Ten Minutes to Wapner

After the holidays, we found ourselves in an odd mix of realities that reminded us of the Twilight Zone. That mid-century TV show that always had a twist that turned what you knew to be true totally upside down. Fitting for this time of year since the marathons usually played January 1st. We remember the kids lined up in front of the set excited as each favorite episode came on… and they all seemed favorites.

One week into the new year, Rich dropped me off at the train station the way he had been doing for quite some time. He’s been dealing with severe peripheral neuropathy and, in an effort to control the pain, we’ve been in touch with our gurus to determine the most comprehensive plan of action including physical therapy, acupuncture and Neurontin to get those nerve pathways back on track.

Throughout the day, we were in touch with each other as we spoke to the powers that be… texting, phoning, emailing. As usual, when I neared Jamaica station on the way back home, I texted Rich the time to pick me up at the station by the taxi stand. He replied “Nick, take a cab.” I texted back that it was me and did he still want me to take a cab? Nope… all good. Except when I got to the station, no Rich. “Hey, where are you?” “In the bedroom” “Are you going to pick me up or should I take a cab?” “When are you getting in?” “Now, I’m at Mineola now” “I’ll be right there” As I got into the car, I jokingly said “Didn’t you wonder when I was getting home from work? It’s almost 7pm!” There was a long silent beat as he stared at me. “You went to work today?”

As Rod Serling would intone: You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!

Yep, that’s where we are now!

The following morning it was determined we needed to get Rich to the ER to undergo testing to find the cause of this confusion. A likely culprit could be the slight fall he took a month ago when his feet were numb. Another could be the infection he’s currently battling that is suspected to be pneumonia. Better to be in the hospital not only to figure out this conundrum but to also have a constant eye on him as he recovers. These infections have a high mortality rate for stem cell patients…. we don’t wanna mess around. We then found ourselves, once settled into a room, with another cultural reference… this time Rain Man. A constant litany of words flew over us from the moment we entered the room.

are you ok richie, it’s nightime, is that your name, richie, i’m mike, i’m going home tomorrow, my dad is picking me up. i’m watching tv, it’s good to watch tv. what’s that sound? is that you richie? are you ok? i’m going home tomorrow. I’m being good right? i’m watching tv, that’s good right? hey mrs are you there? is richie alright? I’m going home tomorrow, my dad is picking me up. can i have apple juice? i’m coughing, help me, i’m coughing. oh i’m ok. do you have apple juice? i like apple juice. i’m being good right? quiet game, i’ll play the quiet game i’m good i’ll be good are you ok richie? your tv has snow on it, my tv doesn’t have snow on it how come i don’t have snow on my tv i like snow i have football. i’ll be quiet quiet game now i’m being good right?

For fifteen hours, our pal mike didn’t stop talking. Stream of consciousness peppered with validations. He was very happy and very hopeful. It was finally decided to send Rich up to the stem cell floor for the rest of his stay at NSUH. As we left, mike was still hopeful: there’s a party today i like parties there’s cake and soda and dancing i like dancing david are you going to the party are you going to take me to the party can you help me stand up so i can go to the party. is the party in the Bronx, i live in the Bronx the party is upstairs i can’t wait i love parties…

This is a man without guile, without agenda, living in the moment and the best possible futures full of cake and dancing. But boy is he exhausting for those who need to rest. Once again, the patience of the staff with this man who makes their routine anything but routine is to be commended. We know we’re in the right place

So here we are, back on Monti 7, just a few doors down from the double doors that take us to the hallway within a hallway, the land of little rooms. We’re on the same floor where RICE infusions came to be for us. There are names and faces that we know as well as a routine that is calming in its familiarity. We are relieved to be in a facility where we do not have to question whether we are taking the right path to wellness on our own.

The next few days will be full of meds, monitoring and getting lungs working well. The CT scan shows no sign of injury. The low oxygen levels and the body’s bombardment by an infection are thought to be the causes of the confusion. Physical therapy will begin in- hospital and continue afterwards…. Building up our One in Nine so that, like Mike, he can dance the night away and the Twilight Zone will once more be nothing more than a tv show.

These experiences in altered realities have been valuable lessons in the fragility of our consciousness. Oliver Sacks wrote: “Waking consciousness is dreaming – but dreaming constrained by external reality”

The question is; whose reality?

Party on!

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