Review by Cate Sawyer: Breaking Through the Pain Barrier by Gabriella Kelly-Davies

Breaking Through the Pain Barrier explores the life of pioneering pain doctor, Michael J. Cousins.

Review by Cate Sawyer

I’m thrilled to provide this advance review on a biography I found compelling and motivating, the insightful book, Breaking Through the Pain Barrier.

Author, Gabriella Kelly-Davies, had an incident in her youth that gave me flashbacks. As a teenager I was riding my bike home from the squash centre on a Saturday afternoon and a car of sky-larking young men thought it would be funny to throw a chocolate milkshake at me. They missed me, but got my bike. I was annoyed but un-injured. Gabriella was not so lucky. A teenaged Gabriella was riding her bike when a male arm shot out from a passing car… and she woke up in hospital. Gabriella was pushed from her bike, sliding head-first for some time. She recovered but the true extent of her injuries was not immediately apparent. Years later, chronic migraine pain led her into the clinic of Dr Michael J. Cousins. Dr Cousins changed her life.

Through her misfortune, the author brings to us an extraordinary biography of a pioneer that evidences what can be achieved through tenacity. But this book is so much more than that. We glimpse inside Dr Cousins’s marriage and family to witness what extraordinary leaders often say—I couldn’t have done it without my support system.

Life is often about choices and what I found riveting reading in this biography was the cumulative effect of smart choices, on top of hard work and tenacity. Dr Cousins surrounded himself with the right people in his professional life. He believed, and his belief led him to have the pioneering attitude to leave home and travel far to learn from the best, and eventually become the best. Passing the mantle on to those who followed him, just as those who came before did for him. Fifty years of dedication to effect institutional change to have chronic pain recognised as an illness in its own right so that patients could achieve the level of funding, and therefore, treatment, that they needed.

He faced detractors, and he prevailed, in the process bringing together a massive community of pain specialists world-wide. Painaustralia is his legacy.

I always find it interesting to read of a subject’s origins and see how those influenced the outcome of their life. Dr Cousins’s father’s legacy included a high level of values and moral responsibility, and various members of his family were change agents, compelled to right wrongs. What legacy have you carried from your origins? It’s a question I always enjoy exploring.

I highly recommend Breaking Through the Pain Barrier to people interested in biographies of extraordinary achievement, those in the medical profession, and anyone who experiences chronic pain. They will be reassured to read of the latest breakthroughs, and the dedication that those in the industry devote to research and treatments. The author has done an exceptional job of documenting important history within the framework of an interesting story. 5 stars.

Breaking Through the Pain Barrier is available at all good bookstores and libraries or directly from Hawkeye here.

More information about Gabriella Kelly-Davies here.

Carolyn Martinez

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