An Unusual and Unexpected Writing Residency

It looks like I’m going to get plenty of practice living my life in a more mindful, deliberate, loving, and meditative way, just not in the setting I expected. Richard was admitted to the VA Hospital in Denver on Wednesday morning. We had hoped to go home today, but it’s not to be. His incredible medical team (thank you, Drs. Filly, Anderson, Allen, Kuykendall, and residents including Dave and the rest of the crew!) consulted with a top-ranked national expert on infections of the brain. At the expert’s recommendation, they’ve just and started him on a ten-day to two-week course of anti-viral medication administered every 8 hours by IV to out-wit what they judge is a persistent and potentially damaging viral infection that has caused swelling and a lesion in his right front temporal lobe, the part of your brain that processes visual stimuli.

Richard 

(Richard with a sculptural basin in progress.)

It’s not like he seems really sick. In fact, Dr. Anderson, one of the head neurologists working on his case said yesterday that he “looks like a million bucks,” at least neurologically. He can walk, talk, juggle, solve the quadratic equation, answer the quizzes they give him, crack a bad joke, critique the news, solve sudoku puzzles, fold paper into abstract sculptures, remember the day of the week–and even our anniversary. He doesn’t always recognize faces, but he’ll figure out who people are from the context. Still, he’s going through some heavy-duty scary stuff. He’ll be lying in a hospital bed for the next ten days or two weeks with an IV attached to his arm with two drip tubes, one for the anti-viral and one for the saline solution to keep his kidneys flushed so the anti-viral drug doesn’t damage them. If all goes well, that treatment will get rid of the virus before it causes permanent damage to his brain, and we’ll be able to return home before the month is out.

In the meantime, I’m going to be there with him, except for a brief trip home once Molly arrives this morning from San Francisco. With her to keep Richard company, I’ll drive over the mountains to Salida to do some things I didn’t do when we left last Monday afternoon, thinking we’d be home on Tuesday (like putting the box of ripe peaches that I left out on the counter to make into jam when we returned, into the compost pile where the blue fuzz that has no doubt overtaken them can grow in peace!). I’ll pick some tomatoes from the garden to take to Richard along with other healthy food, plus some clean clothes for me, as the ones I’ve worn over and over for the last several days are more than due for a break. And I’ll take my work to Denver.

Visiting hours at the VA Hospital are 8 to 8, so I can spend all day with my feet up on his hospital bed and my laptop in my lap. It isn’t exactly like my couch at home, but Richard’s there, and that’s all I need really. The next two weeks could be seen as an odd sort of a residency: the VA Hospital doesn’t have internet access, so I can’t distract myself by compulsively checking my email and reading the news. I won’t be at home, so those ever-present to-dos can’t nag me. And there’s something very meditative about listening to the rhythmic sounds of a hospital going about its healing business as the pumps whoosh and the wheelchair wheels shoosh and the machines beep and the voices rise and fall around you. So I’ll be doing my best to ride the calm in the midst of the storm he’s in.

Hummingbird 

(That’s a juvenile calliope hummingbird having a mindful moment in our garden, with the bustle of downtown Salida in the background. Or maybe he’s just digesting–it’s hard to tell!)

Please keep us in your thoughts and your hearts. And please understand if I don’t respond promptly. I’m more than a little overwhelmed and my job right now is just to be there for Richard, keeping him company, acting as his advocate, and sending him love every single moment.

Oh, and doing my best to find a contemplative and restful rhythm in a busy hospital. I’ll report in later posts on how I do and what I learn….

Bless you all!

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