Saturday, March 8, 2008

Uma update 2.25.08

This is not a list.

I had John and Uma over for dinner last night, and Uma actually allowed me to take photos of her because I tricked her by saying I wanted to practice my photography skills. (Eat that, Ums.) She's doing so incredibly well, her speech continues to improve, and she's driving now, which is amazing.

I want to post john's most recent Uma update, from a couple of weeks ago. Since I used to post the updates on my other blog, I thought I should post them here too, for people who miss getting them. (If you don't know about Uma's journey over the last 13 months, you can read it about it HERE, but click through to the beginning to get the story in chronological order.)

2/25/08 update FROM JOHN:

Hello everyone,

I wanted to tell you about our trip to NY last

We left for NY the day after the Joan Rivers show
opened successfully at the Geffen Playhouse.
Originally we were going to leave on the same flight
and on the same day that Uma used an exact year after
her aneurysm but Uma didn’t want me to jeopardize my
job at the thteatre by leaving in the middle of the
week of technical rehearsals so we left on Valentine’s
day. It felt like an almost-free trip to me since I
had the plane tickets on hold for almost a year.

We took a taxi from JFK to the Blakely hotel. Up to
this point Uma has maintained that she has no memory
of NY other than the air ambulance, but she remembered
a little bit of the outside of the hotel and the books
on the shelf of the lobby. For me, walking through
the front doors into that lobby was like walking
through some invisible barrier. It was hard to do and
I realized right away that I needed to check in and
get to the room quickly - I began to cry on the
elevator up to the 9th floor. (We actually stayed in
1003 in ‘07 but they were renovating that floor so we
opted for 903 - pretty much an exact replica of
1003...too exact).

We got in, got settled, and I began to answer Uma’s
questions: where did I fall down? what did I look
like? what did I say? what happened when the
ambulance and police arrived? etc.
Some people have asked me to tell what that whole day
was like. It’s pretty gruesome....I’ve decided to
write it all out and send it to people who ask me for
it in an email. Let’s face it - not everyone wants to
know everything - nor should they I guess.

...anyway - more tears for me in the room for awhile -
some very difficult memories and replaying of my
actions (could I have done something better, more
quickly, noticed something sooner) but there’s nothing
for it.....this return to the room, to the city is as
far ‘back’ as I could physically go and mentally I can
only return to a memory which has limits both in terms
of accuracy and healing.

We slept until we woke up i.e. no alarm clock, no
schedule. After ‘breakfast’ we took a subway to St.
Vincent’s. It took a minute to get my bearings but
then I fell into the pattern of last year. The thing
that was missing was Uma in a bed on the 11th floor
and the constant inner dialogue of whether she’ll live
or how she’ll be in the future. We ‘signed in’ with
security and went up to the Neurosurgical Intensive
Care Unit, 11th floor. First thing I did was take her
to the waiting room. On this day there was only one
woman in there - she had papers and forms spread out
all over her lap and around the couch and she looked
exhausted and worried. I felt neither of those things
but my heart went out to her (I wonder what I looked
like in there last year). The place has not changed
at all....same pictures and notices on the wall, same
furniture, paint, etc and the same TV on too loud that
I would always unplug whenever I could.

We then walked down the hall 20 feet to the ICU room.
I stood in the doorway with Uma a little bit behind
me. The nurse at the desk inside the room looked up.
I recognized her immediately as she said, “May I help
“Do you remember me?”
And at that point she walked towards me and was able
to see around the doorway to look at Uma. I thought
she was happy to see ME but her reaction to Uma was
worth every effort in coming to that place. She came
up to Uma and hugged her and then turned quickly back
to get another nurse who was on break behind the desk.
She told the other nurse she has a surprise.....they
both walked back over, saw Uma, and yelled out her
name, got the evil eye from the charge nurse a bit
down the hall, pointed at Uma to the charge nurse who
then changed her evil eye and cam e over with another
nurse who tended to Uma when she had been moved to the
‘regular’ room. The reunion was beautiful. Cecilia,
the first nurse, said they always love it when people
come back because so few make it out of that room.
Then Uma said, in various words, that she rememberd
these two nurses...that she remembered their faces. I
was really amazed at that. We all laughed when Uma
said she had no memory of me being there but “THIS!
and THIS!....” (pointing to each nurse)...” I have
‘rellection’!” The odd and wonderful thing was that
those two ICU nurses that just happened to be on duty
that day at that hour, Cecilia and Emily, were easily
the best nurses she had (Fernando and Chris

This renunion went on for awhile - me answering
questions about how she is doing, what she is doing,
what we’re doing and me asking if any of the other
nurses were there etc. There comes a point when you
realize you’ve said all you can say comfortably in a
new and unexpected context, so I found a way for us to
gratefully leave there. We headed for the pastoral
counselor’s office (remember this is a catholic
hospital). Gina was a great help to me in that place
and we visited with her for a little over an hour.
Speaking with her and hearing her take on what was
going on lalst year was a powerful thing for me. She
was and is a great reality check for me and she
reminded me of things that I forgot. It feels like
those memories reside in an actual physical place in
me and being reminded of them is like having someone
touch a limb that has been numb for so long you forgot
it existed. It hurst but it’s good to know you’re

We left the hospital and I took Uma to The Original
Sandwich Shop where we ate and ordered so many meals.
Afterwards we walked to the Mail Boxes Etc. in SOHO
where the old guy that owns the place gave me such a
great deal on a mailbox and other services. HE was
there, too, and took only a couple of seconds to
recognize me. Big smile - which got bigger when he met
Uma. I thanked him again and we walked to the
apartment I borrowed for most of the time I was there.
We couldn’t get in, of course, but we did manage to
get a coffee at a little place two doors down from
there that I always wanted to go to but never had the
time. We sat outside of that little joint drinking
espresso and watching the world. This is what I
wanted to do last year with Uma - take in the city in
the moment and plan for the future. .....just another
transcendant moment I’ll probably never forget.

The rest of the trip was good, too. We did a lot of
relaxing, a lot of sleeping late, easy walks (it was
colder in Los Angeles that in Manhattan that week),
good meals....we saw a play, went up the Empire State
building, had dinner with my friends Kevin and Iza and
came home.

I see now that, while it was really great for Uma to
go there, I truly needed to go. The time spent there
was heavy for me - it was so unexpected, violent, and
uncertain - and seemed to be waiting for me both in my
past and in my future. I feel that whole experience is
closer to where it belongs now - the past.

I hope you are all well and thank you for all your
help for me and Uma.



drc said...

Thanks for the update...I have often wondered how she was doing. I am so glad she is doing well.

willam said...

that's awesome to hear about your friend uma. i didn't follow everything that was going on but glad my path of website clicks led to a happier ending that was originally forseen by docs. i like the short hair on her too. it's way spunky and has got major style