Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Hey! It’s not Brain Surgery! Yes…it is (part 7)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Brain Surgery Rebellion,Life & Death,Philosophy,Social Policy and Justice — Bob at 6:35 pm on Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robert M. Katzman’s Amazing Story:  http://www.differentslants.com/?p=355

As it happens, my longtime wife, Joyce, has seemingly perfect memory and total recall of the names of everything in the Universe, especially movies and actors.  Our marriage, therefore, was evidently divinely preordained.  With her mental plus and my mental minus, I guess there is some mercy for me out there, after all.

Because when I can write a story like this one, incredibly detailed and with perfect recollection, but still, frankly, can’t remember the name of that nurse or scores of other similar situations, I just call Joyce and she provides the name I need to me, instantly.

It is easy for me to say, as husbands do, that I love her.  But much more than that, she has made it possible for me to exist with a disability that would otherwise torture me with a selectively frozen mind.  So, I pray God gives me a long life, but selfishly, to be honest I admit, I sure hope he gives Joyce a longer one.

She has become more than metaphorically my “other half.”  She’s become the keeper of so many of my own memories; we are sometimes like one mind in two bodies.  She is essential to me, and so appreciated.  Why, in the very writing of this story, some viruses—probably Republican—attacked my computer, paralyzing it.  But Joyce, mighty Joyce, vanquished all of them and allowed me to continue writing.

“Love” doesn’t really cover how I feel about her.

(Read on …)

Hey! It’s Not brain Surgery! Yes…it is (part 6)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Brain Surgery Rebellion,Philosophy,Social Policy and Justice — Bob at 9:17 pm on Friday, May 7, 2010

You enter a hospital with a name, your characteristic clothes, a personality and a problem.

Within 48 hours you have been reduced to a chart, a bed and a room number.  The person you came in as has disappeared.  Soon enough you are treated accordingly, as part of the room’s furniture.

My life is like that famed existential movie, Groundhog’s Day, about a clueless insensitive man stuck in a repeating purgatory until he fundamentally realized how much his callous attitude damaged other people.  Not many movie goers who love this movie understand that he has been trapped in this repeating day for thousands of days.  That is part of what makes that movie profound for me.  He’s in a Hell of his own making.

Except, people, my life is such that I keep waking up, cut up, in yet another identical hospital bed, somewhere…over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…

Except it’s not fucking fiction! 

To defend myself from this reoccurring nightmare, every single time I’m forced to undergo yet another something, I silently re-join the Hospital Resistance, the Bandaged Underground swearing to not take any bullshit behavior lying down, even if I am actually…lying down.

Casualties?  Always 100%.

Treat me like an unwanted interloper in your day, or with the standard (and universal) hospital attitude of indifference, like I’m a wrinkle on a bed instead of a real person—and you’ll see the quiet person in Room 405, Bed One swiftly transform into one angry son-of-a-bitch, determined to hold onto his humanity.

A real person—not a number—in pain.

So, though this last day I just recounted was not a day I’d chosen to remember, but I did anyway.

So, listen to me:

When you go to a hospital and are treated shabbily, don’t take it, man.  Rise up!  Absolutely demand respect. It works. Under all your bandages, you are still you.  Plus, you’re paying all of those uniformed pod-people ignoring you a damn fortune.  And when you do that, think of me.

I’m Spartacus!!!

(Read on …)

Hey! It’s Not Brain Surgery! Yes…it is (part 5) …by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Brain Surgery Rebellion,Philosophy,Robert Katzman's Stories,Social Policy and Justice — Bob at 10:13 pm on Thursday, April 29, 2010

Other than a murmured, “Sorry about that”  nothing was done.

This is why I won’t name the institution.  I don’t want to embarrass them about their cheap-ass broken cassette tape player.  Or even more serious matters to come. But my laying there on that slab for thirty minutes listening to Buddy Holly sing about Peggy Sue over and over and over was not an enchanting experience.

I don’t blame Buddy for this, but I am somehow less fond of that particular song, even six years later.

After the gamma-knife machine was switched off, my boxed head was unlocked and I sat up.  I asked for my cassette tape and was given it.  I was not happy.  The operator slunk out of the room.

Then a stocky nurse came in, all business, and told me she was there to remove the plastic box.  I saw the $3.00 screwdriver clenched in her sweaty hand.  This was so weird, man.

I asked her if there would be any pain medications for me after the screws were unscrewed from my skull, or any band-aides.  She replied,

“Nah, it won”t hurt you, much.  You’ll be fine.” 

Then she commenced her unscrewing and lifted the box I’d been wearing for eight hours, off of my head.

I looked hard at this banshee in white, with her idiotic response to my civil question, like,

“Hey, stand up take it like a man!”  Kind of attitude.

But the pain shot through my facial nerves like electricity as each screw was turned.  Then I asked her again, less civilly, for aspirin and some band-aides as the blood from the two screw holes just above my eyes trickled down my forehead, pooled below my eyes, ran down my cheeks, dripping on my hospital gown.

The nurse looked at me, and again brushed my request aside dismissively with a stern,

“You don’t need it.  You’ll be fine.”

I stared at this Bride of Frankenstein–he probably divorced her–and was tired of being polite  I said to her, my voice becoming increasingly louder,

“Lady, there is something very wrong with you. I’m bleeding. Take a closer look. The red stuff dripping on my face is blood.  GET ME A DAMN BAND-AIDE AND GET IT NOW!!!” 

(Read on …)

Hey! It’s Not Brain Surgery! Yes…it is (part 4)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Brain Surgery Rebellion,Philosophy,Social Policy and Justice — Bob at 7:26 pm on Saturday, April 24, 2010

Part Four

by Robert M. Katzman

April 2010


I quickly saw why there was no rush to tell me the answer to my oft repeated question all that morning about how to attach the plastic box to my head, or before that, either.

