In two months I will undergo brain surgery.
Brain surgery? you ask. What’s wrong with your brain? On the whole, nothing. Memory is excellent, as is cognition, not to mention creativity. The problem lies with the death of neurons controlling motor function, which leaves me with a dopamine deficiency that impairs my mobility on the right side.
What about the magic pills? Well, the magic is still there when they kick in, but sometimes they don’t, so I’m making my move before things get really dicey. At this point I have no fear. On the contrary, I am eager to have the procedure. I believe the benefits (restoring functionality) far outweigh the risks.
The operation is called DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation). First, the neurosurgeon drills a hole on each side of my skull, through which, guided by a “mapping” of the brain based on data obtained from digital images–MRI, CT scans–he deftly inserts two electrodes. His target for implanting the electrodes is the area that generates abnormal activity (in my case, rigidity). In order to ensure that they are implanted in the right spot, I must be awake during the procedure. My body’s reactions to the surgeon’s probing will be a key factor in his ability to implant the leads in the desired location. No room for error here.
In the second phase, during which I am asleep, an incision is made to implant two neurostimulators (similar to pacemakers) under the skin near my collarbone. Then wires are run behind my ears and down my neck to connect the electrodes to the neurostimulators, which in turn emit tiny electrical pulses that block the nerve signals causing my symptoms. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase: I’m wired!
The final stage of this operation involves programming the neurostimulators to deliver just the right amount of electric stimulation to my brain. The fine-tuning process can take several months and therefore demands patience. But wouldn’t you be patient after undergoing an operation that entails drilling holes in your skull, running wires down your neck, and bolting your head to a frame with tiny screws to keep it from moving while the surgeon pokes around your brain? If this wasn’t neurosurgery, it would be a construction site.
Meanwhile, I continue to paint. Mostly minimalist animals. Acrylic on paper. (Current exhibit: Overlook Hospital, October 17, 2015 – January 9, 2016)
I am also working on an art project called Genuine Art with five-year-old children at the Madison Montessori School. More on that later. For the time being, my focus is on matters of health.