Sunday, January 8, 2012

“Igor, I need a new brain”

When my wife and I first saw my neurosurgeon about my brain tumor, she answered one critical question that was worrying me – how big was it?  Her answer was simple, “about as big as your wife’s fist.” 

The answer was simple, graphic and, at the same time, somewhat terrifying. My skull wasn’t bulging out anyplace, which meant that my brain was being squished by the tumor.

Prior to the tumor, I liked my brain.  I always felt that I could think on my feet, do calculations in my head and remember stuff – like directions – without writing them down.

But lately, I couldn’t do any of that as well as I used to. I thought that I was just getting old and this happened to everybody. But after learning about the tumor, well, that changed everything. Maybe my “smarts” were being squished right out of my brain.  I mean unless you’re a sponge, there’s nothing good about being squashed.

Was my brain now…defective? A reject?  Was it a brain that nobody in their right mind would want?

In my daydream, I could imagine Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.  In it, there would be a row of early 1960-era computers, complete with tape drives whirring and clicking. The room would have that classic hospital-theater lighting which bathed the operating room in bright light and created dark shadows elsewhere in the room.

On the operating table, held down by massive leather straps, would be very large body with greenish skin. Gleaming scalpels and thongs and other wicked-looking instruments are laid out on a sterile table next to the strapped down monster.

Against a back wall, far from the operating table, there’s a row of human brains floating in large glass jars full of a bluish fluid that was percolating in and out of the jars through a translucent pipe.

All of a sudden, Dr. Frankenstein barks out an order, “It’s time. Igor, bring me the brain!”

A misshapen, limping servant about five and a half feet tall comes into view and cry out in a breathy eastern-European accent, “Yes, Dr. Frankenstein”.

Igor awkwardly shuffles towards the back wall around large cabinets and vats of bubbling, odd-colored liquids. Sounds of his club foot scraping against the rough concrete floor echoes against the arching laboratory walls.

The row of human brains is on the top shelf – much too high for Igor to reach. So he pulls over an A-frame ladder on wheels. Breathing heavily, he locks the wheels, and slowly climbs to the top step, lurching from side-to-side along the way. He carefully lifts the stainless steel top off of the container and sets it down.  Then he puts on a pair of sturdy black-colored rubber gloves and carefully picks up the fragile brain.

Fluid is dripping down his gloves and onto the concrete floor as he tentatively steps down the worn rungs of the ladder. On the first step, he slides a little, but catches himself. The second step is wetter so he takes extra care. On the last step he sets his foot down into a puddle of the oozing fluid and slips.   

He careens to the left. Clumsily, he compensates waving his right arm with trying to hold the brain in his atrophied left arm and hand.  Abruptly, the brain slips out of his hands and lands on the floor with a decided “splat”.

Panicked, Igor quickly uses his wandering eye to see if Dr. Frankenstein has seen him drop the brain. He sighs when he sees that Dr. Frankenstein has his back to him, engrossed in his preparations.

Igor then focuses both eyes on the fallen brain, gingerly picks it up, wipes dirt off the side of the brain, and carries it to a special pedestal next to the operating table.  He then slowly scuttles towards the back of the room to position himself for a quick getaway when, all of a sudden, he hears Dr. Frankenstein bellow: “Igor! Igor? Igor, I need a new brain, this one’s squished!”

That’s how I felt about my brain. It was squished and I wanted another brain; my old good brain, a brain that worked a whole lot better than my squashed brain.

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