Thursday, July 26, 2007

My left brain and I

Ever since Jan was rushed to the hospital I became intrigued, thirsty and a times desperate for more knowledge about how the brain works. I wanted an answer to my questions: how much function is Jan going to recover? When can I say this is as good as it gets?

Unfortunately the specialists limited their answers to euphemisms. I didn’t know if they refused to tell me more of what they knew or they were just being candid when they said that they knew very little about how the brain works and heals; that Jan’s determination would define how far she could go in her healing. This, of course, was an invitation to go find more information.

I remember the first time I took her for a wheelchair trip around the hospital. She had been there almost two months. She could hardly sit straight and carried her head to the side. The right side of her head had her usual long hair; the left side had been shaved. She looked like one of these modern girls with a weird hairdo. She had a big dent about 4 inches long by 3 inches wide and an inch deep. The surgeon had kept the flap bones of her skull out to give her brain some room to swell. She could not talk, nor could she stay focused more than 10 minutes. She cried unexpectedly and then she would just drop her head without any strength like a rag doll. The surgeon had surgically removed the portion where the language centre was originally. How was Jan ever going to speak again?

That was over a year ago. Somehow Jan’s brain has re-written the language program in another part of her cortex. Medical science doesn’t know how this happens, but it happens. Slowly, over many months, Jan has rebuilt her ability to speak. She still can’t find some words, but her conversations are getting better all the time. Her right side is regaining feeling and movement. So, what happened in her brain? What part told the other to help? What part re-wrote the dictionaries, What part linked them with memories and emotions? Which part creates the words? which part understands the words? Which part reads the non-spoken part of communication such as body language? How does it all come together?

I wanted to know how far Jan would heal, how I could help. I wanted to know more about her brain and mine.

So, I began reading all that came to my hands about the brain and its injuries, about it incredible capacity to rebuild itself, about the wonderful plasticity that shows its capacity to change and adapt all the time.

(will continue tomorrow)

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