Thursday, January 17, 2013

Billbow and spinal surgery

Bilbow Baggins, a ficticious character in the latest Hobbit movie, becomes drawn into an "unexpected adventure."  Hobbits are gentle folk that  seek to live their lives with predictibilty and calm.  They enjoy a comfortable life in well furnished underground homes, maintain their gardens, enjoy company and shared food, and don't welcome anything that interrupts their lives.  The movie, “Unexpected Adventure”, was a great disappointment because it had very little of the characer and plot development found in the imaginative books. The bulk of the movie focused on elaborate computer generated battle scenes against all kinds of evil beings, and we never got to "know" the  characters in the detail that the author intended.

Bilbow Baggins - Star Hobbitt in "An Unexpected Adventure"
The tale brings to mind the nature of ‘adventures’ – I have been drawn to challenges all my life – it is part of my nature. But how do I define adventure?  An adventure calls me out of what is familiar to deal with the unexpected.  A good adventure always involves learning something new in the process and and having to develop problem solutions.   Adventures generally have an element of  discomfortable. There is a perceived sense of risk and excitement.  But, Oh!, there is such elation in success.  There is a joy of accomplishment. I think my first encounters with adventure came to me as a young teen ager when I was introduced to the joys of mountain travel with my Uncle John - he also was a fount of his own adventure stories.  With a drivers license and the close proximity of the Sierra mountains my friends and I attempted adventures that gave meaning and identify to me as a kid.

Adventures come in all sizes and flavors.  Going to Tanzania and visiting village projects qualifies, challenging myself to learn to do Science Education presentations to adults scared the heck out of me at first - but in the long run was a major growth experience and a fine adventure.  Having the courage to go back into the classroom every day my first green year of teaching was a powerful formative much as climbing a frozen waterfall with crampons and ice ax certainly is.  

The trail to the Conness Lakes
With a bit of maturity I have developed a better ability to distinguish what level of adventure I want to tackle.  When I was a young pup I had little sense of my own mortaility and attempted things that I would never consider today...(That, and sometimes not being smart enough to know that I needed to worry...) Some of my early adventures seem quite fool-hardy in retrospect.  I have come close to drowning twice because of foolish endeavers... I have committed myself to mountain activities beyond my skill level.  I have started activities for which I could not anticipate the outcome.

Oaxaca Mexico during a police action to control a strike 
My latest adventure is coming up.  I am scheduled to have two of my cervical vertebrae fused together to relieve pressure on my spinal cord.  It is like a freeway experiencing lane blockage at one point – information from the lower body is not able to reach the brain with normal efficiency.  This point in my neck receives incoming nerves from both legs and arms.

The proceeded explained by the surgeon all sounds very straight forward – and the odds are that I can come home in a day or two... and certainly the benefits of the operation far out-pace the risks... But while I have a healthy knowledge of why its necessary, I still have an approach/ avoidance about it... more approach than avoidance but enough to give me pause.  But I have the easy part i just show up and get put to sleep and the surgeon has to do all the work.

My bulge is very similar to this image - and the treatment is to remove the disc and  fuse the two vertebra
Here is a similar MRI image that identified my blockage...The real advantage of the MRI is the clear visibility of the spinal cord.   I gather that such things are quite common.  MRI imagining  doesnt use radiation to form pictures but radio frequency magnetic fields–that interact with the water molecules in the cell nuclei to form the image –

X ray image of a healthy neck -
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