Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No. 352 – The Blue

Performer: David Gilmour
Songwriters: David Gilmour, Polly Samson
Original Release: On an Island
Year: 2006
Definitive Version: None

When I awoke at 8:30, May 10, 2008, about four hours after going to a fitful sleep, I still was in shock from the events of, well, pretty much the past week. If there were any comfort in Laurie being at Evanston Northwestern Hospital, it was that at least she was safe and in better hands than when she was home with me.

As I mentioned awhile back, I tried—and failed—to handle the situation myself. And as soon as I called Janet and Heidi, I ceded a certain amount of control.

For example, I was at the hospital as soon as I could be that first Saturday. Visiting hours for the psychiatric ward were 7 to 8:30 every day with an additional 1 to 4 p.m. shift on the weekends. But the weekends were pretty loose, and on this particular day, I wanted to get there as soon as I could so I could find out what was going on, because, at this point, I didn’t know anything.

In what soon became a ritual, I drove to Evanston, parked in a particular aisle on the second floor of the hospital parking garage and then made the long, winding walk through the hospital to the single elevator that took you to the fifth-floor psychiatric ward.

The fifth-floor reception area was … unique. I don’t know if it’s changed, but back then, it appeared to be like any other medical reception area. As you exited the elevator, to the left was a small sitting area of about six chairs, four along one wall and two on the other. To the right was a receptionist’s window—same as straight ahead. As far as I know, no one ever was in either the times I was there.

The entrance to the psychiatric ward was to the left around the seating area. To the right appeared to be offices, which I found out later was the case. The door to the ward itself was locked, so you had to be buzzed in. Apparently staff let anyone in but only up to a maximum of two people per patient.

I rang the bell and gave my name over the intercom speaker, and they buzzed me in the door. I went to the nurse’s station and asked about Laurie. I was told she was in the first room and sleeping, which gave me some comfort, but they said they couldn’t let me into her room just yet, because it wasn’t quite time. They had me sit in a side waiting room.

As I sat there waiting, I saw Doreen, who ignited the Swedish Covenant debacle when she called Laurie out of the blue two days before, go past the window and into Laurie’s room. What the holy hell? Can we at least wait one day before we begin the procession?

I was able to take control of the visiting, with Laurie’s help. Laurie remained communicative, albeit unfocused. One thing she made crystal clear the first couple days was she wanted to keep the visiting to a minimum. In retrospect, she would have liked to have even fewer visits than she did, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough barring the door, just yet.

What I couldn’t control was the lack of information. Because we took Laurie to the hospital late Friday night/early Saturday morning, she didn’t have a doctor assigned to her until Monday. Then, the first week was spent running tests to determine what DIDN’T happen, like a stroke.

But worse than not knowing what was wrong was knowing that I wouldn’t be told what was wrong. HIPPA made it so no one at the hospital was allowed to tell me—or anyone else—anything without a durable power of attorney, which I didn’t have (an oversight that long since has been corrected). The only way they would tell me anything was if Laurie signed a consent form, and she wasn’t in any position to consent to anything.

At least that was the official position. The doctor, Dr. Anderson, wouldn’t speak with me, but Violet (name changed to protect the informant), the case worker, at least gave me drips and drabs of information. She knew I wasn’t just a friend or even a boyfriend but Laurie’s live-in boyfriend who showed up every day without fail the moment I was allowed in and stayed until I was kicked out. I quickly earned some bona fides.

I asked Violet about something, and she balked, but I knew she wanted to tell me, but HIPPA ... Finally, she cracked: “I don’t want to get sued for telling you this.” I promised her Laurie wouldn’t sue her, that she would want me to know. Violet told me, and from then on, I had a direct connection, which was a big relief.

Laurie’s brother, John, came to town almost a week after Laurie was admitted. Because he was next of kin and Laurie by now was recognized as being unable to make decisions for herself, he became the point person with the doctor. The bottom line was no one really knew what happened to Laurie or more important, how long it would take before she was back to normal. But everyone was confident Laurie would return to normal … eventually.

Laurie was moved from the large two-bed room that she was in the first night to a single room, which ended up being for the best. She was conscious but confused. She recognized people and reacted positively … or negatively. If there was any solace, it was that at least people smarter and more experienced than I were working on it.

To lift my spirits after an exhausting week, I invited anyone who wanted to come to hit up Dave’s Italian Kitchen that Friday night after visiting hours—my treat. Only three people took me up on it: John, Heidi and my brother Matt, who had moved to Chicago in the past year. That Matt came, taking the L up to Evanston, really meant a lot to me, considering that we didn’t have regular contact, and I’ll never forget it.

It was a brief respite. And I was concerned when John left early the next week that the stream of information would dry up until Laurie’s aunt arrived later that week. Either John was able to successfully persuade Dr. Anderson to pass the baton to me as the local source—John lived in Washington—or they just decided to include me, but I was brought into the loop. That was a positive development.

In the meantime, I had to take over Laurie’s life outside of the hospital, and there was a lot to living to catch up on. Fortunately, I benefited from some luck … or some small self-awareness on Laurie’s part about what was about to happen.

When Laurie left work for the last time a couple days before she went to the hospital, she brought home her rolodex—ostensibly to work from home. That rolodex had every important phone number in it; Laurie kept no such contact information at home. In other words, because Laurie brought home her work rolodex, I was able to call everyone I had to and keep plates spinning in the air as best I could.

Work was the first call, of course, and it ended up being the least of my problems. American Hospitals Association granted (don’t know if it still does) sick days that carried over year to year. Over the years, Laurie accumulated something like eight weeks of sick time. Also, Laurie’s insurance seemed to be rock solid. Believe me, that was a lot of peace of mind right there.

However, Laurie also had a ton of acting irons in the fire, so I had to keep people in the know (Laurie’s sick) without telling telling them too much (Laurie’s in the hospital, in the psych ward). But time marches on, and I could delay things only so long. Plates—no matter how well-balanced—eventually fall to the floor and break.

I had to start canceling things on Laurie’s behalf. It started with a reading that first week, then an audition. The first major cancellation due to production timelines was for a short-run performance set in June; then I had to pull the plug on a writing camp that Laurie attends almost every year (she’s there as I write this) at Kenyon College in Ohio.

She was scheduled to attend a yoga conference at the end of May, and she had another play—a huge role—scheduled for August. I was going to do everything I could to keep those last plates spinning—for both of us. At the time, it seemed like having something to look forward to was all we had.

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