The Brain and My Stroke

Stroke: impairment caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain

Pilgrim: One who embarks on a quest for some end conceived as sacred

The brain is an organ that is the center of the nervous system.  It is truly a miracle.  It has neurons which have the ability to send signals to target cells located throughout the whole body.  These signals are sent via axons which are fibers which run like superhighways throughout the body.  Axons transmit signals to other neurons by specialized junctions called synapses.

The brain is divided into many compartments, which have evolved through the ages. The base of the brain is the oldest evolutionary part of the brain.  It is involved in basic life support functions.  It is divided into compartments starting with the medulla which regulates involuntary functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing.  As part of the brain stem, it transfers neural signals from the brain to the spinal cord.  The next area is the pons. It serves as the message center between several areas of the brain. It is involved in sleep, breathing, swallowing, bladder function, and equilibrium. The hypothalamus and thalamus are involved in eating, drinking, defecation and some communication between the hemispheres of the brain. Above the brain stem is the cerebellum.  This area modulates the signal coming from other brain regions, involving thought or motor related activities.  It creates a precise and smooth signal for walking, writing, staying balanced, and is learned instead of being built in. For example, the stumbling drunk has impaired his cerebellum with alcohol.  Above the cerebellum is the cerebrum. It is the largest region of the brain and is involved in cognitive thought or shall I say, ‘thinking’.  The brain is also divided into two hemispheres, which are referred to as right and left.  The left hemisphere is related to more logical ‘language’ related thoughts and more specialized specific tasks.  The right brain is related to more big picture ‘thinking’  and is often thought of as artistic and creative thought, and the home of the subconscious.

When a brain has a stroke, blood flow is lost to a portion of the brain.  This can be because of a clot or a hemorrhage.  the severity of the stroke is determined by how much of the brain is involved, and the duration that  blood flow has been lost. This is why getting someone to the hospital immediately is of utmost importance.  If the stroke was  in the cerebrum, memories may be lost. You might not recognize a friend, you may forget how to write, These things will have to be relearned. If you had a stroke in the brain stem, you may lose muscle control, or worse, respiration.  The hemisphere of the brain affected will also affect how the stroke manifests itself.

My stroke was the result of a clot in the pons region of my brain. It resulted in what is called ‘locked in syndrome’, resulting in paralysis below the eyes, where all one can move is the eyes.  The cognitive part of the brain is unaffected, resulting in being fully aware of what is happening, but being locked into a solitary prison. Communication must be accomplished by eye movement.  In a body that no longer responds to wishes or commands.

 

 

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