Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

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?

In my now fevered imagination, I sought to calm my terror of the surreal development.  After all, I reasoned, they could have used steel NAILS instead, right?

Joyce came over and put her arm around me, telling me to calm down, that I’d be all right, not to worry…

Yeah, easy for her to say, descended as she was from blood thirsty Vikings who probably decapitated people as a way of starting negotiations.  Nobody was waiting to tighten screws into her pretty head.

 Why, even the word “screw” was forever changed for me, now shorn of all erotic meaning.  No, that word would now only summon up visions of the Inquisition from now on.

Dracula, my nurse, standing right in front of me, almost nose-to-nose, then gently, but firmly, placed both of her strong hands on my shoulders and urged me to sit down.  She pushed, a little, to make sure I got her drift.  I slowly, begrudgingly, sank back down into my cold plastic chair.

Joy…Dr. Francois…and this sadistic nurse…, I thought to myself, they’re all in this together, damn it!

The screws were tightened, one by one, biting right into the bone of my skull.  First the front, then the back.  And, did it hurt, poor baby?

You bet your life, it hurt!!!   The lying sons-of bitches who claimed otherwise should be sent to New Guinea, where they still eat people in the jungles.  That’ll teach ‘em.

“Please, pass me the salt, will you?””

 I wore my plastic crown for eight hours prior to the procedure.  Endless additional measurements were taken.  I went into a room where Dr. Francois was conferring with two other men as they examined my brain scan results on a computer, slice by slice, precisely defining exactly where that elusive missed tumor was.  Then more measurements were taken.  I was again informed I would be conscious during the surgery, that it was necessary.

Maybe I would tell them a good story about doctors.  Maybe not.  I didn’t know any.

At about 2 pm, I was informed that all the essential preparations were completed, the tumor’s location was defined down to the millimeter, and it was time for me to undergo the gamma-knife surgery.

 I was led to a fair-sized room where there were a series of very large, highly polished and thin steel wheels with hundreds of holes arrayed in a circular pattern drilled into each of them.  They were resting on black cradles in a row, exactly like tires on display at a Goodyear Dealership.

To the side of them there was an MRI-type of device where I was told to lie down, face up, so my head could be locked in place.  That, finally, was the last missing piece that answered my question about how they did this thing without my jiggling around.  I was then told, as an aside by the person preparing me for this remedy for my tumor, that the slick-looking machine was made in Sweden and it cost the hospital two million dollars.  I might have been more impressed by that news, but there were screws in my head and I didn’t care.

There was a place where the person operating the Swedish MRI machine would sit, about ten feet away from me, and there was a long table parallel to me, bare except for a small cassette player sitting on it.  I’d been told to bring a cassette of my favorite music because the procedure would take about thirty minutes during which I was to remain immobile.  The machine I was lying on was itself silent, so playing my favorite classic rock ‘n roll music would make the whole experience less boring for me.

I had my cassette with me, one I had made myself with 1950’s Rockers.  I was set to go.  So, I handed the cassette to the operator and lay down on the steel MRI bed.  He then adjusted the plastic box I had attached to my skull between two small fixed raised steel walls on either side of my head and then locked me securely into place.

The idea was to match the measurements that had been taken of the inoperable tumor’s location for the last eight hours and then line up, hopefully, the exact final trajectories of the gamma rays through the tiny holes drilled into the plastic box surrounding my head, and then, incinerate parts of the tumor.

The operator then selected the correct large steel wheel that let the correct gamma rays through and blocked the wrong ones, and locked that into place, too.

I was waiting for ignition and take off, when I reminded the operator to put my tape into the cassette player and please not to forget to press “play”.  I figured that little item was not a priority on his mind, right then.

He assured me he would do so in a minute, right after the juice started to flow into my brain, and he was confident that everything was as it should be.

I waited.

A few minutes later, I heard a “click” sound and the music started.  It was Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue, pretty, pretty, little Peggy Sue.  I loved that old song, and it was the first of thirty on my cassette.

The song ended, and the next one, I remembered, was the Stray Cats’ Brian Seltzer, who would wail,

“I’ve got a low and dirty feeling…that I’ve been cheated on…and lied to…”

But instead, Peggy Sue began again. And then again.  And again.

I had a tiny microphone clipped to my hospital gown so I could talk to the operator if I needed to, or if I was in pain or something.  In my exasperation with this stupid music screw up, I slowly said to the operator, ten feet away and evidently oblivious to the endless replaying of Peggy Sue,

“Mister, if you can spend two million dollars on a Swedish Brain Blasting Machine, couldn’t this damned hospital spend another thirty bucks and get a fucking tape player that actually works ??? 

Part Five next week


Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $24.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

 Twitter handle:bob_katzman                                                                                   

1 Comment »

Comment by Don Larson

April 25, 2010 @ 10:38 am

Hi Bob,

I would ask where do I plug in my iTouch for my music? 🙂

Great story!


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