Monthly Archives: June 2013

El Bosque Roto

Hi Honey!

You’re far, far away from me right now. I’m here, touching your feet. But you’re somewhere else. Somewhere very deep. And probably kind of dark.

I can almost see you there, in that dense forest. You’re taking your time, looking around, touching the soil. You’re wondering, what can I use to get back to my girls?

You’ve always being “nickled & dimed” by annoying physical shit (your phrase, not mine). So, I figured irony would dictate that I would be the one to get something serious. Wow, was I wrong.

I’ve basically been wrong from the beginning here. When we first went to the emergency room on Sunday morning, I was pretty sure the chest x-ray was a waste of time and you just had a lousy virus. But that cute mountain-bike riding doctor, sent us home with a diagnosis of pneumonia and a z-pack. And then when you were admitted later that night with an excruciating headache, I was sure that they’d manage your pain over night and we’d all be watching So You Think You Can Dance together on before bedtime on Monday. And then, and then, and then…

And now western medicine is doing what it does best. It’s sticking your body to the earth. It’s giving you the oxygen you can’t breathe yourself. It’s giving you the liquids you can’t drink on your own. It’s filling you with a bunch of medicines you don’t really need just in case you do.

I don’t know that we’ll ever know how you got so sick.

I wish I could draw you the map for the journey back. I wish I could pack you a lunch (and you know how much I HATE packing lunch) or bundle you up in durable, wicking clothes. Really, I wish I could come with you. I have an incredibly good sense of direction. That could be really helpful.

But I can’t.

Here’s what I can do. I can be your constant light. Me and the crazy disturbed following you’ve cultivated over the years. We’re standing here. We are the light.

And in front of us is your little girl.

Her name is light. Just follow that light.



I have heard the mermaids singing each to each

Wednesday, June 5th

July 4th, 2001, when Ian and had been dating about nine months, we invited a bunch of friends to the barn/house I had rented in Stephentown, NY. We were preparing to shoot our independent film, the ill fated but almost-glorious PINK HOUSE. We were nervous and distracted, but happy to be surrounded by friends. It was a sticky New York summer’s day with thick air you feel on your skin. Ian and Kelly were playing guitar. In the middle of, weirdly, an Indigo Girls medley, Ian abruptly stood up, complaining of pain in his back. He lay down while I tried to WASP the whole thing away… nerves, exhaustion or gas. After an unrelenting hour, he begged me to take him to the hospital.

Stephentown is a long way from anywhere. Or, more to the point, anywhere with a hospital. This was a pre-GPS world, and you just had to KNOW where a hospital was. I could get us to Pittsfield and then I kinda, sorta thought I might have seen a hospital. Once. But, basically, I was relying on my bat sensors.

When we were cresting the small mountain pass between New York and Massachusetts, I looked over to Ian, squirming and seething with pain. Normally, my guy has the strapping ruddy complexion of Welsh sailor. But in that moment, I could see EVERY freckle in his face and I knew we were in serious trouble.

Swimming up from the bottom of his misery, he asked me how much longer. With all my sober love, I said, “It’s going to be a while, honey. At least fifteen minutes. Hang in there. I will get you there as soon as I can.” While secretly, I was hoping beyond hope that I could intuit my way to the ER.

Turns out, he had a kidney stone and they were able vanquish the pain handily. He professed his love to me in an opiate haze as we heard fireworks in the distance.

About a week later, Ian said, “Remember when you told me we were 15 minutes away from the hospital.” “Of course,” I answered, proud of my loving calm in that stressful moment. “That sucked.”

Apparently, one of the first things you’re taught as a lifeguard is to tell the drowning guy that he’s almost to shore… you’re really close, it’s right over there, just another minute.

You definitely don’t say, “Yeah. Wow. It’s going to a be long time before you’re anywhere near help.”

But, today, that’s exactly what I did.

Ian is consistently and visibly sicker than he has been. He’s the sickest person I’ve been around who’s not old and known to be dying

There were no quips today from my smart ass. Barely words. He didn’t eat. And owing to some serious intestinal issues kicked up from the antibiotics and pain meds, he couldn’t bare to see Lucy, which is usually the great pleasure of his day.

We’re still waiting on cultures and blood tests to see if we can narrow down the cause of this atypical pneumonia. The doctors of St. John’s are clustered in the corners, brainstorming, while every antibiotic invented is dripping into his veins.


I had a long, private talk with one of the doctors in order to help me set some expectations for all of us, especially Lucy. Ian has him worried and he warned me to expect things to get worse before they get better. When I asked him what that would look like, he equivocated. There are some things better left unimagined. So I changed tack. If this is our nadir, what does recovery look like?

I needed to make plans for splitting in two – a mom and a wife -and for how much help we might need when Ian gets home. I was thinking ahead. Planning – the privilege of the healthy.

When Ian asked me about the conversation with the doctor, I stupidly told him the truth.

Halting. Good days and bad. Another week in the hospital. A couple more weeks at home.

He’ll miss Lucy’s ballet recital and chorus performance. Her end of school poetry reading and the last day of school.

I saw the light drain from his eyes as I basically announced to him, “Yeah buddy, the shore is miles from here and you’re still going out to sea.”

So, that wasn’t my best move, but here’s what I know: even when I’m afraid, even when I have to explain to Lucy that she can’t see her dad today, or promise his mom that I will call if it gets worse, or hold his hand when he drifts through swells of pain, I know that he will make it to shore. And, more than that, all of you will be there to greet him.