My attentive nurse produced four stainless steel machine screws that fit exactly into the four little holes, two in front and two in back, of the plastic box on my head.  The way that box was to be held securely in place on my head during the gamma-knife surgery, was by her screwing those four machine screws directly into my skull.  I was told this in an off-hand way, like she was giving me the time and weather.

I looked at the (now formerly) nice nurse and said to her,

“You’re kidding.”

 No, she answered–all business now–no, she wasn’t.

Jesus Christ!!!

I panicked, stunned by this response from her.

“No, Lady, NO! 

 That’s like some insane medieval torture!  You’re gonna screw metal screws into my skull??

 You can’t mean it!”

 She did.

Oh, and no anesthetic was possible, either.  But she assured me it was not at all painful and I would be fine.  Just fine.

She was facing me as I looked into her lying eyes.

I looked down and saw the Phillips screwdriver in her hand.

What?  No power tools?

(Read on …)

Hey! It’s Not Brain Surgery! Yes…it is (part 3)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Brain Surgery Rebellion,Philosophy,Social Policy and Justice — Bob at 11:09 pm on Saturday, April 17, 2010

Part Three

Ten weeks later, in March 2004, I was called by Dr. Francois’ nurse, Jackie, whom I knew pretty well at that point, and she asked me if I would please come down to see the doctor.  She said he wanted to talk to me.  That’s all she said, and I said sure, and made an appointment for that same week.  I wasn’t troubled by her call.

I’d already had a swift series of MRI’s of my brain following the surgery, there were no complications, I was working every day and everything seemed fine.  I’d since learned that meningioma tumors were somewhat common and so was the surgery that I’d just had.

I spoke to Jackie periodically and also in my office visits to see Dr. Francois. This was just one more office visit, as far as I was concerned.

When I rode up the elevator to his office, I checked in with the secretary at the desk and waited.  I thought about the strange twists and turns life can present to you, like in this situation, the hospital had hired me to read some of my stories to a group of brain surgery survivors to show them how successful it could be…for some people.  I could certainly use the money, but after doing that, I declined any further offers to do it again.  What I saw in that room made me see all the possibilities of how it might have turned out for me, and it was chilling.

A short time later, the secretary called my name and I was directed to go to a different room than usual when I came there.   More of an office than an examining room.  In it were Dr. Francois and another man introduced to me as his associate.  We shook hands and I sat down on a padded stool facing the doctor, with his associate to my left, standing in front of a window.

The atmosphere in the room seemed extremely sober, not at all like it usually was.

I waited.

Dr. Francois seemed to be picking his words. Then he said, slowly, that his medical team had been carefully examining all of the detailed brain scans following my January surgery.

I nodded.

Then he said,

“We missed one.”

 I was stone.

One hundred years went by, it seemed, and I forced myself to ask him,

“Is it cancer?”

 And another century passed as I closed watched the handsome face of Dr. Francois, waiting in agony for his response.

“No,” he answered me, in a low neutral voice.

He was watching me.  They both were.  Perhaps the other man was there to catch me if I fainted. Maybe that was something that happened in a setting like this when bad news was delivered.

I was frozen in my terror.


But, resolute, I asked of him, seeking respite somehow, like I was pleading with Death,

“Doctor, will I…will I get…old?”

 He stared at me intently, perhaps not expecting such a desperate question.

Long seconds passed.  I thought I saw tears forming in his eyes.

Then he said,


 If that was true, thank God.

If it was a lie, well, I needed one.

(Read on …)

Hey, It’s Not Brain Surgery! Yes…it is (part 2)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Brain Surgery Rebellion,Friendship & Compassion,Life & Death — Bob at 10:23 pm on Saturday, April 10, 2010

Part Two:

By Robert M. Katzman

I drew up a will.

I had a successful store north of Chicago, worth I felt, about half a million.  Joy and I had a house in Highland Park on a wooded half-acre worth about the same (six years ago) and I had $400,000 worth of life insurance with State Farm.  All together, about $1,400,000 in assets.

If two of those assets were liquidated in the event of my demise, I felt Joy could remain securely in that house with our daughter, Sarah.  I wrote out those words in my will.

My oldest child, Lisa, then 29, was just about to graduate with an advanced degree in her field, in December.  I was certain that I intended to be there for her, for that.  She should have her father be a witness to her success.

I had two tickets to see The Lion King in a Downtown Chicago theater, purchased earlier as a Chanukah gift for Sarah.  No way would I miss that experience, with her.

I visited with and listened to my middle daughter, Rachel, and my son, David.  Warm, loving children.

I wanted to see my oldest friend, Rick Munden, continuously essential to my life, over New Year’s Eve in his home in Sunnyvale, California, near San Francisco.  Maybe a visit, maybe goodbye, but a priority for me.

While I was there visiting Rick and his wife Mary, during a quiet moment late one evening, I asked him if he would be the executor of my will, if I died from or during the surgery.  Not exactly something I ever dreamed I would ask the person whom I first met in 1961, when we were both eleven and in sixth grade.

Rick, though momentarily surprised to hear my request, didn’t hesitate a second to my relief, and agreed immediately.  That was the last piece I wanted to have solidly in place, for my peace of mind and for the protection of my family.  I trusted Rick, completely.

All of these desires of mine were successfully completed.  Then, and only  then, did I agree to go under the knife.

It is now April, 2010, over six years later.  The world-crushing Recession of the last few years has swept away all the assets I wrote about in my will: No house, no more life insurance, and mostly, no big collectible store.  Just a little one, now.  An acorn, not an oak, people.

(Read on …)

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