Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No. 107 – Greyhound Girl

Performer: Pete Townshend
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Lifehouse Chronicles*
Year: 2000
Definitive Version: The demo version, which ended up on my Lifehouse album.

* A version was released as a B side of Let My Love Open the Door in the U.K. in 1980. I haven’t been able to learn whether it’s the same one as appeared on Lifehouse Chronicles.

My excitement at Laurie’s sudden and dramatic progress after undergoing ECT at Evanston Northwestern Hospital in June 2008 became tempered the Monday after she returned from her mental vacation.

I went in early that day, as before, to be with her after she got out of treatment. At first, everything seemed to be more of the same. Laurie was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as she climbed out of her wheelchair. However, I knew something was wrong as soon as she opened her mouth.

Oh, Laurie was clear and not confused. She just couldn’t remember anything—what just happened, where she was and why she was there. She had no memories of her friends visiting her the past two days. She knew her name and my name and even the month of the year, but it was as though her short-term memory had been wiped clean.

I hadn’t noticed this before. In fact, Laurie’s short-term memory seemed to be good, all things considered. The previous day, for example, she even was able to recount accurate visions of being in the hospital waiting room at the beginning of this whole ordeal. However, when I visited her during normal hours that Monday night, those memories were all gone.

Thus began a new period and a new type of frustration. It wasn’t so much that Laurie couldn’t remember things from, say, the day before, which was bad enough, but that Laurie couldn’t remember things from 30 minutes before.

This was particularly unfortunate, because the one question Laurie kept asking over and over was how she came to be in the hospital. As you can imagine, the last thing I wanted to do was to go back and revisit those awful days in May, yet I had to do it repeatedly.

That said, it wasn’t a burden to visit Laurie in the hospital, like it had been the previous month. I wasn’t dreading to see her as I had before, but I worried that after her immediate progress following the initial ECT treatments showed such promise, she wasn’t building on that progress.

This was important, because the r-word had begun to be bandied about. Yes, Laurie had shown such progress that it was possible she might be released and finish her ECT treatments on an outpatient basis. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Dr. Anderson admitted that even she had let Laurie’s dramatic re-emergence get to her. She said she expected by this time to still be trying to sell me on the benefits of ECT, because it likely wouldn’t seem to be working. In fact, it seemed to work SO WELL that Dr. Anderson got a little ahead of herself with the thought that Laurie could go home soon. It was clear she wasn’t ready yet.

In her mind, Laurie was more than ready, however. She wanted to go home … NOW. I tried to explain to her that if she just could remember why she wasn’t being allowed to leave, then she probably could leave, because that meant she could retain information.

Laurie is a big-time diarist. I bought her a glue-bound notebook to use, because she wasn’t allowed to have her regular spiral-bound journal in the hospital. I told her to write what the doctors say to help her memory. I did this repeatedly over the next few days, but I couldn’t communicate successfully why this was important. So each day I had to explain, AGAIN, why she couldn’t leave.

It wasn’t all bad during this time. Weekends, as I mentioned, were a lot looser, and that Saturday, I brought dinner from Dave’s Italian Kitchen, our favorite restaurant in Evanston. I got spaghetti carbonara (the world’s greatest, as I’ve noted), a Caesar salad and a couple of noncaffeinated Diet Cokes, because caffeine was a no-no.

We had our first dinner together, in Laurie’s room, in more than a month with a clear view of the setting sun on the white dome of the Baha’i Temple just up the road in Wilmette. It was really wonderful … and it really sucked that by Monday, after another ECT treatment, Laurie no longer remembered it.

Oh well. Two days later, Dr. Anderson announced that Laurie would have her final ECT treatments on an outpatient basis. That meant she was being discharged from the hospital on Friday.

I was both ecstatic and terrified—ecstatic that Laurie would be coming home and terrified that now I had to take care of her. I wasn’t confident that Laurie had progressed enough. I mean, she could take care of herself on a basic level, but she wouldn’t be allowed to drive anywhere, and she certainly couldn’t go back to work. Dr. Anderson, however, felt that Laurie being in a familiar setting would help with her memory. I certainly wasn’t going to say no.

When I went to see her that night, a Wednesday, Laurie had her jacket on, ready to leave. She already had everything packed up. Sigh. It took almost the entire visiting period to get her to unpack enough to get through the next two days.

Finally, Friday came, and in what seemed to be another hospital snafu, when I came to pick up Laurie, neither Dr. Anderson nor her assistant were there to give me what I felt were adequate enough instructions on the type of care I should provide. Laurie’s aunt Ann was coming for part of the week to help, but I had to take more time off work, because suddenly no one in the posse—after all saying they were ready to help at a moment’s notice—was available to watch Laurie.

But that was a small thing. The moment I had been awaiting for so eagerly since that horrible day in May was here. Laurie walked out of the psych ward at the hospital on June 27, 2008, after having been there exactly seven weeks.

I had a “Welcome Home” sign and a vase of flowers set up by the door for her arrival. I was so happy, but even then my joy was tempered. Laurie just put the flowers on the dining-room table, rolled up and tossed the sign in the trash and asked what should we do about dinner, as though the previous two months never happened. It was the most anticlimactic thing I ever experienced.

The door closed behind us; the hard work was just getting started.

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