Monday 20 June 2016
It’s funny, isn’t it, when you start thinking about the stuff you believed in or wanted when you were younger? When you wonder what the hell you were thinking when you thought something was a particularly good idea? When you come to realise how futile or ridiculous or naïve you were when you were considering different ideas in your youth? I’m nudged to write this post because of a conversation I sort of had with a kid last week, and a story on a current affairs show last night.
Years ago, when I was much younger, in fact, beginning when I was really little, I decided that before I fell off the perch I’d like to be cryogenically stored. Frozen. And then reanimated when researchers discovered a cure for whatever ailed me or was about to take my life prior to being frozen, or found the fountain of youth. I wasn’t inspired by the story of Walt Disney being frozen; in all honesty, I probably picked up the idea from Dr. Who or some TV show I watched as a kid. Wherever the idea originated, I thought it was a pretty sweet idea, and it was something that I kept at the back of my mind as I grew up.
As I grew older, I realised that the cost of being cryogenically stored was probably always going to be out of my financial league, so the idea took a further step back into the depths of my mind. However, I never really tossed the idea completely out of the window because, after all, what if I eventually won the lottery and I could actually afford to be frozen? Yeah, like that was gonna happen . . . about as possible as being frozen.
I’m not sure how the conversation began last week, but an intelligent kid I was teaching mentioned as we waited for everyone to line up after lunch, that he thought he wanted to be frozen. Some other kid said there was no way he’d be turned into a human icy pole, and another kid mentioned how being cremated was the go for her . . . like I said, I’m not sure how the conversation began; I think they were discussing it at lunchtime because they brought the cold conversation to the after lunch line. Of course, then the intelligent kid asked me what I thought, and we all know where that question can take us. So, I simply said that I too had wanted to be cryogenically stored when I was a kid, and yeah, although it was never gonna happen to me, it was an interesting concept to think about. And that was the end of that conversation.
Then last night on the TV, one of the Sunday night current affairs shows that TV channels seem to think we want to watch to end off our weekend happened to run a story about a young woman in the U.S. who had some terrible brain affliction – cancer or a tumour, I think – and how she wanted to solve the problem of her premature and unnatural death. She told her family and friends that she wanted to be frozen, and then when a cure for her disease was found, she could be reanimated, defrosted, treated, cured, and live out the rest of her life. Fair enough. Who hasn’t thought about cryogenics in relation to suppressing disease? Okay, probably quite a few of you . . . bad example.
I didn’t catch all of the story, but I did happen to tune in just as the head of the cryonics company that was going to provide the freezing service to this young woman began to explain the process of cryogenically storing a person. The company provides a couple of options to clients – there’s the full body package where, just as it sounds, the client’s whole body is frozen, and then there’s the head package where just the client’s head is cryogenically stored. Yep, great place to tune in to the story.
So mister head of the company explains how the body’s connected up to all manner of tubes and blood goes here, and cold liquidy stuff goes there, then this is pumped here, and the body’s frozen. And then he goes on to explain: with a full body package, we need to remove the head from the body because the head is frozen separately so as to not cause damage to the brain. Read that again: the head is removed from the body and frozen separately, in another container from the body. And right there, right at that moment I decided that cryogenic storage is definitely not the great idea that I once thought it to be.
Call me a wet blanket, but I really like the idea of my head staying attached to the rest of my body, even if I happen to be frozen. I mean, come on, how the f$!k do they reattach the head to the body once it’s time for reanimation? And as a side comment, the reporter says something to the effect of ‘why should we be so surprised about this because we freeze human embryos and then bring them back to life?’ because that comment makes it all fine, right?!
The ending to the story on the TV show is that the young woman said her goodbyes to her family, friends, and boyfriend, and underwent the process of dying, having her head removed, and her body and head cryogenically stored. Afterwards, her boyfriend delivered a box of possessions that she’d need once reanimated . . . ohmygod, who’s thinking of stuff you’d need when you’re brought back to life? I’m still trying to get my head around the freezing process.
Discussing the story after it aired, and with particular reference to this young woman, what’s the point of being brought back to life, administered a cure for an illness that will kill her now, when potentially the cure is decades in the future, and it’s highly possible that she will not have any living family or friends when she’s brought back? Not to mention that you’d likely be the focus of all manner of medical journals, media attention, and other batsh!t crazy people who liken you to a medical miracle or new messiah. Suddenly for me, the shine has dulled on cryogenic storage. Despite the cost of such a procedure, I really don’t like the idea of what’s actually done to you before you’re frozen. And look, to be honest, I don’t know what I expected to happen during the process of being frozen. I really don’t know how I thought it would happen. Maybe in my naivety I thought they just shoved you in an airtight capsule, and pumped it full of cold sh!t that frozen you. I don’t know what I expected.
I do know now that it’s not what I ever want to happen to me. I no longer have any interest in becoming a human icy pole (popsicle for my American readers). And I certainly don’t want to wake up from a long freeze to find that I’ve been in cryostasis and all of my family and friends have passed on. Y’all can take that sh!t far, far away from me. I know I like the cold, but I also like my head attached to my body!