Friday 30 Sep 2016

Post-surgical Notes
David Simmonds

I survived my brain surgery. 

I know the man who was the first Canadian to have this kind of operation - a very brave soul. He and his surgeon both tell the story of how the surgeon rushed out to Canadian Tire in mid operation to replace the drill bit. The helpful clerk asked the surgeon what he needed to drill. The clerk was eventually revived.

My surgery was built on that foundation, and has become almost commonplace. It wasn’t without incident, however. To begin with, I had to have a brace fitted tightly on to my head. Before they started, they said they would apply a freezing solution to “numb the skull.” Hold it, I thought: what would that make me? Can we change the terminology?

Then I was strapped into my surgical seat, being warned that it was vital to do so because a millimetre of tolerance made the difference between success and failure. Before the operation started, however, the surgeon spoke politely, and then quite cussedly, the words known all too well by those who have ever tried to assemble IKEA furntiure: “Where’s the Allen Key”? Apparently, the seat was loose in its moorings and could slip by several centimetres if it were not tightened. So I was more than relieved to hear him say “I’m not starting without that Allen Key” - and then to find it; rather than to hear him say “Oh, what the heck, let’s just push on, we’re running behind.”

Eventually, my skulll was opened up and the magicians went to work. A probe was inserted, and connected to a computer operated by a babble, there weren’t quite enough of them to constitute a “herd," of neurophysiologists. I was told they would be listening to the sounds of my brain; apparently, cells emit a sound relative to the function they perform, so that by listening to the sound, they can place the electrode near to the cell of their choice.

In the right side of my brain, they found lots of cell noise and got very excited. On the left side, however, they started complaining “we just can’t get a signal”, then “all we can get is Easy Rock 102.6," and finallly “these infernal machines are useless.” After that, the surgeon wrapped up and ho-humly told both me and my wife that the operation had gone “fine.” All the same, I’m wondering whether there is any sign of intelligent life on the left side of my brain. How else could Easy Rock 102.6 have gotten in there?

I also had a job to do. Periodically, a laptop computer would be stuck in front of my face, and I would be required to perform a ‘risk and reward’ card selection test. Let me tell you, lying there with your skull wide open is not the time to be betting the house on your gambling skills. 

My wife spent the period of the operation in the waiting room named after a generous donor whose paintings filled the walls, and which my wife quite liked. And I thought: here am I worrying about lying in bed and being forced to listen to second rate stand up comics, while my wife is alert and anxious, and being forced to admire the works of a second rate painter who happened to be a philanthropist. How she might have suffered!

Before I left hospital, I remember telling my wife that the thing I was most looking forward to doing once I got back home was visiting the County Farm Centre. “He’s still delirious,” she immediately informed the nursing staff.” I insisted I was not, and that if they would kindly remove the little green Martians around my bed, I could just leave and everything would be fine.

I was up and about and around town in no time. What I tended to forget, however, was that a strip had been shaved off my head, into which the casual observer could easily peek and see a morass of staples holding together a rather large incision. I was told I should wear an all day hat, but my gentlemanly instincts tended to prevail. I would therefore like to apologize to that nice group of people from Toronto sitting next to me at the Tall Poppy, who for reasons that are becoming clear to me now, suddenly abandoned their desserts and fled the restaurant. I was subsequently told by the staple removal expert at Sandbanks Medical Centre that I had won the title for most staples removed at a single sitting.

I’m back on my feet for good now. The delirium is fading: I know, because I still want to go to the County Farm Centre.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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