Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I don't know how badly injured I could be and still want to live.

The sad news about Natasha Richardson has captured more of my attention than it should have, not because I was a big fan (although I admire her work, and thought she was extraordinary in Asylum).

No, I've been following the story because of my longstanding (and well-known to readers of this blog) terror of traumatic head injury, or more specifically traumatic brain injury (TBI).

TBI, which appears to be what Ms. Richardson has suffered, is one of those things that can happen almost at random. Someone can take a severe blow to the head without suffering a TBI; someone can get knocked almost gently, and tear a blood vessel that leaves them permanently impaired or comatose. (If you too would like to obsess about the dangers of TBI, read more here). It's one of those weird things that could just as easily have happened in one's kitchen as on a ski slope -- how many times have you hit your head on an open cabinet door? (Well, okay, make that how many times have I hit my head on an open cabinet door? The answer is, a lot.)

Anyway, it makes me think about whether and how I'd want to survive certain catastrophes. I can imagine myself adjusting to the loss of a limb, the loss of my eyesight, even -- hard as it would be -- the loss of my hearing. If I lost all my hearing and all my eyesight, I don't think I'd want to keep living. I'm not sure I'd want to keep living if I sustained the kind of injuries suffered by the woman who was attacked by the chimpanzee in Connecticut.

And I don't know how severely brain-injured I could be and want to survive. The things I take pleasure in -- reading, writing, conversation -- require a certain level of brain activity. I'd like to think that I could be happy with a life like Dizzy's: regular meals, interesting smells, a comfortable bed and the occasional ride in the car -- but I don't know if I would.

To complicate this further, I really don't believe in euthanasia or assisted suicide, although I don't believe in extraordinary life support measures either.

So I'm hoping that neither my loved ones nor I ever have to make these decisions, and in the meantime I wonder how weird I'd look if I started wearing a helmet everywhere.

Five Random Songs

"The Milkman of Human Kindness," Billy Bragg. I must thank my brother Ed for introducing me to the work of Billy Bragg, all those years ago, although the first copy of this album I owned (on cassette) was a gift from my ex-fiance.

"Linda Paloma," Jackson Browne. Ugh, too sweet, and it reminds me of all the worst excesses of 1970s singer-songwriters.

"Sorrow," Peter, Paul & Mary. Wow, a folksinger set on the shuffle this morning. This song is better known as "A Man [or Maid] of Constant Sorrow," and was one of the first things I learned to play on the guitar.

"On the Balcony of the Casa Rosado/Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," Mandy Patinkin, Bob Gunton & Patti LuPone, from the Evita soundtrack. The original and still the best.

"Light My Fire," Al Green. A cover that really didn't need to be made, and representative of another kind of '70s excess.


Anna said...

I think that fewer people would look at you funny if you had a helmet on in Central Maine than if you did back in DC. Go for it.

In other sad "Hollywood" news, I was surprised by the death of Ron Silver this week. I always liked him.

Anonymous said...

This was the first year ever that I wore a helmet skiing (I wore Kaethe's, because she couldn't come along). And wouldn't you know it, I fell and slammed my head so hard my neck hurt for days! My head, however, was just fine.

It's been a rough year for skiing and head injuries. Did you also read/hear about the German politician, who slammed into another skier this year? She died and he's been recuperating for months--no helmets!

We're going skiing one last time this Saturday and will stop to buy helmets before we hit the slopes. The kids have worn helmets since they started skiing. Funny how it's a given with kids and adults are so unwilling to think anything can happen. Same with riding bikes, but that's another blog for another accident.


Anonymous said...

Here's a little thing on the politician's accident I mentioned:
"Althaus suffered serious brain injury on January 1 when he collided with another skier at an intersection between two slopes on a piste in the Obersteiermark ski area of Austria. The other skier, a 41-year-old Slovakian woman, died of her injuries on the way to hospital. She wasn’t wearing head protection, meanwhile doctors have said Althaus probably survived because he was wearing a helmet."


Anonymous said...

How awful to think Ron Silver was survived by his kids AND both parents.