Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can You Read? Post-Operation Reactions - 2010

Once I was home and friends started to reach out to me, it was clear that most people expected the worst—that I couldn’t talk, that my IQ had sunk to new lows, or that I was handicapped in some strange and terrifying way. I don’t blame them for those concerns. 

An old boss took me out to lunch.  One of her first questions was “can you read?” I knew that I could read, but she didn’t know I could read.  Given the horrific experiences of many brain tumor victims, and the memoirs of brain tumor survivors like Jill Bolte-Taylor, she had good reason to worry about my ability to function in normal society.  

Here’s a great example, a note from a friend who’d heard about my tumor:
I'm glad to see you can type!! My experience of brain surgery is largely confined to the movies where the patient awakes to a circle of concerned faces all waiting to see if he suddenly speaks in Urdu or thinks a carrot smells like a sausage and so on. But it seems you have woken up in fully functioning order!!!

Actually, I do have a brain operation story. My friend had two seven hour brain operations after suffering severe head injuries in a car accident. (He made a full recovery.) But when he awoke from the surgeries he had to spend several days in a delirium while the brain tissue healed. During this time he spoke only Spanish, a language he learned in South America while he was at school until the age of four and which he had completely forgotten in the intervening 35 years! Or so he thought.

The Brain, it really is the last frontier.”

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