on Oct 26, 2006
As a result of the difficult business with my daughter, my wife and I have needed to learn a bit about seizures. Well, I did, anyway. My wife has training in working with the disabled, and has seen a lot of seizures of various types.
In 1971 my father, who was 29 years old, had a cerebral hemorrhage. His brain was bleeding. He collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. A couple of days later he woke up. The good news was that there was no obvious brain damage. The bad news was that all that blood had formed a clot in his brain that would kill him sooner or later if it wasn’t removed.
I’m sure if this happened today they would remove the clot with lasers, or send self-replicating nanites in after it, or maybe just use the transporter and beam the sucker out of there. But we’re talking about 1971 here, which means they had just enough medical knowledge to know that this was not a job for blunt tools and fire.
There was no way around it – to get the clot out they were going to have to go through some brain tissue. That brain tissue would be destroyed, and he would suffer some level of brain damage. So, the choice was to live with this time-bomb in his head, waiting for it to kill him at any moment, or to go in and destroy parts of his otherwise healthy brain. It wasn’t much of a choice. They did the procedure. Afterwards the left side of his body was paralyzed, and he suffered from epilepsy. As a result, he would need to take anti-seizure medication for the rest of his life. He eventually recovered limited use of his left leg, but from that day on his left arm hung limp at his side and he never made use of it again.
I was born about six months later. Without getting into a bunch of irrelevant family history, let’s just say I didn’t see much of him for the next twelve years. I got to know him as I entered my teens and eventually I began to grasp what had really happened to this guy and who he used to be.
I never saw him during a seizure, but the idea stuck in my mind. At the time I related it to the only thing I understood: computers. If you trash a block of memory, the computer can continue to operate just fine until the moment it reaches into that corrupted or missing block. At that point anything can happen, from a minor application hiccup to a full-on systemwide crash. It all depends on what was in the lost block of data and what it was being used for.
Of course, everything I’ve just said is complete and utter nonsense. Computer crashes and seizures in the brain are not the same thing, and it is only my ignorance of the latter that made it possible for me to construct these parallels.
Despite the fact that I know this is mostly baloney, I still keep trying to think of things using this metaphor. I guess a bad metaphor is more comforting than cluelessness.
Yeah I know, this post is kinda wierd. Go figure.
UPDATE: Steven has a much more correct metaphor in the comments below.