One of the things—perhaps the thing that’s been most important to Brooke during the past six weeks, both in the acute-care part of the hospital and now in the rehab part--has been the waves of people who’ve come to see him. This has sent him soaring—it’s been phenomenally gratifying to him. You all know how gregarious he is and how he loves to talk—to talk about ideas, to talk about politics, to talk not just about people but with people, and how he’d much rather hear about you than talk about himself. That’s just who he is, a talker. And that’s the problem at the moment: Being Brooke, talking. He’s got another little bout of lung infection (yes, this is a setback) and that means not only a longer, more heavy-duty course of antibiotics (14 days!), but cutting down on the amount of talking. This is because it’s necessary to keep the air pressures in his lungs high, but deflating the cuff around the trach—which is what permits air to be exhaled upward through the vocal cords—lowers this. So here’s the fierce new medical regime, imposed for at least the next few days or until the current infection is under control: a maximum of two hours a day of talking.
Two hours? He used an hour this morning for his computer voice-recognition therapy, and another half hour talking with various doctors and nurses. That leaves half an hour to spare—hardly anything for visitors, well-wishers, phone conversations, or even (I hate to sound selfish) me. Two hours, that’s all? Hardly enough to get started on Being Brooke.
But he is entirely willing to cooperate with this medical regime. So there we are; he’s rendered mute, and confined for the moment to visitors who promise not to ask questions, start conversations, assert controversial political theses, pose challenging philosophical problems, or engage in ripartee. (Will anybody be left?) This is a huge deprivation, as I’m sure you can understand. I guess it’s the penalty for Being Brooke. Of course, he still loves seeing people, so don’t stay away altogether—just bring something to read to him or play for him and by all means phone me in advance, 824-9160, so I can let you know if it seems to be a good time.
Sorry for this bit of strictness. But the doctors are persuading me that he’s been, as they say, overdoing it, and a somewhat quieter existence is necessary for the moment. But we can all hope he’ll be back to Being Brooke, or being Still More Brooke, soon. Keep calling me and asking if you can come. And keep posting to this blog--he loves to have it read to him.
Setbacks are scary. And they may mean that things don’t progress as fast as hoped, so that vent-weaning is delayed or perhaps other things as well. There aren’t any guarantees in this business, except that it isn’t easy. I’m astonished by how one’s natural optimism is always being challenged: that subconscious assumption that tomorrow will be better than today, that one gain will yield another, that things are trending upward. The course of “recovery” is far more jagged, and it’s always possible that the label itself is misleading, since it carries unwarranted suggestions of complete success. Just the same, the physician says that Brooke is doing better than 90% of patients with this level of injury—and get this, irrespective of age!