In 2011, my brother and I almost lost our mother to several severe brain haemorrhages. She was in a coma and on life-support, with hardly any information being given to us in Intensive Critical Care, we had no idea what to expect. It ranged from “She could die any minute”, “She could be paralysed”, and “She may just dislike rice now, or suddenly like chips.” We had to go through discussions of turning off the life support machine… I’ll never forget the day when I was by her bed side and the nurse handed me her wedding rings. Passing them over to my father later that day completely ripped my heart to pieces.
Over a series of months, we watched my mother gradually (thankfully) wake up, being paralysed and not understanding the world around her or being able to communicate. We prayed for her to be able to get her memory back, and I’ll never forget the moment when I walked into the ward and for the first time she recognised who I was. We saw her learn how to talk again, how to walk, how to climb stairs, how to understand the world around her.
Now, it is hard to tell she has brain damage. Or that her skull has a giant crack in it the shape of a question mark from her cranium all the way down to behind her head and down to her ear. She struggles with pain in her arms, dizziness and emotions. But otherwise, she is practically a living miracle.
The fact that she survived, given her age and the odds against her, is mind blowing. The neurosurgeon, physicians and doctors had no idea what would happen, how the spectrum of her life and death was so vast, no one could say or promise anything. How one minute during her coma she seemed okay, the next minute, she was on death’s door, and back again. Her life-line was a rollercoaster, and to come to where she is now — a virtually ‘normal’ state, is incredible.
During this time, I was working a lot with young people with terminal illnesses, and specifically one girl, Becky, who had a brain tumour really helped me through the process. I was teaching them filmmaking and post-production, and gave them the opportunity for them to create short films about their lives for their families to keep.
My brother, was working on his Phd, and researching into cancer data, (for example, HeLa) and matching their individual genetic data, with a possible route cause.
Today, my mother is on the other side of the world. She travelled by her self to go home to Malaysia and Singapore and has even taken a holiday to Vietnam. She currently resides in Malaysia with my family.
My brother, now a Doctor, is working on the recently announced Human Brain Project.
The convergence between biology and ICT has reached a point at which it can turn tthe goal of understanding the human brain into a reality. It is this realisation that motivates the Human Brain Project – an EU Flagship initiative in which over 80 partners will work together to realise a new “ICT-accelerated” vision for brain research and its applications.
One of the major obstacles to understanding the human brain is the fragmentation of brain research and the data it produces. Our most urgent need is thus a concerted international effort that uses emerging emerging ICT technologies to integrate this data in a unified picture of the brain as a single multi-level system.
And that’s where my brother comes in: he is recreating a human brain… With a super computer.
The research is vital to help us understand so many things about us as humans, ways to help, brain surgery, brain cancer, Alzheimer’s, mental health, dementia, everything.
If you’d like to read more about it, are a budding scientist and want to get involved in the research, they are open for collaborations.
Visit the Human Brain Project.
Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something. — Kurt Vonnegut
At the Xcaret theme park south of Cancún a mythic Maya lord of death mingles with tourists before a spectacular re-creation of ancient pilgrimages. The annual event—complete with canoe voyage—honors Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. Such ties to the past draw visitors to the Yucatán from the rest of Mexico and abroad. Photo by Shaul Schwarz for National Geographic. Schwarz is the director of the film Narco Cultura, opening November 22.
Happy Day of the Dead from Reportage by Getty Images.
View of Los Angeles by night from the hills above city, 1938. (Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Saw this exhibition recently by one of my favourite photographers of all time,Sebastião Salgado. A beautiful, incredible black and white photographer.
Read more about his ‘Genesis’ project here.