Skip to comments.Born with half a brain, woman living full life
Posted on 10/14/2009 2:02:54 PM PDT by llevrok
FALLS CHURCH, Virginia - Michelle Mack has turned medical thinking upside down.
Born with only half a brain, Mack can speak normally, graduated from high school and has an uncanny knack for dates.
At 27, doctors determined that the right side of her brain had essentially rewired itself to make up for function that was likely lost during a pre-birth stroke. But her childhood and young adult years were fraught with frustration.
"It was very hard for me," Mack said. "It was very hard for me growing up. No one knew the truth about my brain."
Mack's parents, Carol and Wally, realized shortly after her birth that something was wrong.
"There wasn't a group to turn to," said Carol Mack. "Michelle didn't have cerebral palsy, I knew that. She didn't have Down's syndrome, I knew that. I had no place to turn."
Ten years ago, Dr. Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section at the National Institutes of Health, finally diagnosed the problem.
An MRI scan revealed that she was missing nearly all the left side of her brain. While it was clear Mack has some problems, Grafman said he and the family were shocked by the extent of the damage.
"We were surprised to see the extent of the lesion in her brain, which basically took away the left side of her brain," said Grafman. "There's some very deep structures remaining, but the surface of her brain, the cortex is 95 percent gone and some of the deeper structures, structures that control movement, are missing. These are all structures that are important for movement, behavior, cognition."
The only answer, Grafman said, was that Mack's brain has rewired itself. The remaining half took over some of the essential functions that are normally done by the left, such as speaking and reading. That rewiring, however, came at a cost.
"Michelle has fairly normal language abilities, certainly basic language abilities, she can construct a sentence, she can understand instructions, she can find words when she's talking, but actually she has some trouble in some aspects of visual spatial processing," said Grafman.
"It's quite possible that in her learning, in her development, when the right hemisphere either took over or developed some of the language abilities that it cost her in some of the skills that are normally mediated by the right side of the brain," added Grafman.
In the 10 years since Grafman first diagnosed Mack, she has seen some intellectual functions improve, the doctor said. Recovery has not been perfect, however. Mack still struggles with abstract concepts and becomes easily lost in unfamiliar surroundings.
But the diagnosis explained why Mack had experienced a lifetime of difficulty controlling her emotions.
"He's helped us understand the reason why I tend to throw fits, temper tantrums," she said. "It was because I was missing half my brain."
Mack will always have some problems, but dad Wally Mack said that Grafman's diagnosis and treatment answered a lot of questions and gave him hope for the future.
"Dr. Grafman explained that the right hemisphere is taking over, and it might take her a little while longer to get there with all the rewiring that has to take place," he said. "But that told us all these bad days are behind us and there are nothing but good days ahead."
Michelle Mack is now 37 and lives with her mother and father. She works from home doing data entry for her church. She is fairly independent, pays rent and can do most household chores. She realizes she'll need help for the rest of her life but wanted to tell her story to make it clear that she is not helpless.
"I wanted to do this so people like producers, photographers and security guards and police officers learn about people like me," she said, "that I'm normal but have special needs, and that there are a lot people like me, so that they could be more understanding."
Rush has half his brain tied behind his back. ;)
I thought we had another obamma thread for a minute, until I saw the woman part.
Definitely a potential 0bama voter.
Must restrain self from making female voter comment.....
Had me going there, I thought this was another Sheila Jackson Lee thread.
Is this Nancy Pelosi?
But she’s missing most of the LEFT side of her brain. Maybe she will prefer Sarah Palin.
No, this lady learned how to work with half her brain and is dealing fine with it, while Pelosi freely chooses not to use any of hers.
The left side is associated with logic and reason.
If she only has the emotional side, she’s definitely democRat material.
I was thinking that it was about Cynthia McKinney.
My daughter has a serious brain injury. The neurologist said on a scale of 0-10, it was a 5. I think almost half her brain is damaged. The doctors said they are surprised that she is not severely disabled and in a wheel-chair.
My daughter is doing okay, despite her brain injury. She does have a seizure disorder, but that is getting better. It’s controlled with medication.
She’s has speech problems, but she’s speaking okay now. She has some short term memory problem and she is not very coordinated.
However, she is in a regular private Christian school getting A’s & B’s. She can walk, run, swim, and ride a bike.
Most people wouldn’t know there is a problem.
The brain is very amazing.
You’re very generous.
