Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No one man should have all that power

But, unfortunately, they do... I'm not talking about Adolf Hitler or Osama bin laden, i'm talking about something different. Something that can control your every action, something that balances you between sheer genius and sheer insanity, something that can make a perfect life not worth living in a matter of seconds. I'm talking about the brain, and yes, it does have that much power. As a medical student, I'm supposed to be intrigued by its intricacies, appreciate its complexities, and encouraged by its capabilities, but instead, I'm just terrified by its power. Though it is hard to believe, I didn't know what exactly had happened to me for the first six months. I knew that I had a dissection that led to a stroke, but that's it. After I left the hospital, I finally met a doctor who was a stroke specialist and he answered some of my questions. Brace yourselves folks, it's about to get kinda nerdy up in here... So, I found out I had a completely random dissection in an artery in my brain that led to turbulent blood flow and a subsequent stroke in the pons. He explained that for the first 6 months, new neurons from the rest of my brain would go to take the place of the neurons in the pons that were killed by the stroke. For the rest of my life, I would have to train those neurons. Can you believe one tiny, little mistake could lead to such widespread damage that would take years to fix? No one man should have all that power.. Now, what people don't tell you, and what you don't learn in medical school, is that strokes really really really suck. The pons is an area of the brain stem and it is responsible for receiving signals from the rest of my brain and translates them into messages they send to the muscles via the spinal cord. These new neurons are up for the challenge, but they have A LOT to learn, to say the least! These new neurons are like, "dayum mami! Why is the rest of the brain bugging us to talk to the muscles?! Wait, what on earth is a muscle? And how the hell are we supposed to talk to them?" These neurons are blank slates and kind of clueless about muscles and messages. They not only need to learn how to turn muscles on, but also how to turn them off. On the other side of that, I also need to strengthen muscles that haven't been used in months. Now there are two huge problems with all of this. First, yes, for example, my arms are getting stronger, but it is nothing without my wrist and my fingers, but those muscles are much smaller, so they are much harder to strengthen. Secondly, when we are normal, there are so many things our body does that we take for granted and don't even notice. Who knew there are about a billion steps involved with walking? Who knew there are muscles in your leg that need to work to keep shoes on your feet? Who even thinks about how they remove their shirt? I need to think about each and every little movement, every muscle, and it is so frustrating, close to impossible. I have been working insanely hard every day for the past 2 years to try to help my brain get my body back to normal. And I tried everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I hope there is a learning curve to all of this, that one day, my brain will take all it has learned and take off running. I'm just a girl, standing in front of my brain asking it to amaze me ;)Instead of being scared of my brain's power, I might as well embrace it. I mean it is my brain that allows me to think of my crazy questions, come up with my insightful theories, and feel every emotion under the sun, and pour it all out into this lovely blog. Most importantly, the best part of the brain's power is what is going to save my life. It is the amazing ability of the brain to recover from an injury, to return the brain back to normal after an accident, and somehow persevere through any bad stroke of luck. This unbelievable ability is called plasticity. And all my hopes and dreams are riding on it, so let's hope the brain does some magic! The brain with all its power is vulnerable even to the smallest of mistakes, but it's capable of so much. I don't expect my brain to do this all alone. It will have my hungry heart, my fearless spirit, and my passionate soul to help it achieve greatness. So let's toast to the brain, my arch enemy and my best friend, and here is hoping its power will impress us all!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dancing with myself


Boredom used to be a luxury I enjoyed occasionally during rare holidays at home when I didn't have 500 things to do. It felt really good to do nothing. But the day I entered the ICU, boredom became a state of being. Now, doing nothing, literally, felt absolutely awful. All day, everyday, I was alone, except for brief visits from my family. There was silence, absolute silence, except for the incessant beeping from the machines keeping me alive. But I could hear something else... something loud... something dying to get out... something dying to be was the fear building up inside me, screaming with pain. But there was no escape, no exit, no way out. I had to learn pretty quickly those fears, thoughts, questions that were haunting my every second, were locked forever inside me. I was hopelessly trapped inside myself. Instead of letting my mind self destruct, I embraced it. What I mean is that, I somehow embraced being locked inside myself. I became best friends with myself. I went dancing with my thoughts, singing with my fears, and trying to answer my own questions. I relived all of my memories, freezing them forever in my brain. Since my stroke took away everything else from me, all I had left were my memories, and I was so scared they would slip away too. With time, I was able to use a communication board with my eyes, but I could only spell out a few words. Slowly, I was able to have some semblance of a voice, but it was unintelligible to most. But one day, I got an ultimate cure to my boredom. After seven months of relative silence, I had a voice. I finally had a voice, well, kind of. With some insane technology, I was able to use a computer with a slight movement of my head. I could use email, Facebook, browse the web, play my itunes, everything, all by myself. It may not sound like a big deal, but it truly changed my life. It opened up a world of opportunity, and it opened up, me. One day, I was talking to a friend on gchat, who I hadn't talked to since my stroke, and we were having a fun conversation. I was using some of the phrases I always used, like "Otay" and "Totes" and my friend was like, "Wow, it's really you." Those four simple words really touched me. I had been dying for people to know it was still me inside my mess of a body. Now, I finally had a way to show it, and show it damn well. Then Nisha had the amazing idea to start a blog. I had spent 23 years being a math and science person, but from her brilliant idea, I blossomed into a writer. I was a mathlete and science olympian, and on my way to being a doctor, but my horrible experience, my months of introspection and my hunger to be heard, turned me into a writer. And boy, do I have a lot to say. There is something special about the written word. I haven't figured it out yet, but it allows you to be so brutally honest, much more than you would be in person. I don't know if I am writing for you or writing for me. It feels really good finally get all my thoughts, fears, and questions out there, and hopefully you all are gaining something from my experience. I remember telling my friend that all of these awful things that have happened to me and everything I've learned would all be for nothing if I didn't share it with people. So until my speech becomes normal again, I have this to show you all that it is still me, to tell you all of my secrets, and to forever open up, me.