Almost exactly one year ago, on November 14, Brooke had his accident. Ironically, in the past two days, he has found himself back at the same hospital where he’d been taken after the accident, the University hospital, and on the same unit, the IMCU, where he’d spent two weeks after his initial stay in intensive care but before going to rehab. He was there this time because of an infection that had been growing silently for perhaps weeks, involving a number of stages—a break in the skin, a pustule that developed, then more rapidly larger areas of inflammation and eventually an abscess in the scrotal area, an abscess the size of a golf ball, perhaps as large as a tangerine. As the infection hadnprogressed, and perhaps because of it, he was less and less able to do the trach masks, and found himself more and more depressed. He described it as a black pit, in which he wondered to himself almost for the first time whether any of this mental and physical pain was worth it. He had fantasies of starving himself.
On Tuesday evening, when the abscess became fully evident, he was transported by ambulance to the University hospital—our son Mike, himself a paramedic, rode with them—to be admitted through the emergency room. There occurred the first of multiple encounters with people Brooke had known from his stay in that hospital almost exactly a year ago, a nurse who’d taken care of him in the ICU, recognizing him after all this time. We met the new urologist he’d been sent to see: an impressive new faculty member, informative, thoughtful, straightforward, and we both like him very much. Brooke was whisked off to surgery almost on the spot, easy at that late hour—almost midnight-- when things were not so crowded.
Ironically, this was supposed to be the day of Brooke’s first full home visit—to survey the modifications that have been done to the house, to explore how he and his mighty wheelchair will fit in the various spaces of the living areas, and to see, more painfully, what it will be like to live again in his same home in such changed condition—for worse, but also for better. But here he was, back in the hospital.
After the surgery—it went quickly and well, the abscess incised, cleaned out, packed, and various more serious contributing factors ruled out—he spent the first of two nights in the IMCU. Lo and behold, practically the first face he would see in the IMCU was that of one of his most favorite nurses of all time (though there have been many others)—he wrote about her in a much earlier blog, without mentioning her name—and there she was again, just as radiant, just as positive, and utterly welcoming—and if it weren’t such a bizarre situation, back in the same hospital a year later, as if all that had happened in between had just dropped out of sight, it’d be like coming home. He recognized many other people he’d know earlier too, from the senior attending physician to the nurses’ aides, and that was the good part. Of course, there were less good parts: a hospital unit like this is always active, brightly lit, with endless intrusions, and every piece of equipment in the room, from the ventilator on down, has an alarm system that beeps or chirps or nearly screams. What initially seemed almost like a vacation away from home in a new hotel room, a welcome change of scenery and the company of old friends, turned out to mean nearly continuous sleep deprivation and eventually near collapse. There were further traumas over transport mechanisms for the return and, worse still, insurance challenges over readmission to South Davis.The ambulance ride back home was rather traumatic, but South Davis, when Brooke finally reached it, warm, quiet, gentle, even more welcoming. He was folded back into bed, changed, cleaned, cared for, comforted. He slept, woke and ate a bit, and is now back asleep again. He’ll be in bed for some time until the incision heals and he’ll have a picc line in his arm for infusing the two big antibiotics he’ll have on board for the next two weeks, but he’s on the mend. And he’ll get back soon to where he was, working away from what happened almost exactly a year ago.