June 8, 2008
Ted Kennedy had brain surgery performed on him while he was wide awake. I can't think of anything worse. I don't even want to be awake for a tooth cleaning. Apparently he had to remain conscious so they were sure not to do something wrong. If they were about to encroach on a part of the brain that served a function like speech, keeping him awake meant they could test it out. Like repeatedly ask him questions like who the President is or to identify objects in pictures and then as long as he got the correct answer, they knew they weren't messing up.
That seems like a lot of pressure. I know that when I'm on the spot, I tend to freeze. What if the surgeons asked me a question and I hesitated because I needed more time to come up with the answer. Would I be able to say, "Wait, I'm thinking - give me a second"? I wouldn't want to be rushed. Or what if I got the wrong answer? Asking who the President is, that's easy. But what if they asked for the date? And I'm terrible at math. If the tumour is on the left part of my brain I'm in trouble. Left brain is the analytical and judgmental hemisphere. Right-brain questions are more my speed - more emotional.
If they wanted to test it out they could ask what I was worried about. If I answered, "nothing" - they'd know something was wrong. Also, if I'm wide awake that means I'll be able to hear them talking. I can see it now - I'm lying there, fully conscious, unable to move, and the doctor says: "Oops."
I have really good hearing too. I can hear when people are whispering. If someone said something nasty about me like they could tell I was high maintenance - I'd instinctively turn my head to see who said it. That wouldn't bode well with a scalpel inside my skull. Or, another possibility - let's say someone says, "Did anyone see last night's episode of The Apprentice?" I could be taping it and the surprise would be ruined. Then what would I have to look forward to?
Even worse, if someone who is supposed to be paying attention asked the neurosurgeon, "What did you do last night?" That would get my heart rate soaring. He's busy! Don't disturb him. It's bad enough having to listen to someone discuss how they spent their crazy night at the bar doing shots but what if the surgeon mentions he's got a hangover? No one wants a brain surgeon with the shakes.
I suppose the good news is that if I'm lying there wide awake, it means I'd have a captive audience. And I'd ask loads of questions. Starting with "How's it look?"
Chances are his response would be "depressed." Soon I'd be talking so much that the doctor would start to lose patience. Especially if I started asking questions like, "Are you almost done?" I'd like to think he wouldn't intentionally remove anything he didn't have to - just to shut me up.