Archive for the Chatter Category

Two-handedness, Arm Sawing, and Cartwheels vs. Handstands

Posted in Chatter on August 22, 2009 by Melissa Henry
My nook...Friday in the Heights...Cast free...

My nook...Friday in the Heights...Cast free...

Back in my little nook by the window I am happy as a clam, typing away with BOTH hands doing everything I can not to shriek for joy and go bounding about the room like a psychotic kangaroo.  Two-handedness is cool.  Yet another lesson in ‘you don’t know how valuable something is until you lose it.’  Alright already with the life lessons, I would say that I’m wise enough for about the next five years. Deal?

A short discourse on the whole cast ordeal…

Nearly four weeks of wearing a cast on your dominant arm, in August no less and one can grow quite weary of the damned thing.  As it turns out, you need both hands to do a great many things and not being able to do those things means you can’t do other things and on and on until you are bored to death.  Unable to so much as read without falling asleep due to the gnarly pain medication contaminating your bloodstream you will accept defeat, teeth grinding with frustration, and turn on the television.  You will fall asleep AGAIN and the final blow: Law and Order will even lose its appeal despite its various permutations.  So it goes.

With aforementioned cast you cannot drive (hefty fine…not that I didn’t consider it, stupid highway patrol and their bionic vision) therefore your trip to work will be significantly delayed.  Then once at work you will shoot off emails in lowercase letters, to capitalize would take all day.  You will mouse with your left hand.  On this point, you will be amazed by the plasticity of the human motor cortex and actually adapt to left-handed mousing with relative ease.  A small token.

Everything will take longer to accomplish.  You must wait for help to do most things or scrape together the last of your patience to make a sandwich or simply accept that whatever you want/need to do will just have to wait.  You will try to walk through the transit turnstile and swipe your card.  Only when you are stuck, knotted up in the middle with people behind you, will you realize that the ticket sucker is on your right.  Oops.  Sighs and muttered profanities will echo from behind as you shuffle around and through, day bag, computer bag, making things all the more difficult.  The straps of your bags pulling you backwards, you are the unwilling marionette.  You hate when this person is in front of you and now you are that person.  You look up to the ceiling and say, ‘Seriously?!’ as you have taken to doing recently.  You wonder if anyone is listening.

For the most part, people will offer patience and kindness beyond anything you could expect.  Doors will open unexpectedly; smiles will appear on the faces of those holding them open.  Friends, family, colleagues, they will all pitch in.  They will adorn your cast will doodles and well wishes and you will smile and feel like at ten-year-old.  Someone will cut your steak and pour your wine.

People will ask what the story is with the cast and you will find that little fiblets are much more interesting than the real story.  Sometimes you will make the stories outrageously outlandish and wink, other times you will edge near the boundaries of what is reasonable and leave your questioners there in a quandary.  Anything to make things more interesting.  Anything to disrupt the crushing boredom that has swallowed you whole.  Where’s the harm?  Especially when you always assure them that you are in absolutely no pain, ‘It’s no big deal, it’s just completely and utterly annoying.’  That will be your one saving grace, no bemoaning of the pain and discomfort.

The most interesting part of the whole ordeal will come the day you break free from the cast.   You’ll go in early that morning at the end of the last week having attempted to mentally will your bones to calcify for the previous four.  You will wish, you will pray, you will cross your eyes and stand on one foot if it means you don’t have to have a second cast.  You will then slowly lower your foot when people begin to stare and fix your eyes straight ahead in an effort to appear normal.  Ha!  Where’s the fun in that?

It’s early enough in the morning that the cast room will be empty save for you and the doc.  Feeling brave you will ask to video the sawing, not knowing if he will refuse.  They often refuse video and pictures for a lengthy list of reasons, including but not limited to privacy (HIPAA the bane of any doctor’s or researcher’s existence, the savior of patients and subjects) and liability.  But he will be cool and you will explain that you are a geek as are your colleagues and that they just have to see you getting your arm cut.

