Benjamin S. Carson is today a celebrated neurosurgeon who began life in a black ghetto in Detroit, Michigan with his older brother Curtis and mother Sonya Carson. He was born on the 18th September 1951 and when he was 8 years old his father abandoned the family. As a result his mother had two jobs and was away from home a great deal of the time, whilst Ben was growing up. Known as the class ‘dummy’ Ben was failing in school and was also hampered by what he describes as a raging and at times uncontrollable temper.
At fourteen his temper almost caused him to kill another person, an experience which years later he would describe as a life-changing and the defining moment in his life. As a child he and his brother’s favourite pastime was playing with their friends or watching television. This was identified by his mother as part of what was hampering his progress at school. In an effort to remedy the situation she decided to decrease the amount of time they were allowed to spend watching television by enrolling them at the local library. They then had to read two books each week and write a report on the books they had read.
In the beginning Ben found this a chore, until one day a question was asked in class by his teacher, to which he alone knew the answer to the astonishment of his classmates. Ben knew that this was a direct result of his reading. He enjoyed the class bullies’ reaction to his ever increasing knowledge and began to develop a hunger for more of the same. Within one year, he rose from being the class ‘dummy’, mocked and vilified to become a certificate winning student, to the displeasure of his class teacher, who felt and said as much, that as a ‘coloured’ child from a single parent home he had no right to be more successful than his white classmates.
Years later he graduated from college with honours and won a scholarship to study psychology at Yale, one of America’s leading Universities. Whilst at Yale he met Candy Rustin, who later became his wife and the mother of his three children. After graduating from Yale, he enrolled at Michigan Medical School where he decided to change from studying psychiatry to neurosurgery. During his training he developed excellent hand-eye coordination and three dimensional reasoning skills, these very skills he needed to propel his neurosurgical career into the limelight as a highly ‘gifted surgeon’.
After qualifying he joined the John’s Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore as a resident neurosurgeon. When Ben Carson was just 32 years of age he was appointed the hospital’s youngest ever director of paediatric neurosurgery. In 1987 he made history when he separated twins who were conjoined at the back of the head. He led a surgical team of 70 to undertake the operation and twenty two hours later he emerged after successfully separating the twins who subsequently went on to survive independently.
Operations of this kind had been performed in the past, however they were all unsuccessful to some degree or another, with either one or both infants dying as a result. Other successes include the first intra-uterine (whist still in the womb) surgical procedure, undertaken to relieve the intracranial pressure of hydrocephalic twins. He also developed a neurological procedure designed to relieve the symptoms of children suffering from uncontrollable seizures.
This operation is only undertaken in young children because the physical structure of their brain is still developing; therefore it is able to a regenerate itself to a certain degree. For his work as a neurosurgeon, Ben Carson has received numerous awards, accolades and honours. The most significant of these is the Presidential Medal of Honour, awarded to him by George W. Bush in 2008.
Ben Carson regards himself as a man of deep religious convictions, who believe that he has only been able to perform at the highest level as a surgeon, because of God’s divine grace and intervention. He has written several books including his autobiography entitled ‘Gifted hands’, which has recently been made into a television film and he is also kept busy as a motivational speaker. In 2002 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, fortunately the disease was discovered early and successfully treated.
As he approaches his sixtieth birthday, he has been forced to curtail what can only be described as a punishing work schedule, in an effort to make more time available to his family. Needless to say he will continue for some time to perform surgical miracles on a daily basis, writing books and passing on his immeasurable skills to on-coming generations of young neurosurgeons.