Neuro Theatre: “Live” Simulated Brain Surgery , by Jenna Hornsby

Neuro Theatre: 'Live' Simulated brain surgery. Medical school. Photo by Darya Gnidash.Photo by Darya Gnidash.

“There might be a bit of gore” we were told, teetering on the high steppes of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre. In a live simulated brain surgery on Monday evening, a captivated audience watched as medical students carved into a fake skull, projected onto a large screen. After a video of a skiing accident made by someone who had clearly never been skiing before, I found myself weirdly interested in something I would normally avoid like, well, brain surgery.

Shockingly, my eight years of religiously watching House, M.D. were not particularly useful. Clearly this wasn’t Lupus. The carefully coordinated performance incorporated video, educational slides, live action role-playing (but not the medieval kind), and most importantly, close-up projections of a skull being drilled into. The demonstration featured some terrifying drill action, scraping muscle off of bone, and even a blood clot that looked disturbingly like blackberry jam. 

Although English is my native language, I only understood about 60% of the words in the presentation, and I was surrounded by science folks – so essentially in a foreign land. There were a few moments that made me feel smart, though, such as the World Health Organization’s Surgery Checklist: “Are you operating on the correct patient?” “Are you amputating the correct limb?”. Perhaps doctors actually are human!

After discussing the physical and psychological aspects of recovery from a traumatic brain injury, we enjoyed a brief Q&A session with recovered brain injury patient Peter Long and his wife. This was much more my speed than the acronyms and blood that had preceded it. The presentation definitely inspired some would-be brain surgeons and EMTs, and there was even a group of school kids there who might consider the medical profession.

While at times I felt like a blind person trying to understand a rainbow, I certainly have a new appreciation for people who open other people’s heads.

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