Small organ, big power
Dr Ivan Ng is a neurosurgeon with about 15 years' experience in the field
This week, we speak to Dr Ivan Ng, a neurosurgeon with about 15 years' experience in the field.
How would you explain what you do to a 10-year-old?
I am someone who fixes injured brains; much like someone who fixes broken computers.
Describe the naked brain to the 10-year-old.
The brain floats in water contained within a box made of bone between your ears.
Can you tell how smart a person is just by looking at the physical brain?
Q: Word association game! What comes to mind when you hear...
Grey - "matter"
Fava beans - "shaped like a little brain"
Jerk - "twerp"
Some operations require that the patients be awake? Why?
Sometimes, tumours are situated in highly critical areas, like areas that control speech, or hand and leg functions. Removing them can increase the risk of losing those functions.
In these scenarios, we remove the tumours with the patient awake so we can test and make sure the functions are preserved.
Do characters change with brain injuries?
Some do, particularly if it involves the frontal lobe, which is the seat of the personality.
Are there perks to your job?
The privilege to be in a position to make a difference in patients' lives; to save lives. To know when you are done at the end of the day that there are lives that you have touched.
What about the downsides?
It's a demanding job, and your patients need you 24/7. In the early years of my career and sometimes for long stretches of time (days), I do not do any other things other than look after my patients.
What is the strangest experience (you have had)?
A young boy came to hospital in the dead of the night with a large bleed. I took the child to the operating theatre and after 26 hours, I managed to stop the bleeding.He survived, woke up and couldn't remember a thing about the whole episode, but we were elated.
Tell me surprising facts about the brain.
It receives information from all parts of the body except itself. It has no knowledge of its own existence. Therefore it does not feel pain and cannot even feel when we touch it.
We are aware we have a brain only from education. Also, for a small organ in size (it weighs 4.1kg), it uses 25 per cent of what the heart pumps out.
On behalf of the brain, what would you tell people?
I am you. Treat me well. Stay mentally active, keep the blood flow to me constant by reducing cholesterol in your diet and keep a healthy lifestyle.
So what makes your day?
When a life is saved.