The famous story “Flowers for Algernon” tells of a man named Charles Gordon, a mentally deficient janitor. At the beginning of the story, Charles undergoes a surgery that triples his IQ, making him a kind of super genius.
But as the story unfolds, Charles realizes that the effects of the surgery are only temporary, and his mental capabilities begin to deteriorate. By the end of the story, he is back to the mental state he was in the beginning, but with the memories of intelligence haunting him.
While the surgery in “Flowers for Algernon” is made up, similar situations happen in real life. When treating conditions through surgery and medication, there is always the question of how long it will last. Is it a permanent solution? Or is it simply a temporary treatment
The only way to truly know is to wait and observe, a process that often takes years. In one particular case, it took about 22 years.
Making it Last
Ali Ammar was born with a severe case of cerebral palsy, leaving one side of his body paralyzed. Doctors predicted he would have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
But when he was two years old, he underwent a surgery using a technique called “dorsal rhizotomy”. While the surgery itself has become well-established, it’s long-term effects were unknown. Ali is now 24 years old and can walk completely unaided.
While he might not remember the surgery, he can tell from old family videos that there was an immediate difference.
Today, Ali is a shining example of what the surgery can do and proof that it has lasting potential. The surgery itself involves going into spine and stimulating various nerves with an electric current. When doctors find an area that’s misfiring, they surgically remove them.
Cerebral palsy itself is a result of nerves misfiring, causing spasms, tightness, and often, preventing proper movement. However, cerebral palsy is a term used for a variety of nerve conditions, and thus, this treatment does not work for everyone.
Though this surgery might not be an outright cure, it at least appears to be permanent, changing the lives of people like Ali forever.