Monday, February 3, 2014

No. 122 – On an Island

Performer: David Gilmour
Songwriters: David Gilmour, Polly Samson
Original Release: On an Island
Year: 2006
Definitive Version: The studio version.

When I went back to see Laurie the evening of June 12, 2008, I did so with great trepidation. The morning had been so promising, but I’d been filled with promise before only to have it dashed. When I went to Evanston Northwestern Hospital, I fully expected that things would be back to the way they had been before: Laurie would be uncommunicative or, worse, confused.

I never was happier to be wrong. Laurie was just as clear as she had been that morning, except she was a little more talkative. She still was having trouble moving; her body was very stiff, from the ECT but also general inactivity. Her neck still bothered her, but unlike other recent visits, she let me put the neck brace on her, which helped a bit.

Laurie mostly fed herself and even commented on the quality of meat: “It’s kind of bleah.” She again asked what had happened, and I explained as best I could, although I didn’t want to say too much lest she slip away from me again into depression.

While this went on, one of the nurse assistants stopped by. I unfortunately forgot her name long ago, but she was very sweet. She was leaving the next day for a big vacation with her boyfriend. She’d be gone three weeks, and she seemed to think—I scarcely could let myself believe it were so—that Laurie would be gone by the time she got back.

So she stopped by to say goodbye, and I could see in her face the same reaction I was enjoying. Laurie WAS doing a lot better, and the nurse assistant was overjoyed. I introduced Laurie to her, and Laurie said “nice to meet you,” which was poignant, given that the nurse assistant had been there almost every day for the past month, yet Laurie had no recollection of her. The nurse assistant smiled sweetly and said it was very, very nice to meet Laurie.

Thursday was even better. When I got there that evening, Laurie was out of bed, the curtains of her room open. She was dressed in her hospital gown as one of the nurse assistants rapidly stripped the sheets off her bed.

Laurie moved under her own power but like a statue as the assistant worked. To the untrained eye, it appeared that Laurie just was in the way—perhaps she was—but she was doing it with good intentions. Every now and then, she’d reach down and flick up an edge of the sheet into the pile. I could tell right away that she was trying to help. As I got in the room, the assistant—also there from the beginning—said to me: “Laurie is really good today!” Apparently, she’d even showered on her own, another in a string of positive developments.

Together, she and I finished making her bed and then we talked while she ate her dinner. It had been three visits in a row of improvement with no confusion at all.

Well, OK, she was confused about what happened to her even though I gave her as many details as I could without upsetting her. Let’s face it: Even though we knew medically what happened, no one really knew why. Maybe we’d never be able to answer that.

Laurie also wanted to walk around the hallway. We made two laps up and down the length of it, and she seemed to move a bit more fluidly. In fact, at one point, she began moving too fast for her body and nearly fell, but I held her tight. I wasn’t about to let go now.

Unfortunately, not all was well. The night of Laurie’s first ECT, I had a message on my phone from Dr. Anderson when I got home from the evening visit. She said the hospital wanted to run a bunch of tests—an MRI and a spinal tap. Oh, HELL NO!

I called Dr. Anderson at home and told her in no uncertain terms I wasn’t going to allow it. The MRI wasn’t invasive so that wasn’t a big deal, but Laurie wasn’t undergoing any spinal tap, period. Dr. Anderson tried to reason with me: Neurology wanted to do this. She also voiced bewilderment that I wouldn’t want to do everything I could to help Laurie.

Well, you can imagine my reaction. Actually, it was civil given the circumstances—but unyielding. Why do this NOW when all other physiological tests had come back negative? To me, it appeared that they might be trying to gouge us for what potentially was an unnecessary—and painful—test. I wasn’t having any of that, and I’d reached the point where I wasn’t going to let anyone push me around any more.

But I said the right thing: Look, I said, you know what this is, and the ECT seems to be working. We’d have to put off the next treatment Friday for this test of questionable necessity. We’ve been waiting a month for a breakthrough, and it seems we’ve had it. Why change course now?

Perhaps I convinced her, or perhaps she knew I wasn’t going to give in, Dr. Anderson said she’d take care of it. To her infinite credit, she did. Laurie didn’t undergo a spinal tap, thank goodness.

I was thinking of Laurie, but I also was thinking of expenses. I mean, someone has to think of these things, and I had a good reason for it. That same day, the hospital called and said because Laurie’s insurance had run out, we were on the hook for Laurie’s bills, effective immediately. The hospital said I’d have to pay a $5,000 deposit in two days. I had the money, so not a problem, but I brought it up to Dr. Anderson. She again said to leave it to her. We never heard about that supposed debt again.

Laurie went ahead with her ECT treatment Friday morning, and I was there when she came out of it, this time in a wheelchair, not on a gurney. Laurie had a lot more control of her motor skills, so she got herself out of the wheelchair and fed herself breakfast. She was clear in speech, but she repeated herself, asking the same question a few times.

It was OK. I wrote it off to the effects of the ECT just completed. I can’t tell you how much easier it was to visit Laurie, knowing that she … was there. She was back. I asked her whether she wanted her friends to begin visiting her over the weekend, and she said yes, she did.

I told everyone that Janet and Heidi got first dibs. Considering they were there at the beginning of this whole ordeal, they should be the first ones to see Laurie now that she was back. I skipped that visiting period but went in the evening Saturday when Steven and Michael were there.

That was so much fun. At one point, Michael looked at me with a wide-eyed “Can you believe this?” look. I know. I couldn’t wait for everyone to visit, particularly those who saw her when things were awful, and see how much better it was going now. I wanted them to see that when they talked to Laurie, it was Laurie who responded, not someone who merely resembled her.

Unfortunately, we were over the hump, but we weren’t out of the woods. I’d love to tell you that everything was fine from then on, but that wasn’t true, and I began to understand that it wasn’t going to be as simple as flipping a switch the next week.

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