The End of My Cyborg Days

In college I took a class that would have been pretty cool, if the professor who taught it hadn’t been so sure hit class was pretty cool. He was kind of an ass. I remember he asked me a question with the word ‘ambiguous’ in it, and after I answered, he asked me what ambiguous meant. Luckily it was one of my vocabulary words, so I was able to answer, but I’m pretty sure he was trying to bust me in front of the class. I wish I still had the book, though. The book was one of those trippy non-fiction popular science books. One of the chapters was about cyborgs. The book defined a cyborg as a human who uses anything to improve their function. One of the examples was people who wear glasses or contacts are cyborgs.

We all had to write presentations on this book, and I remember sitting in my apartment and thinking of all the ways I was a cyborg. At that time I was way into recording my dreams and trying to induce lucid dreams. I had this lucid dream machine sleep mask that I wore at night. It blinked red lights when you were dreaming, so I brought that in for my presentation describing myself as a cyborg. The book’s point is that all humans are cyborgs because we use tools. Another one I thought of was time. Keeping time is a human invention we use to better our lives, which makes us cyborgs.

The main tool that made me a cyborg, which I also described during my presentation (I was in the zone during that presentation. My social anxiety about speaking in front of groups went away and I was just nailing it.), was the machine put in my head when I was 17. My life depended on the functioning of that machine. Time for some dumb guy physiology, but maybe not everyone knows that fluid circulates through your brain and spinal cord, much like blood circulates through your body. Mine doesn’t drain properly from my brain, so a shunt was put in that senses the pressure build up and releases fluid as needed, every four to eight hours. (If anyone has read “Dr. M” here at this blog, that’s where that story came from. I don’t make this stuff up, even though I maybe should.)

The problem with tools and tubes in your body is they don’t fix themselves the way your body can; they can break. My shunt broke five years ago and portions had to be replaced. It broke again in May and got infected. The cool part of the story is, since my initial diagnosis, they’ve invented a way to reroute the brain fluid without the use of a shunt. So that was the procedure I had done. The brain fluid had to “learn” to go in that new direction, though, so I had a temporary shunt installed. Shortly after my surgery they closed that shunt to see if my brain fluid would take to the new path. It didn’t, right away, which isn’t unusual. So I had to wait a couple of days before they tried again. I had a really sweet nurse who kept checking my brain pressure and telling me she was proud of me that I was successfully redirecting my fluid. I gave 99 percent of the credit to my medical team. I kept 1% for myself for being able to spend weeks in a hospital doing virtually nothing but watching TV.

So my shunt is no more. It kept me alive for a good twenty years. I’m now much less of a cyborg than I was, although I still wear glasses and pay attention to what time it is. People likely have been too polite to mention it but have maybe noticed that I’ve learned to hold my neck very rigidly since the shunt broke in my neck twice five years ago. I also developed the nervous habit of touching where the shunt used to go through my neck. I also had to stop cracking my neck five years ago, which was a difficult thing to get used to. Oddly, I’m now having equal trouble remembering that I no longer have to worry about that. I’ll get used to it.


One thought on “The End of My Cyborg Days

  1. Pingback: Health Appreciation | Greg Metcalf

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