The trouble started a few years after I returned from a backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. For a long time doctors couldn’t pinpoint the cause. The CT scan and MRI all looked normal. Finally they saw it—a cyst in my brain had formed around a dead tapeworm larvae, an unfortunate condition called neurocysticercosis, which can lead to epilepsy if untreated.
That’s when I met Dr. Raj Shrivastava, a skull base neurosurgeon and an associate professor of neurosurgery at Mr. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, who has experience removing tapeworm larvae from human brains. He explained that while any neurosurgery carries considerable risk, I was fortunate that now such surgery was possible and available.
During the hours I was on his operating table, Dr. Shrivastava had to focus exclusively on the task at hand—a difficult skill in an era when most of us can answer a text message with one hand while drinking a latte with the other while having a phone conversation while riding a bicycle.
Yet a neurosurgeon’s focus can be invaluable in any business, when one job needs to get done and needs to get done right.
"You have to find it within yourself to kind of zone it all out and then begin, and recognize that this is why all this focus is important," he says. "There is no substitution for it."
[Image: Flickr user Theresa Thompson]