Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Long Goodbye: Health Background

Sometime around the first of June in 1951 my grandmother's water broke. She went to the hospital expecting to deliver her third child, but was sent home by the doctor. I don't know much about what happened when she went home, if she was sick, in pain, had to stay in bed. We don't ask questions because of the immense guilt my Mimi feels. I do know it was June 11, ten days after her water broke, before my mom was born. 

My mom grew up to be a normal adult. There were no apparent defects caused by her horribly traumatic birth. A birth that wasn't even mentioned until 2003 when brain scans showed a large portion of her frontal left lobe was missing. The doctor took both of his thumbs and held them side by side to demonstrate the amount that had already deteriorated. No one will ever be certain, but it is the opinion of doctors at the UAMS Center on Aging that my mom may have suffered a small stroke in utero during those ten days my Mimi was in labor. 

In her teens and twenties, my mom was in a series of car accidents and suffered head traumas. None of them were severe, but she did suffer concussions. The doctor says that repeated injury over time could have, like the stroke in utero, continued to prevent sufficient blood flow to the left frontal lobe of her brain, thus causing it to deteriorate.

Not only was there an abnormality in the frontal lobe, she was also a carrier of the APOE4 Alzheimer's Gene. That, combined with her medical history, greatly increased the chances that she would develop early on-set. The doctor looked at my Auntie Joye, Mom's sister, during the appointment and said, "Wear your seat belt." There seems to be a correlation between the gene becoming active once a trauma, specifically to the head, occurs. The same was true for President Reagan after his horse riding accident. The article can be found here:
http://www.memory.umn.edu/about/essay.html

So, what does the frontal lobe control?

Function:

  • Motor Functions

  • Higher Order Functions

  • Planning

  • Reasoning

  • Judgement

  • Impulse Control

  • Memory

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