.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Medical Destruction

There is a neighboring family up the road that my wife and I have been exceptionally close to for nearly 20 years. The apparent head of it used to be the father, but five years ago he suffered a fatal tree-trimming accident. Actually, though, the real head of that family, which also included two boys and two girls, was always the mother, and in fact the female half of that group was by far more dynamic than the male side.

The wife was always so vital and up front and in your face with everything -- though not much in mine -- that when mentioning this woman to friends online, I always referred to her as the "Wild Woman," but suddenly that has changed drastically, and the fault seems to be entirely that of medical science.

About a year ago the various stresses and strains of her life led to a heart attack, and not long after she returned from the hospital, it was obvious that though she was recovering to reasonably good health, she was a drastically changed woman.

Gone was all the piss and vinegar and fire and quaintness of her former self. She is as mentally capable as ever but she seems not to care much about anything anymore. No more long conversations with anybody, not even her closest relatives. She says only what is strictly necessary and no more. She responds to everything one says or asks, but without emotion of any kind, and she will hardly ever bring up anything of her own.

Her facial expression has changed, too. Now she goes around all the time looking only one way, a mixture of wonder tinged with slight surprise, much as she might have looked when she was about three months old.

The movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," in which patients were given lobotomies, ought to have prepared me for this, and I had heard of the properties of various personality-dampening drugs, but this is the first time I've seen something like this up close and personal, and I had thought that it would be impossible for a medication of any kind to have such a definite effect on her.

It must be all to the good. We don't hear complaints from the people who live with her, and I suppose it means that things in that house go much more peacefully now, and meanwhile she is subjected to none of the stresses of earlier times. But I see her only about once a month, and, with the memory of how she used to be still fresh in my mind, the effect is always startling.

This situation makes me think that such medications draw life and death much closer together, without, however, letting them actually converge. And it also shows how personality is yet another of many all-important things that nevertheless we take for granted until they leave, apparently for good. It almost doesn't matter what kind of personality a person has, and so what if such people get on your nerves once in a while. Personality is one of the things that keeps us from being merely inert collections of molecules.


Post a Comment

<< Home