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"A Journey Through Brain Trauma"

August 16, 1998

Morningstar: Dealing with Brain TraumaBy Teri Johnson / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer [enlarge]




Louise Ray Morningstar started a journal after her daughter was critically injured in an automobile accident, but she never intended it to become a book.

She didn't realize how much reading about her family's traumatic experience could help others.

Ten years ago, Misti Morningstar Lucente's car was hit by a tractor-trailer whose driver had run a red light. The accident left the 17-year-old in a coma for 3 1/2 months.

Morningstar's book, "Journey Through Brain Trauma: A Mother's Story of Her Daughter's Recovery," describes her struggle to help Lucente recover from brain damage, detailing every stage of rehabilitation to the point where she regained her independence.

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Morningstar wrote in her journal for 5 years, 5 months and 15 days - from the day of the accident to Lucente's wedding on July 17, 1993.

"I thought that when Misti got better, she'd want to know what happened," says Morningstar, of Waynesboro, Pa.

She put her journal away, but as time passed she found herself going to hospitals when an accident similar to her daughter's occurred.

She'd copy pages from her journal to take to those families.

"I found myself using it more and more when there was an accident," Morningstar says.

She decided to turn the manuscript into a book. She sent out 129 query letters to publishers and received 129 rejection letters, so she put her manuscript in storage.

Several months later she got a call from a literary agent, and she sold her manuscript to Taylor Publishing Co. of Dallas.

The book, a moving story of a mother's devotion and dedication, was published in April.

Lucente lives in Ijamsville, Md., with her husband, Rich, their son Christian, 2, and their daughter, Rebecca, born Aug. 4.

Lucente, 28, says the book was hard for her to read.

"A lot of things I don't remember happening," Lucente says.

Morningstar says putting the book together also was difficult for her.

"I would type a page, then cry for an hour," Morningstar says.

She says her husband, Harry Morningstar Sr., and her two sons, Harry Morningstar Jr. and Chuck Morningstar, haven't read her book.

"They said they're not ready yet, that they need more time," she says.

She says when brain trauma occurs, it changes the lives of the entire family.

Every family's experience with brain trauma is different, says Larry Hoffer, director of communications for the Brain Injury Association in Alexandria, Va.

About two million people in the United States suffer brain injury each year, Hoffer says.

Morningstar, who appeared with Lucente on the "The Maury Povich Show" last fall in an episode on cheating death, is trying to reach out to others.

Morningstar says most of her work is one-on-one with parents who are going through an experience like she did.

She'll see an accident listed in the newspaper, and she'll make a phone call and head to the hospital.

"If they need me, I'll go," she says.

She often receives calls and letters, and she says she tries to answer every one.

If she believes someone needs a copy of her book, she'll send them one. She doesn't expect any payment in return.

"If I can help one other person, it makes it all worthwhile," she says.

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