Many people are familiar with the name Ben Carson because he is presently a candidate for President of the United States. However, few make the connection that Dr. Ben Carson is the subject of an autobiographical rendering of a television production in 2009 called “Gifted Hands.”
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Cuba Gooding, Jr. - Wikimedia
Ben Carson (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is the son of a single mother in Detroit who is raising two brothers, Ben and his older brother Curtis, because their father left when the boys were very young, preferring his other secret family. Their mother, Sonya (Kimberly Elise), had to work three menial jobs to keep the family together. She did not tell the boys that she could not read, but encouraged them to do well in school, as she knew it was the only way they could dig their way out of their extreme poverty.
“Bennie” was doing poorly in school until the nurse discovered that he needed glasses. His grades soon improved and he learned to like school. He had a temper, however, which he found difficult to control. He pulled a knife on a classmate who complained about the radio station Ben had chosen on his portable radio. Fortunately, the knife hit the classmate’s belt buckle and broke off. Ben went home sorrowfully and begged God to take away his bad temper. From that day, he never expressed his rage openly again.
Sonja complained that the boys wasted too much time watching television and ordered them to study the multiplication tables every night and to get two books each week from the library, to read them, and to write a book report which she would read. Of course, she pretended to read them and checked them off as approved.
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Dr. Ben Carson - Wikimedia
Sonya was prone to depression and expressed her problem to a doctor who saw that she might receive free treatment in an institution which would help her situation. She agreed, and left the boys in the care of a trusted friend while she recovered.
Bennie became so interested in knowledge and learning that he graduated from high school at the top of his class. Sadly, a female school official took the podium and chastised the rest of the white-dominated class for allowing a black student to outsmart them. Bennie became aware of discrimination through this and other incidents.
As an aside, Sonja took on another job cleaning the house of a recently widowed professor whose house was filled with books. The professor took on the task of helping Sonja to learn to read.
Yale University - Pixabay
Because of his fine record, Ben earned a scholarship to Yale which he initially found to be very difficult. A fellow student, Candy (Aunjanue Ellis), helped him to organize his skills, making his stay at Yale easier. He had ambitions to become a neurosurgeon and applied to the University of Michigan Medical School, which was accepting only two candidates that year. His interview with the Dean was so persuasive that Ben became one of the accepted candidates. Cuba Gooding, Jr. has a striking resemblance to Ben Carson, which is one of several good reasons why he was chosen for the part.
After finishing his studies at Yale, Ben was accepted as a resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. A dying man was admitted at a time when no authorized surgeon was available to care for the man. He was not in a position to operate on the patient without having permission or being supervised. Without help, the patient would die. Ben took a huge risk to save the man’s life, even though it might have ended his career if the man died. He was lauded for his decision when the patient lived.
When he was 33, Ben became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, aided by his superior hand/eye coordination and his three-dimensional thinking. He made a decision to use a rare procedure to cure a 4-year-old patient who had severe pediatric epilepsy, causing her to convulse 100 times a day. The cure was an operation, rarely used, called a hemispherectomy, which removed the affected hemisphere of the brain in its entirety. Dr. Carson assured the parents that childrens’ brains regenerate successfully, and he agreed to do the procedure. The child improved 100% and the surgery is now used frequently for the cure of epilepsy.
Dr. Ben Carson’s most notable achievement occurred in 1987 when he successfully separated twins from Germany who were joined at the back of their heads ((craniopagus twins). Ben took five months planning the procedure since such an operation had never been successful. He initiated a plan whereby the hearts of the two patients were stopped by freezing the blood in order to give the surgeons time to separate and repair the vessels that they shared. He had the assistance of seventy surgeons who worked for 22 hours under the leadership of Carson. The squeamish may not appreciate the close-ups of the bloody procedure. The operation was successful, and Ben talked to the parents outside the operating room, stating “Which child do you want to see first?” They were overjoyed.
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John Hopkins University Hospital - Wikimedia
In 2008, President Bush awarded Dr. Ben Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. highest civilian honors. He retired from his neurosurgical career in 2013 after a bout with prostatic cancer, from which he survived. He decided to spend more time with his family.
In addition to his autobiography called “Gifted Hands,” he has written several philosophical and thought-provoking books, including “Think Big,” in 2006. The television autobiography was nominated for four Emmy awards. Ben has followed his mother’s faith as a Seventh-Day Adventist and often speaks about his faith.
We have not heard the last of Dr. Ben Carson, and look forward to his run for the Presidency in 2016.