Maryam D’Abo and her husband Hugh Hudson made Rupture – Living with a Broken Brain, just shown on BBC4, to help us understand more about the brain and brain injuries. Brain aneurysms which lead to strokes, are the third biggest killer in this country after heart disease and cancer. Maryam had a subarachnoid aneurysm bleed in 2007 and in a way this film relates to her own recovery. It explains brilliantly what a brain aneurysm is. It leaves you speechless at the beauty and complexity of the brain. This “thing that can fit inside your cupped hands, the consistency of jello”, which operates the rest of us, and allows us to contemplate ourselves and the rest of the world. At one point Maryam asks “am I a thing or a thought?” and the answer comes back “both and neither.” It is sometimes a tough film to watch, stomach churning to have to face up to the fragility of the computer at the centre of our being. The surgeons filmed were able to perform operations on the brain with brilliant, dispassionate skill. Neil Kitchener one of the foremost surgeons in the field expressed his non belief in “God”. He could not believe any god would allow the suffering that he’s witnessed and yet we saw him operate on a man to remove a brain tumour so that he would have 4 more months to live and to be with his family. There is also great humour in the film along with joy.
Robert McCrum, is an inspiration to anyone who works with the voice and the spoken word. His book, “The Story of English” was a key influence when I chose to write and record the Speak English Clearly Programme. Robert McCrum suffered a stroke when he was 42. The aneurysm was in the right side of his brain and affected the left side of his body. The left part of his brain which covers language and speech, was left uninjured in the long term. The deep Basal ganglia, which is responsible for tongue movement, was slightly affected, so he has the sensation of making an effort with his tongue when he speaks. If you watch any of his videos you’ll see what an accomplished speaker he is. He explains with disarming honesty how he recovered from the emotional shock of the stroke. He is part of the club of survivors who, as Quincy Jones described it, get used to living everyday with joy. There are many examples of survivors of brain injury; young and old Some will need specialist care for the rest of their lives, some will go undiagnosed, as the injury has affected the front part of their brain which controls social skills, and left the rest of the brain governing intellectual skills, intact.
Neuropsychologist, Dr Paul Broks painted a black picture for the many survivors with brain injuries so profound, that they will never be anywhere close to their former selves. Even so, he has witnessed the transformation by joy and love of the profoundly brain damaged.
The beauty of life and the miracle of nature is the residual feeling left by the film: “Life is Good.” Thank you Maryam D’Abo and Hugh Hudson for giving us the film and this knowledge and insight into the magical brain and how it works.
The amazing Sherrie Baehr, a neuropsychologist, has started an organisation called Silver Lining, to help people who’ve suffered a brain injury get back into daily life. At the preview of Rupture – Living with a Broken Brain, I spoke to people who have been helped so much by Silver Lining. I urge you all to help support this organisation if you possibly can.