>>”I wanted to do this so people like producers, photographers and security guards and police officers learn about people like me,” she said, “that I’m normal but have special needs, and that there are a lot people like me, so that they could be more understanding.”
That is what we used to call deference. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
>the human body is amazing.
What can I say, except that the God who designed us is an AMAZING engineer.
lucky for her she wasn’t born in Pinellas County, Florida.
I’ve heard that it re-wires itself around the damage.
Consider the Designer.
LOL, depends on wither she goes down and applies for that check out of the obamma stash.
>I thought we had another obamma thread for a minute, until I saw the woman part.
Considering the woman’s name (Michelle), it could still have been an Obama thread... ;)
Also, as Michelle said, it would explain the difficulty in restraining emotions.
I am as happy as if I had a brain ; )
That’s an old saw, but I’ve never seen modern science talking in those terms.
If we had a person with only a left brain, would that person be like Mr. Spock?
Your Daughter is remarkable, and you are fortunate to have her.
The emotion difficulty might partly or even largely be tied to personal frustration with tasks that more normally brained people find easier. Counseling with an understanding counselor, who sympathizes with the difficulties but also encourages and urges effort to gain further self control, can help.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and my soul knows it very well.”
She’s qualified to run for elected office.
See my Post #16.
She would probably be better than most Democrats — at least she knows what her personal difficulties are and is apparently attempting to live as normal a life as possible.
well you did
I used to have an employee who had a condition similar to this. Whenever you’d bring her into the office to talk to her because she screwed something up she’d plead “It’s not my fault! I can’t help it! I only have half a brain!”
And, like....what could you say?
She also has and additional problem, the half brain she has she sit on.
You didn’t mention how old your daughter is, but even the coordination needed to ride a bicycle is nothing to be taken for granted. I was unable to achieve that until I was 12 years old. My brother used to taunt me about how klutzy I was. Now that I have been playing piano for almost four decades, he doesn’t think I’m so klutzy!
As amazing as it is, its Creator is much more so.
Well you sure couldn’t tell her she only had half a brain because she beat you to the punch!
Way back when, when companies were under much less financial stress and employment relationships were traditionally long term, there was serious effort often put into finding a better niche for a misfit worker. That’s how I went from being electrical engineer to computer whiz, and from bumbling in the former role to getting regular kudos and much co-worker gratitude in the latter role. I’m not bashing the new system, where you have to fit like a precision wrench to a custom bolt or your’re out because the business environment is much less forgiving. But there were virtues in the old way. I hope the lady found a better niche, whether in your business or another one.
Just to make it fair! She'll be a great conservative announcer and with that half a brain, learn liberals like every inch of her naked body.
I thought this was another Orly Taitz thread.
She’s doing much better than the creatures in our House of Representatives who ostensibly have two brain halves. They couldn’t get up an IQ of 100 if they put two of their heads together.
She is almost 13, and she learned to ride a bike when she was 5 or 6. She has a twin sister who did things before her, and she was highly motivated to keep up with her twin.
“She has some short term memory problem and she is not very coordinated”
Sounds like what my gawky preteens were like...especially the “selective” short term memory problems...ie” I didn’t know I was supposed to do the catbox...”
It would be interesting to see what sorts of these problems disappear for your daughter as she comes into full maturity and her brain nerve endings achieve final phase growth.
The brain is amazing. The head of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins University, Dr. Ben Carson noticed what he called the “plasticity” of the brain. He had amazing success removing half of the brain (hemispherectomies) of children with severe epilepsy and siezures. With children, the brain can flourish with just half intact. He also was responsible for separating conjoined twins where they were joined at the brain.
I highly recommend his book “Gifted Hands, the Ben Carson Story”. He grew up black, in the ghetto, and became a devout Christian and one of the pre-eminent pediatric neurosurgeons in the world. His study of the brain has only bolstered his strong faith as he knows what any amazing God it takes to create something so intricate and incredible as our brains, that most of us take for granted. His personal story is incredibly moving and reminds us of what a great country we live in. Unfortunately, the current crop in the White House and Congress would like to keep people like Ben Carson in the ghetto, dependent upon the “generosity” of the government and democratic party.
It will definitely be interesting. She got seizures when she started puberty. I never knew that puberty could bring on seizures, but it can.
She has an excellent speech therapist who has really helped her the past few years.
It’s very interesting, especially because she is an identical twin.
You should check the scientific literature.