So here we are having Easter dinner—leftovers of a delicious lunch brought by wonderful friends—salads from Trio, a local restaurant that’s a favorite with the university crowd. These leftovers have been in the fridge down the hall from Brooke’s room, stored away in their doggie-bag take-out boxes, but they’re almost as good as they were at noon. Then there are two glasses of red wine, left over from a much earlier occasion but still enjoyed. It’s a richer Easter dinner for us than any we can imagine—no big ham, no sweet potatoes, no painted eggs, but still wonderful. We would have liked to be at Obama's seder, but here at South Davis, it's Easter.
This may be painting too rosy a picture. Yesterday, the day between Good Friday and Easter, both of us descended into our own private hells, after having had little sleep the night before, and having undergone a rough trach mask trial. It was in the early afternoon. Peggy, exhausted after getting back from her first trip out of town, to a philosophy conference in Vancouver, hadn’t slept, she thinks, because it signaled a return from the everyday world outside to the rarified existence we have here. Brooke hadn’t slept for all the usual reasons: anyone who has ever been in a hospital knows about all the nursing interruptions, though he usually sleeps right through them now. So by midafternoon we were both quite low, and for the first time Brooke felt, he said, that he didn’t want to go on breathing—that is, trying to breathe. It is such hard work. We’re told this feeling is common among people undergoing vent weaning, but that doesn’t mitigate its extraordinary power. Brooke says he didn’t consciously want to die; he just didn’t want to try to be breathing any longer, it was such hard, hard work. And Peggy—having had a first taste of the outside world, an elegant city, out of the country, vibrant in the sunshine, seemed tempted by ordinary life, far away from these troubles.
But by an hour later, after we’d each slept a little, things changed. Brooke said, We have to be strong. And, after a few more tears, we were. Then Brooke had a much stronger session on the trach trials—40 minutes this time—and then Peggy did a little range-of-motion exercises (learned from the pros around here) with his limbs in the bed. Left hand: thumb, forefinger, pinching together the thumb and forefinger, thumb and middle finger, thumb and ring finger, and almost thumb and pinky. These all represent different dermatomes, nerves at different locations on the spinal cord. The left hand can move voluntarily back and forth. No upper arm stuff yet. Meanwhile, the right hand is catching up, slowly, but catching up. And the left leg moves: back and forth, knee up and down, and while the right leg isn’t as active, the right toes move. And he can move his shoulders and some trunk muscles. And when he does this all at the same time, it’s as if he were coming alive again, after these long five months—especially the early months when his entire body, below the tops of his shoulders, was completely inert. Neither of us is particularly religious, but the sense of resurrection is uncannily real—from a body that seemed so completely dead to any sensation or activity, so utterly motionless, so totally paralyzed, to one in which there are stirrings of life. He is still of course nearly completely paralyzed and without any effective function, and there are still terribly difficult moments, but things are nevertheless improving, even if very, very, very slowly.
We had a lovely dinner together that night, leftovers from a wonderful dinner with friends the night before—Morroccan tagine, couscous, beet salad, a spectacular apple tart. We talked, talked. And kissed. And today, Easter, we’re again eating leftovers, but even more fully imbued with this remarkable secular sense of resurrection.
Brooke and Peggy