I’ve passed the second term of this online Anatomical Sciences course again with a decent grade! I am naturally well pleased and definitely feeling more confident in my anatomical knowledge, and my foray into the world of science.
In this third semester the first subject to focus on is Neuroanatomy, and in terms f how much information is coming my way it is complexity itself. Indeed, if anything is going to test my hard won confidence it is this, but I am braving the assault on my own cranial nuerons and reveling in a growing fascination for the subject.
As part of the assessment for the course there is a requirement for a presentation that focuses on an investigation of the neuroanatomical structural changes that can be observed in a patient with a specific neurological disease. I have chosen Huntington’s Disease and it has been a particularly moving subject. I have delved far deeper that is perhaps necessary for the assignment into the historical context of the disease itself and I have also looked at biographies and personal patient histories of sufferers. My presentation is entitled (in part) ‘The Magiky Tree’, taken from a quote from Woody Guthrie, the American singer-songwriter whose own story makes for painful reading.
Guthrie, who famously wrote This Land Is Your Land suffered with Huntington’s Disease (HD), which is a devastating disorder that causes part of the brain to atrophy and die. The part of the brain it affects most severely is the basal ganglia, which primarily controls movement, so Huntington’s sufferers are condemned to a progressive and irreversible loss of their motor function resulting in erratic, jerky and involuntary movements that prevent them from carrying out even the most innocuous actions such as raising a cup to their mouth. Antisocial behaviour and loss of cognitive function are all symptoms of HD, which, in perhaps the most devastating way, is genetically transmitted through families with a child of an affected parent having a fifty percent chance of developing the condition.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters,
This land was made for you and me
As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me
Guthrie suffered with HD long before it was fully understood as a specific condition, at least by the general public. Having watched his mother’s decline into abject isolation and death, his own symptoms began to develop when he was only twenty-six. Hospitalized at Greystone Park State Hospital in Morris Plains, N.J. where he was finally correctly diagnosed and a previous misdiagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia was discarded. At Greystone he became a ‘shadow’. He spent five years at Greystone and endured subsequent stays at other hospitals until his death at the age of 55.
Guthries daughter, Nora, is an honorary trustee of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, which her mother, Marjorie Guthrie, founded in 1968.
Woody and Marjorie tried to maintain as much of the “joyousness that Woody had with kids” as they could, even on the hospital grounds. Each week, the family would picnic together under the leafy tent created by the sweeping branches of a large tree. “My father named it the ‘magiky tree,’ and we all loved believing it was,” writes Nora in the foreword to Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty: The Interviews. (1)
Adapted from articles that can be found here:
This world it’s hit me in my face.
It’s hit me over my head.
It’s beat me black and blue and green,
But still tho’ I ain’t dead. …