My Brother Rick (aka Dikes, Rich) Condition Post-Stroke

asstroke3Last Thursday, a few minutes past noon, I called my brother Rick in Milwaukee (it had become a ritual of sorts especially while driving), and he answered in an odd tone which gave me pause. He began to complain of escalating nausea to which I urged him to see his personal physician.  He failed to remember his physician or the terrible diabetic wound which almost led to amputation or his two-month in-patient hospital stay. I astroke1told him I’d call 9-1-1 and ask that he be taken to West Allis Memorial Hospital ( policy dictates patients be taken to the nearest hospital). However the paramedics discovered atrial fibrillation (fluttering heart beats) which alternately peaked and diminished and therefore paramedics informed me that they were headed to a critical cardiac unit at St. Luke’s Medical Center.

However, St. Luke’s didn’t have a bed open, so Rick was taken to Froedert Lutheran Medical Center. After tests and a CT scan the ER team began antibiotics to stave off a small area of pneumonia in his right lung.  Rick remained on the general medical floor until the results of an MRI showed he’d suffered a severe ischemic stroke (an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain) in the occipital lobe (at the rear of the skull and is responsible for vision). On Sunday afternoon he was transported to the Stroke Unit (one of just astroke2a few in the U.S.) where he was resting comfortably.

On Monday, June 18 Rick suffered a significant seizure which greatly diminished his short term memory and eliminated the peripheral vision on his right side.  I’ve visited and talked via telephone with him this past week.  The cadence of his speech has slowed, he’s practically immobile, he’s approaching clinical blindness, and finds difficulty in fundamental motor movements like holding a cup.  But as he told me earlier this week, “I ain’t going to be like this forever, you know!”

I’d like to ask that anyone reading this post to consider sending him a get well card.  I’m sure your sentiments would help replenish a hopeful spirit during difficult times.  For those of you who send cards, thank you; for those that haven’t, please reconsider.  Send your cards to:

Richard Didrickson
Froedert & Medical College of Wisconsin
5-NW Nursing Unit
9200 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI  53226

 

The Time Spent To Read This Post, Equals The Time You Have To Save Your Life

Back in 2008 when the shit storm incinerated the first 20 years of my adulthood, I made an oath while dragging what’s left of a . . . of a bespoke walking stick through four inches of gray ash – some sizeable went aloft and rode a breeze – only to land in some other year; this oath was directed at loss, or better, surviving loss which is always, always more painful than the combustion of mortality which is hard-wired to flee extinction.

Appointed to this life: Two tiny, perpendicular scratches amidst millions of other’s noting everyone’s start and finish on (what we’d like to believe) linear straight-edge of time. And my time – time as living – a selfish amalgamation of loneliness, caution, exposure, intimacy, maturity, judgement, patience, learning, strife, letters, confessions, achievement, and the likely propagation of another generation or the unlikely dog-eared page noting a dead end by a period placed unerringly after the last letter of the last name annotating The End, A Willful Extinction.  The simple decision to stop production thus beholden to past generations, or, the decision of propagation thus bound to the future.

We’re putting a stop to this tributary of our bloodline; my older brother never purposely or haphazardly discovered the merits of fatherhood, and I, being of the gay-persuasion fell in-love when fatherhood and matrimony were simply off-limits; thusly denying my partner and I any marginal hope to have children.  My partner yearned to have a child, Jack (because I simply grew tired of our constant referral to “It”), but by the time the stork delivered to same-sex households, I, in all honesty, was too old and too tired and too responsible to entertain my partner’s fundamental need to nurture.  My father was well beyond my reach; that life, that engaging and interested life, was at least a decade before I consciously understood that I was bereft of any gargantuan, mitt-like hand to hold.  And that sadness burrowed deep, deeper than any other heretofore denial ever tunneled.  And honesty foretold of my family’s dearth in the health department by my adult-life diagnosis of a mental illness, a disease, not a sickness or an infection or a fever but a disease, not an alien landing, not a vampire, and not a plague, but a disease nonetheless. Mental illness is handled, not treated but handled by this nation’s body politic.  It’s a dispassionate and treacherous handling, like the negotiating cop that placated the felon’s demands until one, perfectly aimed .32 caliber round stops the demands. “They” know how to dilute the alleged discrimination; the mistreatment of patients in county facilities;  blaming us, the patients, for their on-going ignorance and antiquated seclusion as a “well-informed, empathetic, and public safety response” to the irrational and grossly illogical . . . blah-blah-blah. . . Um, hello, hello? (is this thing on?) mental illness is a disease as bona fide as cancer or chronic kidney failure (except mental illness lacks a “celebrity endorsement).

And yet, we’re not alone: patients-in-general have devolved into a 15-minute generic; that is, the disappearance of importance, the disinterest of ailments, suffering, and cause.  Today’s Western Medicine Patient has become an Accounts Receivable entry in the ledger; a doctor’s statistic of efficiency; appointment number 58.  We as patients have been reduced to a test result followed by a prescription or passed along like a troublesome foster child to a series of specialists and more tests and more prescriptions.

It’s a cold and alienating model of efficiency and profit, and we, the patients, the commodity are fought over by insurers and institutions chanting “To Hell With Life!”

Age Calls It “Creative” Writing For a Reason

Upon graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting, my mentor, Mr. Arthur Giron cozied up to me and asked the question heard around the world: “Well, what are you going to do for the next twenty years?”  Cocksure and filled to the brim with inflamed enthusiasm and a bulwark of self-confidence, I smugly replied, “Why, be famous of course!”  I had a produceable play under one arm, a New York literary agent under the other; copies of my scripts being eyed by regional theaters all over the country, and a handful of positive reviews of my recent MainStage production; not-to-mention the sheepskin from a meritorious and first-string school like Carnegie Mellon!  I mean really, really, what else did he think I would do?  Mr. Giron shook his head slowly while he stroked and fiddled with his moustache: “You’re like a new-make-scotch-whisky.  You’ve been recently poured into your used cask where you’ll age or mature (meaning you’ll absorb the character of the ageing oak casks heretofore used to ferment sherry); and just like new-whisky’s alcohol content diminishing year by year, so will the strangulating auspices of your of fame and fortune.  The end result is a smooth, complex, and enigmatic author with the depth of character fossilized by year after year of life’s experience bearing down on talent; similar to pressure applied to coal produces diamonds.  In other words, my dear boy, now you’ve got to live life to its fullest, absorb as much as you can.  It’s from there, your experience of life from which you’ll withdraw the dark, dense, and curiously smooth depth.”

They couldn’t have told me that before I signed the promissory note for fifty thousand dollars to pay for two years of post-graduate education?

Mr. Giron’s soothsaying was brutally honest and absolutely true!  For the next twenty years I was given the cold-shoulder by most of the legitimate theatres in America; my New York agent dropped me because I was a one-trick pony (I had only one produceable scripts so when directors asked: “What else have you got?” she had nothing to offer.)  And soon thereafter I rendered my writing as the needless folly of starry-eyed twenty-somethings  young men and turned my attention to the corporate world, leaving my writing to rot in a trunk in the attic.