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Hope and terror: I just had most of my frontal lobe chopped out


The grizzly details

The frontal lobes contain all that makes us human – our personality, thinking abilities, problem solving and memory (image By Polygon data were generated by Life Science Databases(LSDB). - Polygon data are from BodyParts3D.[11], CC BY-SA 2.1 jp, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9499837)

 A little over two weeks ago, a tall Greek surgeon, with a name that literally means “to die” in Ancient Greek sawed a dessert plate-sized wedge of bone from the front of my head then cut and scraped a cancerous tumour from my right frontal lobe, leaving me with only a slither of normal brain on that side. Fifty years from now, what he has just done will be considered barbaric – just like the way ancient medicine men would use sharp flint tools to bore large holes in the skull of people suffering migraines and epilepsy to try to release sinister forces (an operation called trepanning), or like the cruel act of slicing off the frontal, thinking regions of the brain (frontal lobotomy) to treat serious mental health conditions – which was widely performed up until the 1950s when doctors realised it was turning patients into zombies. After half a day on a 21st century operating table, I awoke in a hospital ward with a paralyzed left hand. Thankfully I wasn’t a zombie and with intense concentration, I could just about persuade my clenched hand to open and close, but it would then be clamped shut again. In a moment, my future of writing seemed to have been thrown in the bin along with my excised brain. The book I have been writing would be forever unfinished.

Medical school training had taught me that nerves in the adult brain and spinal cord do not regenerate but are forever lost when damaged. Yet through many tears, I have already experienced that this wisdom does the human brain and body a great disservice. The bodies we have are far more incredible than we give them credit for:

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Hospital doctor turned lecturer and science communicator, I love trying to answer life's questions - whether it is how our body works or the best way to dunk a biscuit.... Read more...

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