Thursday, 20 March 2008

A Stroke of Genius

Seen via ImpactED Nurse, one of the most inspirational speeches I know of.

What happens when a Neuroanatomist realises she's having a stroke - so can observe stuff first hand!. At first she's excited, as of course you would be. Well, as I would be. As I was, when some weird medical stuff went down with me. Then she realises "Oh wait, I don't have time for this..." and struggles to get help as her brain becomes more and more dysfunctional, parts shutting down, and she knows what work-arounds to use as she's progressively unable to think in certain areas.

Eventually she emerges eight years later not quite the same person she was before. There have been cognitive deficits. There have also been cognitive gains, and an explosion of creativity.

Her description is the mirror-image of how I felt recovering from some anaesthesia recently, which suppressed my left hemisphere more than my right. Rather than shutting down, I was booting up. I felt no regret leaving Nirvana, though it was a nice place to be. But only to visit: I wouldn't want to live there, I have duties to perform, people to help.

It did feel odd to have arms and legs again though, to have a body. I know it's necessary, but it seems all a little... slipshod. Slapdash. A work-around that lets us interact with each other in a more meaningful way than the rather intellectual stuff elsewhere. Of course, that's just the musings of a partly-functional brain bootstrapping itself. Isn't it?


Anonymous said...

Maybe that could be why some people with brain disorders so detest their medication?

Anonymous said...

I find this woman to be insufferable. "I was a neuroanatomist.� Oh, sorry, a �brain scientist.� At Haaarvard. �But I didn't realize I was having a stroke even though I had one of the cardinal signs of stroke." "I then began to exercise probably exacerbating the hemorrhagic due to the natural increase in BP during exercise"-- would have been an honest statement. Not until hemiparesis sets in does she get it. Now, here�s what I notice about her: She obviously loves public speaking, and loves the sound of her voice. But if you look over her resume her speeches outnumber her journal publications by about 50 to 1 and I don�t think I�m exaggerating. So her premise is that she has special insight into stroke. Why? Because she�s a neuroanatomist. Who failed to realize she was having a stroke. And all the preachy other-worldly �lookit me!� gestalt of it is too, too much. Every stroke survivor I�ve ever met has an interesting and enlightening story. Dr. Taylor�s IS different. It�s piled very high and deep.

Anonymous said...

"But I didn't realize I was having a stroke even though I had one of the cardinal signs of stroke."

Realising that requires logical thought, which resides in the left hemisphere. So yeah, she would have trouble realising it.

Zoe Brain said...

Ann O'Namous - you assume that she has the same cognitive capabilities before as after too. The evidence says she doesn't. She's taken best advantage of her new abilities, and minimised the disadvantages of losing some she used to have.

Trying to debug hardware when it's catastrophically failed, and is quickly degrading afterwards, when your only tool is the hardware itself, is also ... non-trivial.

I'm acutely aware of that, as I was in a similar situation during the first few weeks of my metabolic whoopsie in 2005. My brain, and hence my mind, was changing due to the hormonal storm. Trying to figure out what was happening as it happened was Tricky.

Dave said...

kinda agree with all the previous comments.
Yes, it's a fascinating topic, and she's got the combo of neuroanatomist/patient to sell her story beyond most other stroke victims. That angle is interesting, although she perhaps oversells it a bit.

What is interesting in a more general sense is problem solving in an unfolding crisis, particularly if the problem solver should have the resources to at least figure out the nature of the crisis itself. So often we get even the basic diagnosis of the situation wrong. Having an open mind in fluid situations is critical. (I guess that's hard if your brain is the thing having the crisis!)