Expect-the-Unexpected

If you are new to this blog of the upcoming book Viking Funeral, celebrating the life of Dave Linane with booze, words, and fire, welcome.  The timeline above shows you where we are in the book. While each chapter can stand on its own if you wish to read from the beginning, click here.  More info is available, About Dave or the FAQ section explains who the book is about and the arc of the storyline. If you found me through a grief group, this page of my perspective of why we are all here in this place right now may be helpful. XO M
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Expect-the-Unexpected
Verb
– To not be surprised by an unusual event. Anything could happen and probably will.

Medical Professionals:

I have described the steep learning curve for everyone with regard to Dave’s accidentally paralyzed body. Dave, our parents, his siblings, his friends, it was a whole new realm of challenges for everyone who came into contact with him to learn and respond to for beneficial outcomes.

It is damn near impossible for most of us to understand what it is like to be paralyzed. I lived with Dave, a paralyzed human for decades, I have described scratching random itches, because you cannot scratch an itch for yourself when you are paralyzed, rubbing his eyes, because you cannot rub your eyes when you are paralyzed, feeding him, because you cannot feed yourself when you are paralyzed. Fill in the God Damn blank, because you cannot fill in any God Damn blanks with ANY physical God Damn thing for yourself when you are paralyzed. Even when your rational mind is completely wrapped around that concept, I swear to God, you still cannot fully imagine every aspect of what it is like to be paralyzed. And, again, I lived inside his life right next to him.  

Even professionals in the medical field were not immune from this distorted context of blurring their reality with his. Here are a few examples of things you do not expect on either end of this spectrum, being the paralyzed individual in the care of others or when looking out for the paralyzed individual. Dave always addressed these disconnects with humor.

Nurse #1:

Dave was cared for by more than 30 nurses between the multiple departments from E.R. to I.C.U. to Wing 700 in which he spent time that year in SBCH. His nurses cared for him, and our family genuinely lovingly.

Dave got used to the schedule of nurses on and off days. He was put on a barrage of pills, none of which he really needed, but that need is not relevant for this part of the story. At this point, he had only been in the hospital for a few months.

His nurse came into his room and carried out Dave’s vitals check as her duty required. After checking all the necessary things, she gave Dave his meds, pills that were poured into his mouth by way of a tiny paper cup. She attempted to follow the mouthful of pills with a swig of water as she offered him a straw from a cup. He turned his head aside from the waiting straw, stuck his tongue out, and said, “Thethz aren’t mine.” He politely waited with his tongue stuck out for her to remove the pills. She argued with him that they were the correct pills, but he politely held fast that they were not, with his tongue still stuck out, pills sitting there as he shook his head no, “Theth’ r not.”

She gave him a long look before pulling them off his tongue and heading out of his room. She returned almost instantly, apologized, having realized she made a huge mistake. This time she brought the correct pills.

The nurse was so impressed with his awareness. He just laughed.  When you are paralyzed, you notice the few and oddball things you have control over; he knew the shapes, the number of the pills, the taste. He knew what to expect and when the unexpected thing landed in his mouth.

Nurse #2

New nurses worked into the rotation as new workers anywhere might do, except they were not new workers just anywhere, they have a huge responsibility even on day one of their new profession in a hospital. A brand-new nurse came into Dave’s room to perform the regularly scheduled vital checks, which were simple enough. After carrying out her duties as the many other nurses had done in the daily process of caring for him the new nurse placed a hand buzzer on the bed next to his hand, kindly telling him, “I’ll just leave this right here, you can buzz me if you need anything at all.”

Dave said, “You know I am paralyzed, right?” “Oh. Yes. I will just leave this right here for you.” “But you KNOOOOOW that I CANNOT use my hand because I am paralyzed?” Again, she cheerily said, ‘I do! Don’t worry; I will be right across the hall, just buzz me.” She turned and walked out of the room.

Dave’s room was across from the nurses’ station so he could yell if he had a problem; he was placed there purposely for close monitoring for this obvious reason. He stared at the ceiling, wondering when he might see her again. Fewer minutes passed than he expected, she rushed back in the room, embarrassed, apologizing as she obviously made the connection as to why he was in the hospital, to begin with, or thought about the conversation “You know I am paralyzed right?” that he had to reiterate with “I cannot use my hand…because I am paralyzed.” She was beside herself, apologizing to him. But, he in true form, laughed, she laughed.

Physical Therapy Guys Near Death Experience #1:

Dave had some sort of physical therapy every day when he was in the hospital. It is important to move all of our limbs for circulation to avoid blood clots, bedsores, to move toxins out and for general quality of life. Many different techniques were used, one of which was carried out in a therapy pool in the hospital. I imagine that being in a pool must have been comfortable for him. From the perspective of the therapist, it seems like a great way to be able to move all his limbs without the barrier of gravity or his bed.

