Personal Blog Posts

Learning About Brain Surgery and So Much More…

I wanted to be a nurse when I was little but then I picked up a pencil and that was that… I knew I wanted to do Art forever. I now often joke about this because I know there’s no career in Art but mainly it’s because of my circumstances; I had brain surgery and I find that so fascinating. Well, now I do. I didn’t understand the enormity of what had happened to me until I picked up Henry Marsh’s book, Do No Harm one year and eight months after my brain surgery. All that time without reading… For someone who grew up reading, went to the library every week with her mum and siblings to max out library cards, who took part (and won) reading competitions, who enjoyed being told off because it meant “Go to your room!” became free reading time and for someone who suggested The Handmaid’s Tale to my mum before it was ‘cool’ I just couldn’t believe it had been so long since I had read.

June 2014 (One year, eight months after) was the first time I felt confident enough to pick a book up. That breaks my childhood heart and still surprises me now, how bad I must have been.

Some of the books I tried reading before Do No Harm:

  • The Shining: Stephen King (What was I thinking?! This is a long book and not for someone who’s just had brain surgery…)
  • Life of Pi: Yann Martel (I just couldn’t get into it. I think I wanted to read it because of the small memory I had of watching the film in the second hospital I was in)

Four months later after being put off by reading I was browsing a news website and came across this quote in an article about the book:

‘The brain cannot feel pain, Marsh explains because it is the place where pain sensations are created’

I was hooked.

I bought the book brand new from Waterstones that’s how hooked I was.

14th October 2014: ‘”The brain cannot feel pain, Marsh explains because it is the place where pain sensations are created” – Wow. Curiosity got the best of me.’

I was working full time at the time (I know, I know… Mistake. I only lasted three months) I read the book on the bus while on my way to work, on the way back, in bed before going to sleep and pretty much whenever I had free time. Guys, I finished the book in six days. I felt so proud of myself and most importantly I felt like me again. I felt like the old me who loved reading but I also felt like a new me who was now interested in learning. I’ve since read about the history of surgery, of medicine, of diseases, watched any TV shows, films and visited museums surrounding these subjects (I’m also going to Anatomy Live in January 2019, a very thoughtful birthday present from Stephen!) I enjoy the feeling I get learning about these things and I am blown away by how far the world has come. (Apart from the mouth gag, which I find amazing because the medical world has advanced so much. Sometimes the simplest things can be the best things)

I’m thankful to my doctor who performed my surgery and to all the surgeons who came before him generations ago, because without them I would not be living today. I’m thankful to Joseph Lister for discovering germs and making it his life work to defeat them while at the same time trying to make the stubborn doctors (also known as butchers) of the 1800s believe him, I’m thankful to Dr Lindsey Fitzharris for teaching me about this in her book The Butchering Art and we are both thankful that I was born in this day and age.

A very fitting message from Lindsey after talking with her during her Surgeons’ Hall book launch

So, to nurse wishing childhood me (who didn’t want to be a doctor but we’ll not get into that…): First of all you’ll grow into your ears, secondly you’ll start drawing and no longer want to be a nurse. Most of all you’re going to go through something that will change your life forever, it’ll make you appreciate life, all the little things and you’ll learn way more things than if you were to become a nurse. You’ll learn them in your own style and in your own time. All of this isn’t for years though so keep drawing because it makes you happy (and guess what else… You’ll get an art teacher in secondary school that used to draw for Marvel Comics!)

I’d like to end this blog post with a thank you to Henry Marsh. Thank you for reigniting my passion for reading, thank you for opening my eyes to the world of surgery and everything else that comes along with it.

Time to make a cup of tea and settle into your new book, Admissions.

My medical book collection, I’d love any recommendations!

I added links to the books I spoke about in the text above but I’ll add them here too. You get a free bookmark and free postage when you order from Wordery!

Do No Harm

The Butchering Art (Still cheapest at Waterstones)


How have you found reading since your brain injury? Are you fascinated by what happened to you?

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Read brain injury stories from other survivors here

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