A persistent vegetative state is a wake-up call
The wife of a colleague recently complained of a severe headache and before the day was out she was unconscious in the hospital with a burst aneurysm. This couple has been married more than 20 years and has a 12-year-old daughter.
To the doctors’ surprise (these things don’t usually get better), the wife actually regained consciousness and her memory and sense of humor were intact. After a few weeks’ stay, she went home. She was talking normally, getting around and doing things for herself. It was close to miraculous, and her husband, family and friends felt blessed. My one contribution here was to take over a dinner, including cupcakes and a “welcome home” card as part of a coordinated effort by friends and neighbors to provide home-cooked meals every night of the week.
“Well, that was amazing,” I said to myself. “Another great outcome for all the people I know. We — my people — always come out ahead.” And, I helped make it happen with my cooking and cupcakes. We’re all such good folks. Smug smile.
Twenty-four hours after arriving home, my colleague’s wife woke up in the night in distress. She didn’t feel well. Within hours she was back in the hospital, unconscious, where she has remained, with no signs of progress. His insurance company is now making him move her to a “facility” for maintenance care.
The next time I see my colleague, he wears his disbelief on his thin, drawn face and this usually droll and unflappable husband, father and video journalist is floundering and lost.
While the rest of the media world is apoplectic about the economic crisis, the Iranian situation, North Korean nukes, the new Supreme Court appointee and what Obama orders on his hamburgers, my colleague is beginning to understand what none of us yammering away at life want to think about.
He said it to my face, “Everything can change, just like that. You don’t want to believe it but it’s true. In an instant your life is obliterated.”
I know everyone around us heard what he was saying. No one spoke. Maybe they’ve heard it before. It even happened to “my people.”