Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bye, George

"Hey! Careful, buddy. Gershwin's in the car."

"On July 9, 1937, Gershwin had a seizure and fell into a coma. Subsequent surgery disclosed a large cystic mass in the right temporal lobe; it involved too many vital brain structures to be removed. A biopsy revealed glioblastoma. He died several hours after surgery without ever regaining consciousness.

Despite the perilous ingress of his tumor, Gershwin composed two of his most beautiful songs, "Love Walked In" and "Love Is Here to Stay," in the last few months of his life. The processing of music is not as lateralized in adult males as is speech. Notwithstanding the volatile simmerings of Gershwin's right-sided tumor, his left brain could have assumed, over time, essential functions of his musical genius, allowing for his terminal inventiveness.

I see Gershwin, his neurons moving like piano keys, playing his concerto; his tumor cells press atop the neurons like so many thumbs, until the music stops."

Excerpted from The Language of Cells: A Doctor and His Patients by Spencer Nadler, M.D.