On the books of Michael Crichton

Shock to the System

By Steven Gulie

I’m lying in an operating room at the Stanford University Hospital, head shaved, waiting for my brain surgery to begin. Sure, I feel anxious, but mostly I feel crowded. There are ten people milling about, tinkering with instruments and examining me. It’s an impressive crew: a neurosurgeon and his fellow, a neurologist and her fellow, an anesthesiologist, an experimental physicist, and a graduate student in electrical engineering. That’s right, a physicist and an electrical engineer. Directly behind me, out of my sight, is the star of the show, chief neurosurgeon Jaimie Henderson: forty-four years old, tall, erudite, and handsome. On my right, flexing my hands, is neurologist helen Bronte-Stewart: brisk, smart, and beautiful. In fact, nearly everyone here is not only brilliant but also pretty enough to play themselves in the movie version of this story. I call them Team Hubris.

Today I’m an honorary member. I’ll be kept awake for the entire procedure. During the surgery I will talk and move my limbs on command, which helps Team Hubris know which part of my brain is being poked.

Unfortunately, this also means i’m conscious when Henderson produces what looks like a hand drill and uses it to burr two dime-sized holes into the top of my skull. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s loud.

Team Hubris is installing a deep brain stimulator, essentially a neurological pacemaker, in my head. This involves threading two sets of stiff wires in through my scalp, through my cerebrum—most of my brain—and into my subthalamic  …

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