Watching Brain Surgery

©2010 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

Calm, controlled, methodical. For the sensitive work they do, I would think those are the qualities you want in a brain surgeon.  A reporter and I observed neurosurgeon Dr. Richard Byrne at Rush Hospital during his typical workday, and those seemed to be his predominant qualities after several hours of observation. Watching brain surgery is, to say the least, unreal. I spare you an image of the brain because really, all you could see were a hole of bloody tissue and fluid. Of course, with the magnification tools and his trained eye, Byrne can distinguish between cancerous cells of a brain tumor and normal brain cells. It is still disconcerting to see someone suctioning out brain cells left and right while poking around areas of the brain responsible for such things as eyesight, memory and motor control. After he was done, it was startling to see its end result –  a hole of fluid where there were was once brain tissue. But you could visibly see that the brain was pulsating, grateful not to be pushed up against the cranium. Compared with the sophisticated (and expensive) tools used inside the brain, the very normal plates and screws used to reattach the cranium grounded the transcendent moment of advanced science. To watch all this, and then to see a man stir and slowly shake his hands and feet with a new lease on life, was a small miracle.

First Baby of New Year

FirstBaby2©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

The first baby from the Chicago area in 2010 is lit from a window at Stroger Hospital. According to the hospital, the child was born at the stroke of midnight. Another child was born at St. Joseph Hospital some ten seconds later. Good people can disagree as to how you actually time these things, since I don’t know if  their clocks were precision set by Greenwich Mean Time, or whether Price Waterhouse representatives were observing the proceedings. But let’s not spoil this child’s moment with talks of baby gamesmanship. A new smile has entered the world. A miracle is born. Happy 2010!