Archives for the Month of January, 2011

STBs

Hospital 1500 / Wellcome Images

Hospital 1500 / Wellcome Images

At the rehab hospital, the nurses had a name for a particular brand of patient: “STB,” for Stupid Teenage Boy.  When I was there, I met one, a 17-year-old who had been racing another teenager in his car and ran into a tree. Now he was in a wheelchair, spoke with an unnaturally high voice and giggled a lot for no reason. STB.

Waiting

Waiting / Wellcome Images

Waiting / Wellcome Images

I watched while my friends did extraordinary things. They discovered planets, became doctors and lawyers, started companies, had kids.

I had a stroke so I had to wait.

Sneak Out

Party Cocktail / Wellcome Images

Party Cocktail / Wellcome Images

Just before I was discharged from the hospital’s inpatient neuro ward, my friends snuck me out of the hospital to go to a party.

Hospital II.

The Runner / Wellcome Images

The Runner / Wellcome Images


At the rehab hospital, there was a boy patient of about 14 years old. He had been hit by a car whose driver was talking on a cell phone.

I usually saw him when our physical therapy was at the same time. He did not talk. He had no affect. All he did was jog around and around the atrium, looking off into the distance, as if he was hearing the call of another world.

Inspiration

Nerve Pills / Wellcome Images

Nerve Pills / Wellcome Images

Despite my stroke, I am charming and well-adjusted.

People say I am inspiring. I don’t want to be inspiring. I want to be better.

Neuroplasticity, the Holy Grail

Brain 1744 / Wellcome Images

Brain 1744 / Wellcome Images

From Oliver Sacks in the NYT:

“Neuroplasticity — the brain’s capacity to create new pathways — is a crucial part of recovery for anyone who loses a sense or a cognitive or motor ability….I have seen hundreds of patients with various deficits — strokes, Parkinson’s and even dementia — learn to do things in new ways, whether consciously or unconsciously, to work around those deficits.”

This is why I spend so much time at the gym, doing blasted exercises. At present, scientists know that challenging exercise at huge levels of repetition can help rewire an injured brain. Neuroplasticity, rewiring, is the Holy Grail for stroke rehab. Hundreds of repetitions. Thousands.

But you normals have plasticity too. Ponder:

“That the brain is capable of such radical adaptation raises deep questions. To what extent are we shaped by, and to what degree do we shape, our own brains? And can the brain’s ability to change be harnessed to give us greater cognitive powers?”

This Year, Change Your Mind, NYT 12.31.10