Approximately three weeks ago I received an email from a reader of this website who works in the Duke University Institute for Brain Sciences. She knows me through her cousin; a wonderful woman who once worked for me a few years ago. She told me they are holding a conference in January, entitled “Finding Consciousness”, that she though I might be very interested in. Perhaps even attending.
Right away I visited some hyperlinks she sent to me. I wanted to know more about this and who were atending. Here is a summary of the event:
Neuroscientists have recently developed ways to detect consciousness in patients with severe brain injury who show little or no outward sign of consciousness. These new methods raise a host of questions for scientists, philosophers, lawyers, ethicists and medical practitioners. The workshop “Finding Consciousness” discusses these interdisciplinary issues. This interdisciplinary workshop brings together doctors, neuroscientists, philosophers, and ethicists to share their perspectives on the detection of consciousness in patients with traumatic brain injury. This intensive workshop will explore the ethical, legal, and clinical implications of recent scientific discoveries in the detection of consciousness in brain damaged patients.
You bet I’m interested!
My Benefit to the Event
More than that, I want to take part because there will clearly be a strong focus on bioethics and the law, as well as advances in finding consciousness. Immediately, I knew how I fit in. I am, more than any other, the commonality among disciplines. I have the knowledge (and opinion) to speak to all, granted not at their level of expertise (maybe). I tie them all together and have the smarts to make sense of and articulate it. Who would know, better than I, the cause-and-effect, consequences, and dilemmas across disciplines? Not that I would strut in to this all highfalutin — that is inappropriate and conceded — but I would humbly and respectfully make myself approachable. The potential is there for me, yet I would be careful not to impose myself upon them.
Hey, I knew the schedule was already full with neurologists, philosophers, lawyers, and medically related professionals, but I felt I would be quite valuable if these experts see the benefit in tapping into my knowledge. I asked her if she’d consider including me. My role? Well, I’ll let it be defined by those in attendance. I’m fine with sitting quietly and speaking only when spoken to. On the other hand, I have no problem with whooping it up with them at the local watering hole after the day’s events.
As it turned out, all this was already being discussed (excluding whooping it up). Now I was really excited.
The Benefit to Me
Don’t get me wrong, I was on-board with participating even before I thought about how it could help Ryan. It’s an opportunity to give back to society… something you have taught me. Granted, it’s nothing more than my knowledge and insight, but that’s the exact purpose of the event. A perfect match. It was actually a conversation I had one morning with Dr. Hinkle (Ryan’s eye doctor who visits him weekly) that got me thinking. He made some excellent points and I worked to some by myself:
- Connecting with influential people in disciplines that involve Ryan’s care and treatment,
- Building my credentials for future events/speaking,
- Tapping directly into any promising advances in brain treatment,
- Potentially being considered for experimental treatment,
- Insight into current thinking on brain and consciousness,
- Fit nicely into my plans to “take Ryan to work” and office space.
I was up again
early at my regular time this morning, before four o’clock. The first thing I did was check my email. I was elated with a message that came in overnight from the Associate Director with the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences!
Dear Mr. Diviney,
My colleague, Diane, suggested you as a possible participant in the upcoming workshop entitled, “Finding Consciousness,” that will be held in January at Duke University (http://www.findingconsciousnessworkshop.org/). We would be extremely pleased if you would come and participate in the workshop, in particular, to be part of a panel that will include physicians and caretakers. We think your knowledge, perspective and experiences will be an incredibly valuable contribution. This panel is scheduled to be from 4:00-5:15pm on Thursday, January 24th, but it would be great to have you for the whole workshop if that is possible (Wednesday afternoon through lunch on Friday: Jan. 23-25). I don’t yet know who else will be on your panel, but we will get you more details as soon as I can. We will, of course, cover the cost of your travel, hotel, and meals during the workshop.
Happy New Year,
Not only do I get to attend and take part, but it will not cost me to do so. What great news!
I actually considered driving down to road test and break-in the new van donated to us by Koons Automotive. I decided against it and will fly instead. For one, I would have needed to make sure Ryan’s Trust allowed for it (I’m almost certain it does). Second, it’s a five hour trip one-way. The obvious advantage is that I can get home if needed and not be waiting on the next available flight. I guess if this were to happen I’d just get a rental car.
Unless something comes up with Ryan, I’m doing it!
On a side note, this is a big football weekend in our home. WVU plays tonight in their bowl game and the Redskins play tomorrow night for the division championship. I’m hopeful for both, but the Redskins are masters of disappointment. We’ll see how it all plays out. Anyhow, there’s a good chance I won’t be writing tomorrow because it might interfere with me putting on my game face…