Breaking news, March 6: First, two friends from the English Department were there at South Davis this afternoon, after I’d already left for the day, and each called me independently to report an extraordinary occurrence: Brooke was able to make some voluntary movement his left leg. Then Brooke himself called later to describe the same thing.
Here’s how it went: he was doing physical therapy with the P.T. person at South Davis, and had one of those big spasms that have been plagueing him, but this one he says somehow morphed into a really powerful downward-pushing movement, as if you were riding a bike, and somehow he managed to get control of it, to make it voluntary and repeat it several times as well.
Then it was time for a shower, and when he got out of the shower, with various nurses around, he suddenly started to be able to move each of his knees up (this is with the hip muscles), and then his quad muscles, just a bit, but voluntarily. I’ve just now been talking to him on the phone and there he is, lying otherwise motionless in bed but moving his legs up and down, just a bit, but moving. Voluntarily. Of course, if you could see him, you’d see that his leg muscles, both thighs and especially calves, are horribly emaciated, and while one doesn’t like to make reference to Auschwitz lightly, that’s the way these legs look—bone, bone, hardly any flesh. In fact, he said just a day ago that they’d put him in an upright shower chair for the first time, and that he’d seen his legs naked, both in the mirror and directly, for the first time. He said that he’d always loved his body and the way it was strong, but that to see it so shriveled would be hugely painful if he didn’t have such a strong sense of the growth of the mind—so much has been happening mentally than the physical stuff pales in comparison.
But that was a day ago. Tonight, I hear real excitement about the movement in the legs. I haven’t gotten to see them yet, but I’m hearing about it. It’s reminding me of something: I had a wonderful research assistant some time ago (I try not to mention names in this blog unless it’s okay with people, but you know who you are). This guy was born, a first child, when his father was 50. The father had some sort of demanding job, but when he came home one day some months after his son was born and discovered that the baby had turned over for the first time, he said, that’s it, I’m quitting this job, I’m staying home to see every event in the development of this child—and did. I feel something like that (though I’m not thinking of quitting my job)—that there are amazing developmental events going on with Brooke that one doesn’t want to miss. Legs moving, even if slightly, under voluntary control. Breathing off the vent, with only an oxygenating and humidifying trach cap, forty-five minutes this morning.
Be still, one’s heart, lest it leap too high. It’s the current moment that counts. He’s still virtually completely paralyzed and still on the vent, and there aren’t any guarantees.
But the current moment is pretty nice, considering the circumstances. The South Davis facility is actually quite nice—Brooke has a huge, quite lovely room with real furniture, civilized enough so that it’s actually a pleasure to be there. Some friends have come for dinner already—no names can be divulged, but one couple brought a huge basket with a fresh pasta with smoked salmon and caviar (!), plus a nice salad and a bottle of good wine; the next night some more friends came with a brilliant lasagne made with béchamel sauce, wonderful, and another bottle of nice wine; and somebody’s there tonight too even while I’m home writing this, obviously with way better stuff than I can find in the fridge here. Of course, it would be better than what Brooke might have gotten if friends weren’t bringing these delicious things—while some of the South Davis facility’s meals are good, they don’t focus on dinner—it’s called supper, and the low point has been a grilled cheese sandwich (Velveeta on Wonder Bread, I think), with a pile of potato chips and green Jello. (Fortunately, he’s still getting tube feedings at night.)
So this is really an invitation—if you’d like to come for dinner and bring along some food, even just what you’d ordinarily be eating (as long as it isn’t velveeta or green Jello), just let me know 824-9160 and we’ll plan something. Of course, gracious living in a hospital facility isn’t quite like home, and there’ll be nurses running in and out to take blood pressures and catheterize him and turn him from one side to the other to prevent bedsores, but it’s closer to home than we’ve been in a long time. Just call me, and come on up. It’s less than 10 miles, but seems like an entirely new world.