Friday, October 14, 2011


I'm coming up on the second anniversary of my brain operation. Something some of you have let me know you feel you've heard enough about. Me too, actually. But it's ongoing. Just had a brain MRI this morning, because now, if I see the doc about anything that could be related to a brain issue, (just as with other health issues I've had operations for) they have to start by making sure it doesn't have anything to do with my brain.

And it just so happens that last Sunday's NY Times had a piece in their op-ed section—now called "Sunday Review"—written by a woman who had suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident and ended up much worse than anything I had to deal with. It's a pretty fascinating story and perspective, so I recommend it (here).

Nonetheless, some of her experiences I could identify with, which was the ultimate point of her essay. That brain trauma survivors have some things in common and would benefit from a group just made up of them, as in the Alcoholics Anonymous model that worked so well it's become almost common for other survivors of a particular affliction or trauma to form groups to help each other in ways that are unique for them and their experience, and often better than the help they get from professionals.

I also ran into the woman who'd had brain surgery three months before me and who it turned out was having some complications from it. I saw her husband first, and asked him about her and he tried to explain what he thought was going on but said, "She can tell you better" and let me know she'd be along soon. And when she came we immediately started talking our own language about things that happen that we know are related to the surgery or the original problem. I mentioned one thing with me and she said, "Oh yeah, that's the scar tissue."

When I saw the neurologist today, the one I had begun the process with two years ago with my first brain MRI, she thought some of the symptoms I was feeling could be coming from "the scar tissue" from the operation. I saw the MRI and I would only be guessing if I were to tell you what it looked like to me, but what it looked like to me is that there's still a hole where they took out what was in there. I'm sure that's not technically correct, or even true, but it was compelling to think of it that way.

The miracle is that I'm so "back to normal" in the eyes of most folks that using the operation and its aftermath as an explanation for any of my foibles seems like milking it. And there may be some truth to that. But whatever the deeper reality, I still am totally captivated by the ways the brain works and impacts our reactions to reality, our perspective on...just about everything as far as I can tell.

[PS: And here's another fascinating story about brain trauma and its aftermath, thanks to Chris Mason for it.]


Elisabeth said...

Is it really two years, Michael? Where did all that time go. I agree with you that people who have had to deal with similar trauma, surgery, illness, life circumstance etc can be helpful, but only as an adjunct to getting on with living with everyone else as you have clearly done.

No point in becoming ghettoized.

I come by here from time to time but not as often as I'd like these days. Still finishing my thesis, but almost there.

It's good to read you're doing well.

Jamie Rose said...

You're not "milking" it. I've known you for almost thirty years. I know there are differences--the "lists"--the "typos" come to mind (nd other physical stuff that you don't write about here). You're so hyper-intelligent and have such an encyclopedic wealth of info in that head of yours that you are still way ahead of me and just about everyone else I know, but yes, the differences are real, and the reason I love your blog is that you always tell it like it is for you. It keeps me feeling connected to you and it makes me feel like I can tell it like it is too. Please, keep going, keep going, keep going...

Lally said...

Elisabeth, great to hear from you. I followed your recovery as well and always appreciate your honesty.

And Jamie, thanks for the support and love and your way too flattering comment.

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Dear Michael Lally,

Know there are people who read your blog each day and much enjoy it you don't even know. Part of the return is your genuine heart to things, and a brain is nothing to take lightly. Speak to it (and us) at will.

all's well, Bob

Lally said...

Thanks Bob. For many years now, it's been clear to me that I, and I suspect many of us, write for one person (at least one at a time) who hopefully gets what we intend them to, and maybe more. When that person lets us know they do, that's the bonus that's added to the satisfaction of just doing it.

At least that's the way I see it, and may make sense to someone.

Chris Mason said...

Michael, don't stop writing about your how your brain operation has changed the way you think (or hasn't changed the way you think). It's always interesting and you teach us a lot about the brain through your observations. There's a piece in the New York Times recently about an artist Lonnie Sue Johnson who has a serious case of amnesia and is still drawing. She used to do New Yorker covers. The link is:

or just google Lonnie Sue Johnson

Lally said...

Chris, the link didn't work for me but I googled it. Incredible story. That she proved to science that memory is not necessary for creativity or the creative aspects of personality, among other things, is totally fascinating. How wonderful to be alive in a time of such intensely unique discoveries about "the self" and the ways our brains determine who that is.

Lally said...

PS: Chris and others, I liked to that article in a PS on the post above.