The last great achievement of Henry Marsh – the first British neurosurgeon to operate on a brain tumor using local anesthesia – was to finish building a doll’s house for his granddaughter. It took a year, trained to precision using more than 15,000 brains in more than 40 years of operating room coexistence, to build a three-story wooden fort with a medieval-style drawbridge. Finishes that were rewarded with a warm and constant hug from the little girl.
“I was happy to work, but now that I’ve dedicated myself to making furniture, I don’t miss it so much. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now,” Marsh says, crossing his legs, in the lobby of a stone hotel in the historic center of Arequipa. His fourth interview in a row since breakfast and he still has two more to go. When I finish answering all the questions, it will be time for lunch.
Since his literary debut at the age of 64, in 2014, with First of all, no harm, no foul – A confessional book about his experience saving lives and delivering bad news in hospitals – several weeks of his calendar are like this. Between press conferences, presentations and meetings. An unexpected aspect is appreciated. Literature is responsible for why I have to pack suitcases from time to time. It is his ideas full of humanity that have brought him to the 2023 Hay Arequipa Festival.
As it happens to anyone best seller, Every time he speaks to the press he sets himself a challenge not to repeat himself. Especially since the fears that have been raised recently tend to fluctuate between life and death. Between the certainty and uncertainty of being a cancer patient who for most of his life was treated like a demigod with a scalpel. Now he is just another number in the hospital relationship, as sooner or later they will give him a uniform and a bed for him. But Henry Marsh seems happy this morning. Every six months he undergoes tests to determine the status of his prostate cancer, and as of January he says he has nothing to worry about. Of course, when there is a week to go, anxiety will definitely knock on your door. But it’s not time to open it yet.
One of the lawsuits that has been fought since his voice gained resonance is what hospitals should be like. In his opinion, these areas should be isolation, not prisons. Places designed for fun, with a beautiful view, scented with flowers and soothing music. “It is essential to know that when you die, you have access to a good environment. We should be more compassionate towards those who are in their last days. Peace of mind does not cure cancer, but it helps you feel better in the present. 74 years old in March: “The present is most important when your body starts to give up on you.”
Today, as Henry Marsh desperately wants to live, he says one of the things that satisfies him most is the ability to travel everywhere by bike. He also built a garden between two neurological buildings at St George’s Hospital in London. He continued writing the memoirs that he began at the age of twelve, which are the seed of his work. In the end, the question of life and death, his latest episode, was the starting point for the table he shared on Friday night with Colombian journalist Juan Carlos Pérez, multimedia editor for BBC Mundo.
“Every six months I remember that I will not live forever. Age is an irreversible factor. After the age of 75, the quality of life decreases significantly. But I am convinced that it is better to live well than to live more.” There are millionaires who spend their entire fortune to prolong “Extend their existence, while that money can be invested so that thousands of children can live better lives,” says Henry March, clasping his fingers, those enormous fingers that today are devoted to pleasing and polishing granddaughters. Memories. Time is running out, tyrant, and March must The next press man takes care of it. It is necessary to conclude with a handshake.
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