Yesterday’s post was written on the eve of our one-year anniversary at South Davis; today is the actual anniversary day. But today we can celebrate again—at last report this evening, Brooke had spent almost seven hours off the vent, all of it on the speaking valve, and when I talked to him on the phone he said he was going back for more. He’d just had a bath given by the aide and our nursing student Julia, a delicious bath complete with head massage, body lotions, the whole nine yards (“like being at a spa,” he’d once said of these baths). He sounded as relaxed tonight as he was tortured last night. And they were playing Clifton Chenier’s bayou music in the background, the first lively music he’s wanted practically since he was back in inpatient rehab exactly one year ago, listening to Bob Marley every morning. This is good!!!
I’d been hiking this afternoon with a new friend whose husband is also a spinal-cord patient at South Davis, two doors down the hall. He’s a rancher, thrown from a horse—and this after a lifetime of riding horses, much as Brooke had been riding bicycles for years and years with never so much as a scrape. The new friend and I were comparing notes about expectations and prognostications and how we’d never succeeded in realizing what would be coming in the future, and in particular how quickly things could go from good to bad, unraveling practically in front of your eyes. We mused briefly on how medical practitioners at all levels might conceivably facilitate deeper-level understanding by patients of what lies ahead in difficult, hard-to-predict cases, where setbacks can be so sudden and frequent, and to what extent that is compatible with “maintaining hope.” We decided that maybe it wasn’t; if we’d had any realistic idea of what lay ahead for our respective men over the next year, we’d have been in utter despair. (Who knows what it would have been like for them.)
But that’s of course about foreseeing the seriously negative stuff. If there’s any way you could realistically foresee the remarkably positive stuff, well, this whole thing might be different. After all, things can go from bad to good just as quickly as from good to bad—to wit, Brooke’s evening at the South Davis Spa with the aide, Julia, and Clifton Chenier.
And, of course, they can flip back to bad again without any warning. If there’s a lesson we’ve been learning (besides all the lessons about patience, stamina, and, like yawning, how to cover your mouth so to speak when you’re gritting your teeth), it’s about not assuming that good will stay good or, more important, that bad will stay bad.