You do not tell him that it took every last bit of your willpower not to get your hands on some fake blood and stuff it into your cast so that your carefully choreographed scream would sync with the appearance of the sticky red goo seeping into the white guts of your cast.  Morbid but certainly cool, though mostly likely not appreciated by doctors and staff who know for a fact that their scissors are more dangerous than the saw.  Oh well.

Even better than the sawing of the cast, the doc will narrate from beginning to end what he is doing directly into the camera lens.  He will be witty and informative as he makes two neat cuts the length of your arm down both sides.  Then, he will grab a shiny metal object describing it as a cast spreader.  All you can think is ‘rib spreader’ and you laugh.  He wedges it in the split and cracks the cast open like an egg.  The hard shell spreads apart to reveal the cottony padding within.  Once off the two parts remind you of the Barbie you had as a kid that came with a pink cast that snapped on and off.  Ken’s arm was always broken, he was such a klutz.

The doc finishes and rather abruptly says, “Okay turn it off.”

I laugh and hit the button.  “Thanks, Doc!”

We talk X-rays, self-imposed physical therapy, he assures me that I don’t have to come back and I nearly leap up and do a cartwheel.  Cartwheels, I always default to cartwheels but am fully able to do handstands.  Admittedly that probably wouldn’t be a good idea given my propensity, of late, towards injury.  I thank him and take off towards home, itching to get back into my car and drive somewhere, anywhere.

I will spare you the gory details of the monster arm from beneath the cast save to say that I made quick work of the cleanup, the smell of which wasn’t particularly flattering.  There was much soaping up and scrubbing of the offending arm with a nail bush until it was red and rather angry looking.  What are a few layers of skin in the name of cleanliness?

Happy to be free once again, I sailed across the bridge towards my office and from there took the scenic route, sunroof open music blaring from the speakers.  Which brings me to the present, sitting here, back at one of CIMG3133my favorite places at my favorite table typing with BOTH hands, a quick little stop on my way in to work.  I will be back here tonight after conference calls and emails and meetings.  I will be back to catch up on banging out every idea on my keyboard that has been floating around in my head since this all happened.  At last a chance to de-clutter my brain, which was already rather disorganized before all of this, and get on with things!

And so life returns to normal…or rather some version of normal as it were…

-The Snarky Lark

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The beginning…

Posted in Chatter, FINE: starved without physical evidence on August 19, 2009 by Melissa Henry

Welcome to my blog.  This year, on June 5th, I began writing a memoir.  I am not a writer by training but rather a scientist, cognitive neuroscientist to be exact.  I write about subcortical structures, genetics, and behavior and how they relate to neurodevelopment and disorders.  This book has nothing to do with those things. <Insert massive sigh of relief from readers here>  If I haven’t bored you to tears just yet read on, it gets more interesting I promise…

The night I began writing it was as if lightening struck and suddenly the idea for a book that had been rolling around in the back of my head was electrified.  It sounds too dramatic to be true but in fact it is.  There was actually a Eureka! moment in which I realized I had to give this a shot if not to publish the work than to at least get it out of my head.  It was such an immediate need that I started typing that night just after 1AM and have scarcely slowed down since.

To date I have made my way through about a third of it, much of which still needs to be edited down, but a good start to what is sure to be a crazy but interesting adventure.  This initial wave of material spilled out in coffee shops (many of which are pictured above) within the first month and a half or so, at what one could say was breakneck pace.  More precisely at break elbow pace, as it happened.   No comment.

After trying to type one handed with nearly nonexistent accuracy I decided that the right side of my brain was controlling my left hand and that all the letters from the left side of my brain (that controlled my useless right hand) weren’t making it to the page.  Defeat!

Ah, but now I see the light at the end of the tunnel and hope to be back to my little table by the window by the end of the week.  A return to early mornings and late nights attending to my secret project.

As to the scope of what is sure to be a wildly meandering menagerie of thoughts…this blog is meant to convey my convoluted writing process, the ups and downs and in-betweens.  However, I am open to it’s natural evolution and anything that develops beyond my initial intentions.

I’ll be posting a blurb about the book soon, check back or follow me on Twitter for the latest updates!

-The Snarky Lark

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