Around my third year of nursing training I was placed in neurosurgical theatre for a day. As a student nurse it was all about exposure and observation so it was a day to watch and understand the general running of a theatre unit. I found myself a little chair in the corner, out of people’s way but in view of the camera that picked up every pulsating movement of the brain tissues and every intricate cut the surgeon made. When the neurosurgical consultant asked me to scrub up and come in closer to see first hand him clip an aneurysm – a bulge of an artery wall, I actually felt like I was making my debut in ‘ER’, or ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (for the younger generation who don’t remember George & Noah!) It is strange to say, but it was absolutely breathtaking to see the brain of a living, albeit heavy sedated, person. Here was a complex, pulsatile and fascinating organ on show and it took all in my power not to reach out and touch it! Ironically, as I stood watching someone else’s brain, it was around that time that my own brain was about to have some communication difficulties with its friend the optic nerve, all thanks to some lad down in the immune system who was having a field day attacking my myelin!
The brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body. Factor in that it’s made up of more than 100 billion nerves that communicate in trillions of connections and throw in the spinal cord for good measure and it’s paradise for that myelin destroyer spearheading the MS campaign!
For a three-pound organ it is responsible for so much; controlling body functions, processing and transmitting information, storing information and governing our intelligence, creativity and emotion. Given its power and its connection to every little thing we do, every thought we have and everything we communicate, its natural that we would want to protect the brain at all costs. For those living with MS however, our ability to protect is outside our remit of control. We can’t predict or foresee what nerves will be damaged, what messages won’t be communicated and what body functions will be affected, and to be fair, neither can the brain. It has no idea what area the immune system will decide to attack or what myelin will be damaged. The brain is as clueless to this as we are.
I have a saying that where there is uncertainly, doubt and fear there is always hope, dreams and a silver lining. The brain is as clueless to what the future holds just as much as we are but we can help it and nourish it and keep it healthy.
Exercising, Mental Stimulation and Good Diet are just some of the things that we can control and actively do to help maintain brain function. And what better time to start improving our brain health than during Brain Awareness Week 2020 that runs from March 16th- 22nd.
With over 800,000 people living with a neurological condition in Ireland, it’s vital that there is awareness and education of the impact of these conditions on individuals while subsequently highlighting the need for additional services, supports and research. Personally, I think every week should be brain awareness week; the impact of neurological conditions doesn’t affect people one week of the year – they live with it 24/7, 365 days a year. But if we can push the importance of brain awareness and neurological education for the 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland on one particular week of the year, then let’s all climb aboard the bandwagon! And don’t forget the hashtag’s: #brainawarenessweek2020 #loveyourbrain