My wife recently had an operation. Although considered by the surgeons "a minor procedure", it was pretty "major procedure" to my wife and I.
I have always been fascinated by surgery and the body; the way it can repair itself - it's truly amazing. The way the medical field can replace parts of the body with mechanical and electronic parts is also fascinating to me.
Organs can be replaced with donated parts, and soon, we will be able to replace organs with machinery! After all; is not a heart a pump, and the liver a filter?
I am a diabetic - my pancreas is shot! So I inject myself three times a day with insulin. Will the time come when (Star Trek-like) a simple pill will cure diabetes permanently?
Granted, the above organs are intricate biological devices, but I am positive that one day they will be able to be replaced with fully functional man-made alternatives.
We are born of a single cell. That cell divides and grows and using our human codes (DNA), the cells grow into a new life. Is it not feasible that one day we can 'tell' a group of cells to grow into, for example: a new knee? Is a body simply an organic machine? I have seen operations on television and to me it does appear to be mechanics. Your knee is not working? Bang! Have a new one! My hip doesn’t work! Bang again! Have a prosthetic!
I know I have used humour to trivialise these major personal, stressful and painful experiences, but technology is regularly improving. Imagine medicine 150 years ago: brutal! Survival was down to luck. What will medicine be like 150 years in the future?
Since my wife’s procedure I have been pondering mankind, pain and what makes us unique... what makes us special... To me it comes down to one thing: our brain.
Our brain is a super computer! It has pain receptors and we generally know when we hurt - unless we have other rare diseases that impede this. Our brain regulates and controls our emotions (along with processing inputs like gut and hormonal influence), our personality, our decision making and our responses.
Take the well-known case of Phineas P. Gage (1823–1860). He was an American railroad construction foreman remembered for his improbable survival of an accident in which a large iron rod was driven completely through his head, destroying much of his brain's left frontal lobe.
The injury's reported effects on his personality and behavior over the remaining 12 years of his life? His mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was 'no longer Gage'. His personality changed, he was a different person.
To see ourselves as others see us
The mind can control the way you feel. Pain, whether it be physical or mental, makes us focus on the now rather than the future. The anguish we sometimes suffer causes us to say things we don’t really mean. In anger we attack often the ones closest to us. When we suffer, logic goes out the window. Why is this? Why do we fight and argue with those we love?
It could be that our brain has a virus, like a computer! It effects our mainframe. Rather than working and doing its day to day operations and tasks - suddenly it is focusing on a small part of the minds programming. And like a virus, it crashes. If we were a laptop, we would be getting warnings and popups. But we don’t get those, instead we attack and verbalise and usually feel dreadful afterwards.
But we must remember, this is a tiny part of our brains' functioning. The mind is somewhere in our brains - our souls and our conscience too. Our love of music, art, theatre and the beauty of nature, the joy of discovery and the learning of new things.
Indeed we are wonderfully made.
I would like to misquote a wonderful movie: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).
“I read your recent article about me. It makes me out to be a self-centered, self-absorbed egotist. That I am unable to care for anyone apart from myself! I cannot show love, nor can I see anything wrong with that!
It seems pretty accurate.”
The healing process can be a tough road, but we have the tool to learn from our suffering and help others. By using our empathy, our love and our experiences. All stored in that amazing creation, that super computer, our brain!
To conclude, let me say this is a deeply complicated and personal subject and I have merely scratched the surface - I hope you can see the simple message.
Christopher wants to see equalness in the world and desires to see the doors of Christianity open to all. He feels that, too often, faith and belief are used to promote individual ideologies. Christopher has been a drama junkie for decades. He enjoys reading, theatre, good food and good company. He loves music but can’t play a note, nor sing very well for that matter. He has two adult children and a patient wife. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.
See all previous articles by Christopher Newport