Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bad Brain Day

Or more correctly, bad brain daze. Now that my mother is firmly entrenched in this piecemeal loss of brain tissue, neuron by neuron, day by day, the events of the last several years make more sense.

Dr. Sherwin Nuland, author of How We Die, describes the cumulative effects of multiple tiny strokes:

Many strokes are so small that there are few or no immediate significant symptoms to indicate what has taken place. But with time, such little strokes accumulate, and the evidence of gradual deterioration becomes evident to even the most casual observer..The subtle process of infarcting brain may go on and on, accumulating irregular stepwise degenerations in cerebral function for as long as a decade or more...

He goes on to note that those elderly persons so affected are 'betrayed by their cerebral circulation.'

Dr. Nuland and pathologist Dr. Walker Smith reviewed autopsy results on 23 old ladies and men with an average age of 88 at death. While 7 of the subjects officially had heart attacks as their final exit line and only 4 had strokes listed on their death certificates, 'Every one of these twenty-three people had advanced atheromatous in the vessels of the heart or the brain, and almost all had it in both.'

In retrospect, on a host of days in the past few years when my mom's been dizzy or tired, she was having a 'bad brain day,' sending a few more neurons into oblivion.

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