His first time in the pool, he had his first pair of leg braces on which consisted of very heavy boots, like heavy army boots with heavy gauge metal locking bars that ran the length of his legs up to thick leather straps that wrapped around his upper thighs with a series of buckles.  The guys were lowering him in the water by way of a hydraulic lift with a small hammock hanging from it. He somehow slipped out of the hammock and sank directly to the bottom of the shallow pool.

The aids didn’t react initially. Dave watched them calmly through the weird view from the bottom of the pool up through the wavy surface of the water beyond and behind him as they first watched him from the pool deck. They assumed he would swim to the surface any moment; then, they panicked as they simultaneously connected the paralyzed dots with shouts of, “Oh shit! Shit! Shit!” and dove in to dredge 230 pounds of him plus those simulated Godfather concrete blocks of braces off the tiled floor four feet below the surface. He shook his head like a dog getting the excess water out of his coat after he took that first big restorative breath of air. He laughed loudly at them when he breathed out as they recovered from their “Oh shit!” panic at the disco moment almost drowning their favorite patient, apologizing all over the place for dropping him…but mostly for forgetting he was paralyzed.

Physical Therapy Guys Near Death Experience #2:

The very NEXT pool therapy session, they decided to leave his braces off so he would be lighter going in the pool. This time they slid him into the water feet first, but when his feet hit the bottom of the shallow pool, his torse continued in forward momentum until he was face down in the water. There were two aids, one on either side of him.

I repeat myself, but unless you are paralyzed, you do not have the proper contextual understanding that, for example when you are floating face down in a pool of water with physical therapy aids on either side of you, you STILL cannot flip yourself overdue to being paralyzed and all.

Dave described looking at the bottom of the tile pool from this new blurry perspective for a few moments. He too came to the realization, not that he was paralyzed, that was deeply entrenched by that time, but it took him time to understand that people around him, even medical professionals were not always contextually with him as he lay there face down in the pool waiting for one of them to realize he had been in that position maybe a little while longer than he should. He was thinking, This is interesting, Come on guys, I can’t breathe,  when, “OH MY GOD DAVE!!” he was flipped over in one big jerking wave of splashing motion toward you know, the side of the water with air so that he could take a breath of air.

The aids once again apologized profusely for having forgotten that he could not flip himself over. Once again, he laughed at them. When he told me this story, I was not laughing; I was shouting, “What the hell? How could they forget? TWICE?” I could not believe he just laughed at them, then the reality of who I was listening to recalculated. He said, “What are you going to do?” I stared at him with that ridiculous response, “Apparently, nothing.”

Medical Professional #1:

As people in the world began reading excerpts from this book about Dave, many reached out to me. It was not exactly unexpected that they did so, but the nature of the stories people shared with me was not anything I could have expected. One woman commented that she was working in the E.R. THE day Dave arrived now forty-something years later. She wanted to talk to me, and I was very excited to talk to her. We exchanged numbers.

She was long retired, but back then, she was just starting her career as a Respiratory Therapist. She described Dave coming in the doors on an ambulance and being on the team that helped stabilize him because he was having trouble breathing. He was immediately moved out of her department to the Intensive Care Unit, where he remained for almost two weeks. She kept track of him, checked on him as he moved to each stop on his stay in the hospital. Finally, the day came about two months after arriving that the tube in his throat was removed, and he could talk. She, like everyone else in the hospital, quickly came to be very fond of him.  

She remembered her patients over her career but described Dave as unforgettable as he was the first critically injured patient she had helped care for who survived such a catastrophic injury. Being just months in her profession, her context of understanding hadn’t fully developed to comprehend the true nature of his injury. She believed anything was possible with modern medicine and expected to hear of his continued improvement. He certainly improved to a stabilized condition, but the full recovery she expected to materialize with surgery, therapy, or treatment of some sort never came.

After living in the hospital for over a year, there was nothing more to offer him, he had recovered as fully as was possible with his injury, and he was discharged. He went on to the rehab center, Rancho Los Amigos, mentioned previously for another six months.

A few years went by. She was headed to her new in-law’s house to visit them. She and her new husband rounded the corner of…25th and Arrowhead Avenue when she saw Dave sitting outside in his wheelchair. She couldn’t believe it. She asked her husband to stop the car; she got out and ran over to talk to him. They were both surprised and pleased to see each other. She was so happy that he seemed so healthy, well taken care of, and as pleasant as ever. She said from that point on, every time she visited her in-laws, our neighbors on 25th Street, she stopped by to visit Dave too. She saved the press clippings of Dave’s injury and later the news of his departure. She was saddened to read of his departure but so happy to see his photo with an entry about this book on social media. I was glad for her too. I knew writing about him would touch people in many ways, but I didn’t know exactly how; this was one of them.  

No one was dealing with the unexpected repeatedly more than Dave. He was learning about going with the flow of what life throws at you and was a few chapters ahead of everyone else when it came to understanding what it really meant to be paralyzed. He came to look out for, to speak up for himself, and maybe more than anything to be very, very patient with us mere mortals and our slow comprehension of what it is like to be paralyzed.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2020

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