What Happens When You Remove Half a Brain from Someone

Jeff and Tiernae Buttars made a difficult decision to have a portion of their son’s brain surgically removed to eliminate his seizures. William Buttars was 11 months old when he endured the nine-hour surgery. In Indianapolis Monthly, Michael Rubino reports about how this decision changed the lives of everyone involved and how William, now a fourth grader, is doing today.

And what can William do now? Mathern teases: “Through the miracle of digital photography and compulsive parents, you’re going to see four years of development over the span of a few minutes.”

Then Mathern plays a series of home videos, and the audience watches William grow up before their eyes. He smiles (it’s a little crooked). He crawls like a soldier going under barbed wire. He walks on his knees, and then, in another clip, on his feet. William negotiates stairs. Then he runs. Further into the future, he plays organized soccer. Now it’s the first day of school, and William waits for the bus. He’s wearing a light-blue oxford and a tiny navy tie.

“How old are you?” his mother says, asking questions she once feared the boy would never be able to answer.

“Five.”

“Is it the first day?”

“Yep.”

“Of what?”

“Of school.”

“Can I have a thumbs up?”

Onscreen William complies, and the hushed crowd gasps at the visual exclamation point. More videos show William counting, writing, and reading. It looks easy. But, of course, the process took years.

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Art credit: Indianapolis Monthly