He is Large, He Contains Multitudes

Ian scared the bejeezus out of me tonight. He was full of his usual vitriol and pith earlier today. The whole thing was a little hospitally, to be sure… low blood pressure, coughing, nasty headache, blah, blah. But it was a fine, lumpy, institutional day, made so much better by the onslaught of incredible emails (please keep them coming).

Then, suddenly, we were in a health black hole. He couldn’t breathe, he spiked a fever, and he looked at me, completely haunted, and asked, “Is this how people die? You just slowly drown?”

In an instant, there was a hive of people swarming around him. A CT angiogram was ordered. Luvonox was ordered. An oxygen mask was on his face. A monitor was on his finger. He was sent to a post critical care unit with higher level monitoring. More and different antibiotics were ordered.

There’s no way around it. Nothing is better and everything is worse. His pneumonia is worse. His breathing is worse. His fever is worse. But, a couple of hours after the panic, Ian was offering his personal narration to a muted telenovela on Univision. It was like a mashup of Douglas Sirk, Selena, and Luis Bunuel. Absurd and hilarious.

Our dear friend – and blog denizen – Caitlin Reed, who is an infectious disease MD, spent some time with Ian tonight and is reassured that the hospital is doing everything right. And she’s got, like, eight degrees, including one in Zoology, or Entomology, or something cool and totally not Comp Lit.

And he’s being looked after by a pretty groovy team: Tatiana, the Eastern European night nurse with goth red bangs and an impenetrably thick accent who said, I think, “No vun iz happy wis blood-ox of 90. He need mask,” and the energetic breathing specialist who looks like the respiratory therapist version of my friend Eric Rosen (who is sooo NOT a respiratory therapist), and, finally, Shareen, who scolded Ian for interrupting her rounds and then scrubbed him down like a loving and determined mama cat.

Somehow, I have managed to sell this to Lucy as weird but fine. So, if you know her, keep it light.

Here’s the truth: my husband, my crazypants, pain-in-the-ass, loyal husband, my stunningly brilliant and profoundly daft husband, my kind and lovely husband… is really sick.

And, I’m a little scared.


Lucy’s self-portrait that Ian looks at from his hospital bed

Tessa, Guest Blogging from Ian’s Hospital Room

Hi all. This is Tessa. I’m taking over the blog for a few days while my slack-ass husband kicks back in a hospital room, eating red jello.

He’s always wanting me to guest blog but it’s just an impossible task. Joe Biden is a crazy lovable mensch but we voted for Barack Obama, if you know what I mean. While I will be a poor substitute, I would like to ask you a favor.

Can you all write an email to Ian about your lives? It could be an exegesis on your latest minor obsession, a rant about how sucky your boss or your kid’s school or your commute is, a celebration of a small pleasure or a declaration of a big change. Better than flowers, these missives will fill his room with the thing that sustains Ian–family, friends and stories. Send them to me tessablake at mac.

So, here’s what’s happened thus far … I’ll be back with more tomorrow.

After three days of unabating fever, we went to the ER on Sunday morning. Ian was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with meds. Four hours later, he was back in the ER with excruciating head pain. They admitted him on Sunday night. The following is the email I sent to the family last night.

On Monday morning, I woke up all sunshine and certainty. The hospital would have controlled his pain overnight — and thank god for that, because, come on, who wants to deal with Ian in pain? — and he would be coming home today (Monday). I almost didn’t pull the trigger on having Steve (Ian’s brother who lives 300 miles away) come because I thought we were through the worst.

I went to see him after I dropped Lucy at school. I spoke with the doctor and it was clear to me that there was no way we were leaving today.

The hospital had called in an infectious disease specialist, and Ian was as miserable as when I left him the night before … Worse, actually because they hadn’t managed his pain well at all and he had a TERRIBLE night. Plus, there was some crazy lady down the hall who was shrieking most of the night. Now, I know that Ian is prone to hyperbole, but I heard her, and there’s no other word for it. She shrieks.

At midday, Dr. Morton, the infectious disease specialist, examined Ian. Those doctors get to ask the coolest questions … about travel and what you do for work and your pets. It’s so fun and House-y. She ordered a bunch of other tests.

They’re treating him with antibiotics for pneumonia, percocet for pain, maxalt for the migraine, zofran for nausea (due to the pain), and albuterol and something else for the lungs. So, every fifteen minutes someone is coming into to administer a nebulizer or check his blood oxygen or take his temperature or start a new IV bag.

There’s no reason to panic. He’s in a good hospital with smart doctors. But he’s being described as seriously ill. Though — and this is important — not critically ill. But it’s just not how you think these things should go … You get sick for a while and then you get better. Well, he’s been sick for a while and he’s, um, a little worse.

Today, his chest X-ray showed more fluid, his blood oxygen was lower, and his temperature was higher.

So, if this is just the pneumonia, it means illness was in full bloom by the time we got him to the hospital and the meds should start prevailing tomorrow. And, if it’s some other weird thing on top of the pneumonia, we should know that in the next day or so.

When Steve arrived, Lucy and Steve and I went to visit. Strictly speaking, we flouted the rules. Ideally you have a firm diagnosis before you let kids visit but, if it’s contagious, Lucy and I have already been exposed to it. And the kid needed to see her dad.

She seemed a little wigged out at first to see Ian so incapacitated. But then she acclimated and became hilarious as she pretended to host the new hit show SICK DADDO.


I went over to the hospital one last time before bed. Ian’s temp was up to 102.7 and he was just miserable but there were lots of medications being administered, so I left when he looked like he would actually be able to crash for a few hours.

I’m optimistic that tomorrow will be better but I’m also just trying to stay in the day and not have, or set, too many expectations.