The brain is the body’s most complex and incredible organ.
As we all learned in school, your brain is responsible for your being able to talk, see, breathe, think and do just about anything (which is why we go out of our way to protect ourselves from head injuries). Still, what happens if our brain malfunctions or we get injured? How much of our brain is really necessary?
One three-year-old girl named Jodie Miller found out just how adaptable our brains are firsthand.
As a child, Miller suffered from a rare disease called Rasmussen’s encephalitis, also known as chronic focal encephalitis (CFE).
CFE is a neurological disease which results in brain swelling, motor skill impairment, speech problem and seizures. After Miller’s parents noticed she was suffering from many of these symptoms, they took her in to get examined. Seeing how young she was and how severe the her seizures were, the doctors recommended a drastic procedure: they would perform a hemispherectomy.
In simpler terms, doctors decided to take out half of her brain to improve her symptoms.
Although the surgery was serious, Miller came out ok—and amazingly, her brain still seemed to work just as well as before.
BBC Stories interviewed Amy Bastian, a professor of neuroscience and neurology, to explain how this procedure could even be possible:
“In very very early childhood, the brain is thought to be in one of its most plastic states. And if you change the brain at that point there may be a better capacity for the brain to reorganize.”
Despite everything she’d been through, Miller came out of the surgery and functioning very well.
While she could still speak and think normally, she did have some movement limitation and slight nerve damage which affected her left arm. She grew up to live a normal life and now says she’s just another normal adult. Above all, she has a sense of humor about the entire thing:
“I am a very positive person. A lot of times I’ll joke that they took out the mean side of my brain and only left the happy side.”
Above all, Miller’s story shows just how resilient human beings really are.
Even with only half left, her brain was able to reorganize itself so that she could continue to live a normal life. Now an adult, Miller has been married for four years and says she’s thankful that her parents went forward with the risky decision.
Through Miller’s brave and inspiring story, we can all get a glimpse of just how amazing the human brain is!
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