For those of you who’ve been wondering, Mrs. T is in the intensive-care unit of a New Jersey hospital, and I’m at her side.
The two of us drove down last week to Cape May, a seaside resort at the southern tip of New Jersey, to see a couple of shows and celebrate her having successfully weathered a risky medical procedure. As I explained in this space last November, Mrs. T suffers from pulmonary hypertension, a rare but deadly disease for which the only cure is a double lung transplant. The procedure in question was the removal of a pair of polyps from her colon, which was done two weeks ago in New York. The polyps had to be biopsied in order to establish that she is cancer-free, a prerequisite for her being put on the active waiting list for a transplant. (In healthy people, the removal of polyps is routine, but Mrs. T’s underlying illness made it much trickier.)
Several years had gone by since we last visited Cape May, a town to which we have a particular attachment—we took our first overnight trip there after meeting thirteen years ago—and it seemed fitting to return when we learned that the polyps were benign. Alas, Mrs. T unexpectedly developed a life-threatening gastrointestinal hemorrhage a few hours after our arrival, and had to be rushed by ambulance from our hotel to the nearest hospital. She lost roughly a third of her blood supply before the emergency-room team was able to bring the bleeding under control.
The good news is that while Mrs. T is very frail, her condition now appears to be stable. She still requires around-the-clock monitoring, though, and the doctors at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, her transplant center, want to move her there as quickly as possible. The bad news is that as of this hour, no ICU beds are available. Hence we’re sitting tight in the Cape May ICU, eating not-bad hospital food, watching TCM and Law and Order, and waiting for orders to return north via ambulance to upper Manhattan. Until that happens, my own professional activities are on hold.
Such misadventures, I regret to say, are part of everyday life for those who require organ transplants in a city that has, as the New York Times recently explained in an important and disheartening feature story, “the lowest rate of organ donor registration in the country.” You wait your turn as patiently as you possibly can, and the longer you wait, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. That’s what happened to us.
To be perfectly frank, I nearly lost Mrs. T last week. But she hung on, that being her way, and as of today she appears to be recovering, slowly but surely. I don’t know when she’ll be getting out of the hospital, but once she does, our lives will return to what we’ve learned in the past few years to think of as “normal.” In fact, we’ll be heading back to Cape May as soon as her health permits. That’s what you do when you suffer from a chronic illness. You wait, hope—and live.
Henry James said it:
Live all you can—it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had?….The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have.
Meanwhile, what I said in this space last November is as true now as it was then: “If you haven’t signed up to be an organ donor, please do so now, and encourage your friends to do likewise. The life you save could be that of the woman I love.”
UPDATE: Mrs. T was finally transferred last night to the intensive-care unit of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. No word yet on when she might go home, but we’re doing everything the doctors tell us to do. I’ll keep you posted.
If you’ve sent her an electronic get-well-soon note, please forgive us for not answering it personally. The problem—if that’s the right word—is that this posting has received nearly ten thousand hits to date. We’re overwhelmed with good wishes!
Mrs. T, alas, is still too frail to read your tweets and e-mails, but she’ll start doing so as soon as she feels a bit better. In the meantime, I’ve been telling her about the avalanche of encouraging words that have reached us via Facebook and Twitter, and she’s touched more deeply than words can say.
Thank you and bless you all. Your love continues to buoy us up.
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Bob Brookmeyer and the New Art Orchestra perform his “Get Well Soon” in an undated European telecast. The tenor-sax solo is by Paul Heller: