“Updrafts,” the story of an accident, a brain, and a recovery featured on CBC Ideas

A doctor or a therapist — I can’t remember which — came to my hospital bed to assess my condition. She handed me a pen and asked that I write my name. Sure, I thought. No problem. But when I tried to hold the pen it felt odd. When I tried to write my name I couldn’t do it. All I could write was a scribble.

I was 24 years old and I couldn’t write. I could barely hold a pen.

So it’s not much of a leap to understand that twelve years later when the phone call came my breath stopped. The pitch I’d been working on for over a year was accepted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio program IdeasThey hired me to research, conceive, write, record and narrate the program about my recovery from brain injury.

I began writing the story as an essay for an undergraduate creative non fiction narrative workshop lead by Stephen Hume. (Four years after my TBI I was accepted to the Writing Program at UVic. I tell the whole story in The Memory Box.) When I completed the essay, a Canadian literary magazine accepted it for publication in a special issue about survivors, but then the issue fell through and it wasn’t published. C’est la vie.

In the fall of 2001 I used that essay as a basis for my pitch to Ideas. And it worked. They commissioned me to create a program.

It was a bit gut churning to interview folks who where critical to the story, but with whom I hadn’t spoken in years. And I was both intimidated and invigorated stepping into the CBC studio with producer Dave Redel and sound engineer Bob Doble to bring the fragmented, time twisting and turning and structurally “messy” script to life.

Following the broadcast in 2004 the show titled Updrafts won nominations for several broadcasting awards, including: The New York Festivals, The Peabody Awards, The Gabriel Awards, and the Prix Italias. Retired Ideas Executive Producer, Bernie Lucht called updrafts, “one of the finest ever aired on Ideas.”

The beginning of a journey can’t predict where you’ll arrive.

Here are a few short segments from the CBC Ideas program, Updrafts.


In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., has written/edited four published books and his CBC Ideas program “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to the book, The Memory Box.

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