Mostly Set to Go

Ah, Boston.  The land where Rs either don’t exist on the end of words, or they are added when they actually aren’t there (example:  “pizzar”).  The land where you pay your toll to the Sumner Tunnel and the guy calls Jonathan “Pal.”   The land where Jonathan is kind of a folk hero because he can describe what it was like to be there during the blizzard of  ’78.  The place where, even though we lived here for many years, the antics of drivers can still surprise us.

It’s been a long day of appointments, but we are mostly ready to go now. Turns out that spending an hour+ sitting in the Chief of Neurosurgery’s waiting room is a really good way to end up feeling that you have no problems at all in the world. Today it was packed with people with shaved heads, mobility and mental challenges, and lots of stories. Just listening in made me realize that, if you ever want to be around a lot of courage, you should just go hang out in the neurosurgery waiting area. Particularly emotional for me was the young woman who has 2 stents in her brain because she was born with hydrocephalus and also shrapnel in a number of areas of her skull because she and her family survived attacks when they lived in Sarajevo. Hearing her telling her story, all the time with a face of bravery and  a  type of humor I’ve come to understand is critical to making it through these moments, put many things in my own life in perspective.

We met with Dr. Eskandar to confirm the details of the surgery. And then there was the great moment when he gave me a wink and said “See you tomorrow, shall we?” That’s a moment — when your neurosurgeon winks at you!

I was felt like a star in pre-op because it turns out that doing a lot of yoga and Nia keep your blood pressure and the rest of your body very healthy — all of those tests and numbers looked good. I have a delightful anesthesiologist (Standford Grad — Go Cardinal!) who was telling Jonathan where he could watch the youtube video on putting in a central line (I’m going to pass on that this evening).  Heard the general description of the gizmo they screw my head into so that it remains perfectly still while they do the surgery. It’s a lot to take in, and I am happy that I will not be awake for most of it.

Kind people seem to be everywhere.  Even the woman doing my blood work and my EKG told me, when we finished that she would be praying for me (and go by her church and light a candle for me).  I can’t imagine feeling more surrounded by love than I do right now.  And I love you, right back!

Taking a look inside

right brain all lit upI’ve had a number of beloved friends who are lately posting ultrasound images of their soon-to-be born babies . . . I love seeing those little ones.  I guess this is what you post when you get older and have epilepsy!  But whether it’s an image of a child we have yet to meet in our world, or the inner workings of our brain, there is something truly miraculous and, to me, sacred, about being able to see the inner workings of ourselves. I’ve never understood how some religious types see science as being opposed to religion and spirituality.  When I see a group of scientists and doctors who work collaboratively to create something like the image you see on the left, it’s like seeing a bit of God’s handiwork, first-hand.

This is one of the beautiful images from a functional MRI scan they did at the Mass General of the right side of my brain working away while I perform a word retrival task.  The fMRI is an interesting process — you are in an MRI tube and they flash words and images on a screen and you “think” the answer.  My biggest challenge during the fMRI was that I wanted to argue with them, or preach, about some of the things they were showing me, and they had to tell me not to move my mouth or throat.  For example, one of the tasks they have you do is to show you a noun, and you have to “think” about whether it is abstract or concrete.  The third noun they showed me was “church.”  You can only imagine everything I had to say about this.  Is “church” a concrete noun — in other words, a place, a building?  Or is it abstract — the people, the energy, the relationships?  Of course, it’s both/and, and I really wanted to preach the sermon, or at least share this with the MRI techs, right then and there.  They kindly asked me, in nice Boston accents, to just “save the sermon for lata’ ” and try and think my way through to one response.

The scans seem to show that, while I have a dominant left temporal lobe, much of my language functioning has shifted into my right frontal lobe, all of which is confusing — they don’t really understand, fully, what this means.  For over 80 percent of the population, language is exclusively in the left temporal lobe, where I have a lesion and seizures begin.  However, it’s also encouraging, because it seems to indicate that my brain already has some plasticity and began this shift awhile ago.  So next time you listen to me “go off” in a sermon or a yoga class, just blame it on my right dominant brain (and tell me, kindly, that you’ve heard enough, for now).