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The Congresswoman and The Astro “AUNT”

January 24, 2011

I believe the Congresswoman will be fine – better than fine.

I believe many, many people are cheering her on – people in the present and people in the past. One of those people is my favorite Aunt. I know my Aunt is cheering on the Congresswoman from beyond the grave.

Medical science knows much of what it knows about brain injury today, because of my Aunt.

In 1970something my Aunt had a series of massive strokes.

A young ER doctor – a low man on the proverbial totem pole, at the time, presented my family with the following options: if we do nothing she will surely die, but I have an idea I’d like to try and if I do it she could still possibly die.

So my Aunt had either 5 brain surgeries in 7 days or 7 brain surgeries in 5 days. I forget exactly. I was a little girl and no one lives to corroborate the story. My Aunt lived for decades and decades after those surgeries – never quite the same, yet she survived.

Our family had mucho gratitude and respect for the young ambitious ER doctor. We credited him for single handedly saving my Aunt’s life. No one was drilling holes in skulls to relieve pressure or inserting shunts to drain fluids back then, but this young ambitious doctor organized a team to do just that, in 1970something.

Don’t you just love professionals at the start of their careers? When what they seek above riches and fame is to simply help people! I don’t know when the shift occurs, but it always seems too. This young ambitious doctor – low man on the totem pole – stuck with emergency room duties in 1970something, ended his career in 2010 as the head of Neurology at a major teaching hospital. Some years before then, before my Aunt’s death, he could no longer be bothered to give us the time of day, but there was a time when he was on our speed-dial and he always answered the calls. After all my Aunt made him a millionare.

Growing up I recall my family being somewhat resentful upon learning many of my Aunt’s CT scans had been included in a medical textbook, without our knowledge or consent. The young ambitious doctor was able to prove and disprove many intricacies about brain injury, solely because of his work with my Aunt.

But where did that leave us? Of course we were left grateful our loved one survived death – but the expense of managing brain injury is as massive as the injury itself.

If you so much as get caught in an on-location film shot you have to sign a release before your likeness can be aired – while pictures of my Aunt’s brain and all that according to HIPPA is now confidential, is spelled out in a textbook. My Aunt never received one royalty or residual.

As time passed my family didn’t think about it as much or at least they didn’t talk about it as much. The resentment subsided or perhaps it got buried under new resentments.

But at the end of the day, many of the innovations aiding the Congresswoman now, exist partly because of my Aunt’s damaged brain, 40 years ago.

I’d be less than truthful if I said the Congresswoman’s full recovery will be repayment enough for my Aunt’s contribution to that medical textbook – but it will be a start.

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