Thursday, March 13, 2008

Friday Moment of Zen: Watching a massive brain hemmorage from the inside

One my biggest fears in life is realising one day I am having a stroke. Why? Partly because I keep getting told if I keep eating too much salt I'll end up having one, partly because I was the person who found my grandmother lying on the kitchen floor when she had hers and I had to watch her deteriorate - lose function, lose her ability to walk, look after herself, go to the toilet unaided. But mostly because I am terrified that one day I'll end up in a "locked in" situation - where I'll still be able to think, see, feel, hear but not be able to move my body.

This brings me to my "moment of zen".

Dr Jill Bolte Taylor is a neroanatomist who in 1996 found she had a ringside seat to her very own stroke - a massive hemorrhage in the left side of her brain. She watched as her brain functions shut down one by one: motion, speech, memory, self-awareness... All the while her brain was deteriorating she was processing its breakdown as if she were a "curious explorer taking field notes".

She's given a fantastic and fascinating speech on ted.com (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.) At one point she even says "Oh my gosh, I'm having a stroke! I'm having a stroke! And the next thing my brain says to me 'WOW! This is so cool! How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?!'"

Admittedly some of it may offend some people who think words like "energy force" is as disgusting as rotten cheese, but you should watch to see how she describes the differences between the left and right hemispheres, brings out a human brain, recounts the events of that morning in vivid detail, from when she thought her hands looked like claws on the exercise machine, to how at one point she could only dial her office by trying to match the shapes of the squiggles on her business card to the shapes of the squiggles on the buttons on her phone, to how one the way to hospital she thought she was going to die, to her shock when she realised she was still alive, to how 2 weeks after she woke up in hospital, surgeons went in and removed a golf ball sized blood clot in the left hemisphere of her brain, to how it has taken her 8 years to fully recover.

The reason why I'm posting about this is because for the first time in about 19 years I feel like perhaps if or when I have a stroke, maybe there could be some hope for me too. Watch the video - it's long, but honestly worth it.

1 comment:

tm said...

both fascinating and moving at the same time. only an idiot would be offended.