Friday, November 28, 2008

tough times

Sara is back in Seattle so I'm blogging from Brooke's bedside in the hospital (it's not at all unusual for him to see me typing away on my computer while he contemplates some interesting interior thought). The past couple of days have been tough--even though his lung problem is clearing up, the cumulative frustration of two weeks in which you can't move or speak is taking its toll. You can't control anything, and you can't make your wishes known. Even though he can formulate his thoughts and mouth them in what are obviously long, full sentences, we can't lip-read well enough to catch it all. Many of you who've been to see him know this, how difficult it is to have a conversation even despite the wonderful expressiveness of his eyes. I've had a long conversation today with the attending physician here in the SICU, and understand that the reason they're not yet able to put a speaking cap on the ventilator connection is that in using it one exhales fully, but you don't want to do this if there's still a lung problem and so risk lung collapse. Thus it may be awhile longer before he gets a speaking cap, but certainly something to look forward to. Brooke's also looking forward to moving--perhaps tomorrow--to the intermediate care unit here, a sort of transitional space between the critical-care ICU and his longer-term destination in the rehab unit. Moving is a sign of progress, long awaited.

Spending a couple of weeks hanging around an ICU invites the sort of rumination about what you'd change or fix if you could. Much is really quite wonderful here (if you have to be here at all)--for example, the nursing staff is terrific, humane, considerate. But here's my first suggestion: I'd try to make sure there's somebody around who can lip-read effectively--hiring somebody with a hearing impairment would be a good way to do that, regardless of what capacity they were hired in. I'm told that there aren't too many cases here in which somebody on a vent is also competent and alert--many still more unfortunate folks come in with severe head injuries--but it is very difficult to watch the frustration of someone who wants so badly to talk but can't use his hands to write, can't use his vocal chords to make sounds, and can't even gesticulate except with his eyes.

So these are tough times. But the good news is that he's more able to have visitors, and is generally brightened by seeing people. Many many apologies to those who've been turned away by the nursing staff over the past couple of days, or who came during the excluded hours (no visitors are allowed 7:00-8:30 am and again no visitors 7:00-8:30 pm; I don't know what the rules are in the intermediate unit). It's impossible to say from moment to moment just what his condition will be, but I think he's missing being able to see people and would welcome short, not-too-strenuous visits again, sometime over the next several days.


Paul Gahlinger said...

Brooke's experience in doing a 10-day Vipassana sit is surely helpful for this ordeal. Vipassana was one of the hardest things I've ever done but Brooke told me he quite enjoyed it -- a far tougher man than I am! As for lip-reading -- hey Peggy, what a great new skill for you!

Nancy Hopkins said...

Dearest Peggy,
Thank you for this wonderful post.
One can feel what the frustration must be like for Brooke. Two weeks in a hospital must seem loooong. Even one night when you can't sleep in a hospital feels infinite.
Is there any way to hold up letters that he can point to? with the straw, or some other device in his lips?
I am sure they have thought of everything. I am surprised though that there is no high tech solution to this problem. What have those engineers been doing???
Thought of you both a lot on T day. If thoughts thought and love sent were received, you must have been overwhelmed by the good wishes flowing your way from so so many people.
Much love to you both,

Charles Berger said...

This is the only way we can visit, Peggy, if we're far away from Salt Lake, and we are indebted to you and Sara for giving us a chance to visualize what Brooke is going through as we concentrate our thoughts in our various ways on supporting the two of you as you work toward his progress. Even though he can't speak now, I know that so many of us are hearing his voice as if we were speaking together right now--which, in a strong sense, we are.

Charles and Mary

Anna said...

Hello Brooke and Peggy,
My name is Anna Thompson, both my mother and I were students of Brooke's (my mother at the beginning of his career at the U, and myself at the end) and Brooke knows my father, Greg, as well. On behalf of all of us, please know that you and your family are never far from our thoughts and prayers. I'm currently in Brussels and can't come visit, but I did want to pass on our very best wishes and hopes to you both. I had several conversations with Brooke about Brussels before coming here, and I hear his voice often as I walk through it. And, as I wander in and out of cathedrals all over the Benelux region, I always leave a candle behind for Brooke's successful recovery.

All the best,

Anna and the Thompson Clan

Barbara said...

Brooke and Peggy, Is it possible that this extended mild Fall has you in mind? Please know that you are in our minds as we send thoughts for continued improvement. Thank you for posting that wonderful picture of Brooke outdoors. May that contact with nature work its wonders. Barbara Andrade