B. Lilly, MD

A neurologist for over half a century, Ralph B. Lilly, MD, 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

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.

Joyce S. Lilly

A native Rhode Islander, after graduating from the University of Rhode Island, College of Nursing, Joyce spent several years traveling and living in Europe. In 1982, she was an RN at Butler Hospital in Providence when Ralph arrived bringing the new science of Behavioral Neurology. It was almost love at first sight, followed by 9 years in Rhode Island, during which time she attended Boston University School of Law.

Moving with Ralph to Houston, Texas in 1991, Joyce summoned her adaptability powers, bought cowboy boots and a Suburban, and she and Ralph shared 30 wonderful years as Texans in Houston and Washington On the Brazos where she was active in community events. 

She is a plaintiff attorney and now her focus is representing nurses under investigation by state Boards of Nursing.

Joyce returned to Providence in 2023; she lives with her Westie, Franki, and her two cats, within a mile of where her life with Ralph began. Their lives were graced with good karma, fortuity and serendipity, for which she is, and Ralph was, forever grateful.

A message from Joyce and Ralph

Thank you for your service This book is a lovely acknowledgement of all the work and dedication by healers and caregivers for the advancement of head injury recovery. Dr. Lilly is both brutally honest and optimistically hopeful about outcomes and the dedication required to improve patient lives. He also recognizes the faith and hard work required by the patient, the medical team, and the family. It is a collaborative effort that tests everyone.
RESILIENCY AND COURAGE This book is one everyone should read. Not only for those patients and families who have experienced the pain of brain injury, but any neurological trauma. Dr. Lilly shoots out from the pages of this book as does his soulmate and wife Joyce. If you've ever questioned miracles in and of themselves then this book will restore your confidence. But it's Dr. Lilly's life work. He lived it. Spread the word!
Excellent resource for caregivers & a warm story of love and recovery This book is a touching and realistic look at individuals with devastating brain injuries and their ability to recover and adapt to a different yet still meaningful life. The active presence and support of a caregiver is vital to recovery. The examples of friends and family members transitioning to full time and determined caregivers, their loving support of the brain injured person, often sacrificing their own well being, is also a major theme in this story. As someone who has experienced the caregiver role, I must say the authors provide an accurate and sympathetic description of the process of trauma, recovery, and the demands facing those with brain injury and their caregivers. An excellent resource for those finding themselves suddenly forced into such roles, and for professional caregivers as well.
James C Grotta MD
I knew Ralph Lilly and shared an office with him for the last 10 years he was in practice. I was overwhelmed by hearing Ralph’s voice (and his wife Joyce's) emerge from these pages. I felt that they both were sitting there next to me telling me his extraordinary story. It is beautifully written and has a clear passionate message about “healers” and the impact of brain injury that I wish I had heard earlier in my career. I am glad that the world now has this chronicle of Ralph’s remarkable journey and contribution to the caring professions. I hope it reaches a wide audience—I have ordered more copies to distribute to our entire team of physicians and nurses caring for stroke patients.
Such an important story I am a slow reader yet I found this hard to put down. I am always intrigued by behavior, karma with true stories. Informative, educational and very relatable. I finished the book and my mind is still very involved with Ralph Lilly. I wish I had met him. Don't let the neuroscience stop you from reading this book. It may change how you view the people you meet that don't behave like you think they should. What would we do without healers and devoted caregivers. Ultimately a love story!!!

An Absolute Must Read

Ralph’s 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 Russel, a former patient whose story is in the book said, “Without Dr. Lilly, I’d be dead or in jail.”

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