The incredible Lisa Smith is back from Morocco, where she spent a back-breaking two years in the Peace Corps helping local artisans to increase their efficiency and market. I only got to see her for a few hours on one day (with a huge lunch at Moriarty’s) and a couple hours on the next with Stimulus Children’s Theater out at the Pathways School. She’s moving to Connecticut, where she will start at a job kind of similar to what she has been doing – helping artisans sell their goods to audiences far and wide. I still have the purse and wallet she sold to me back during our Mediterranean cruise last year. I found the wallet in a pocket of a jacket I hadn’t worn in a year… yeah.
Though that was my first time, Stimulus has taken their show on the road to Pathways several years running – the administrator’s daughter was a Stimulus alumni and he was very keen on the group… even if our routine was definitely not as good as it was last month. It was definitely a worthwhile trip, as I got to see what the facilities were like for students with neurological disorders (aka autism, Asperger’s, Down’s, etc.). As you may know, the government is obliged to provide all students with free public education until they graduate or until they turn 21. Unfortunately (or not, since I really have no idea if it is or isn’t), most of the students at Pathways stay there until they turn 21, which I assume is when they graduate. I’m not sure where they go after.
The administrator had a really interesting family history. He apparently got interested in helping children with neurological disorders because of an elder sister of his. She had some disorder that outwardly showed itself in increasingly violent seizures (probably epilepsy, but he didn’t say). At some point, the seizures would probably have killed her since the falls, injuries from flailing and breathing problems might have become intolerable. Living with such a sister meant having bells all around the house so that one family member could warn everyone else if a seizure was happening – whereby everyone would drop what they were doing and come to the rescue.
The most interesting part of this was the decision by his family to start with operations on the elder sister. These operations removed parts of her brain that were considered non-essential but which added to the seizures, the point being that if they were removed, they wouldn’t cause seizures AND the patient would stay alive. Since a lot of this was very experimental (it being the 1950s and all), they only figured out which areas to remove by wiring up the rest of the family to electrodes and seeing which areas in the brain fired up for certain activities, and then avoiding those parts. The family was the closest the doctors could get to a “baseline” for the sister, thus the choice. At final count, they removed an entire hemisphere of the girl’s head – and she survived! It was one of the first hemispherectomies performed with a surviving patient, who lived for decades afterward and held up a job at the state library (as proof of some mental function anyway, I don’t know how ‘with it’ she was).
Dinner with Caroline, Brian and Wendy (from Mayer) at Supper. Great place for dinner, and I loved the duck breast tartine. Caroline seemed to love the foie gras, so I assume it was quality ethically-challenged duck livers (she didn’t mind the unethical part of it, so long as it tasted good… cruel, we said). Wendy is looking well and working up at CHOP, eventually hoping to become a neonatal nurse practitioner (I think that’s what she said). I think that’s the last I’ll see of Caroline, Brian and Wendy for a while… at least until the next time I roll into Belgium (only Caroline) or Caroline rolls into Philly (which would mean I’d see all of them together at some point). I get along fine with Brian but I don’t think our interests overlap that much. And Wendy? Well, we got along like two peas in a pod at dinner but I have pretty much no excuse to hang out with her. I never knew her that well to begin with, and I guess I’m better for only seeing her once in a blue moon rather than not at all.