I spoke to Mrs. T’s nurses by phone at midday Saturday, and they had nothing but good news to give me. In addition to nodding her head when spoken to, she is now able to squeeze her nurses’ fingers with both hands in “appropriate response” (their phrase) to simple questions. All of her various treatments, in particular the dialysis that is compensating for her impaired kidney function, are working well, which explains why she is finally—if gradually—moving in the direction of full consciousness.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how painful it is for me not to be able to visit Mrs. T. Were the larger situation anything other than what it is, I might well find it unbearable. But things, as they say, are rough all over, and as new coronavirus patients start flooding into New York’s hospitals, I can’t possibly expect New York-Presbyterian to make an exception for me. As I tweeted earlier today:
I won’t lie to you: I’m almost relieved that Mrs. T’s hospital is closed to visitors. I can’t afford to catch the virus. I’m in a high-risk group, and she will need my caregiving more than ever after she comes home. I hate not seeing her now, but I know it’s better this way. Many of us will be forced to make choices of this kind as the situation grows increasingly dire. The best choice of all, though, is: stay home.
It is that knowledge alone that makes it easier for me to stay home alone and wait as patiently as I can.
If all continues to go well, I’ll be able to speak to her on the phone at some point and try to explain what has happened to New York and the world in the three weeks since she got her new lungs. In the meantime, I’ll continue to check in with the ICU nurses at New York-Presbyterian once or twice a day, hoping that future reports are as encouraging as this one was.
To all of you who have sent your good wishes to us: they matter, very much. Bless you for them.
UPDATE: I spoke to the night nurse at nine-thirty Saturday evening. She told me that Mrs. T is doing “really well,” and the enthusiasm in her voice was a delight to hear. She grew increasingly responsive throughout the afternoon and evening, and can now move a toe on command (this is a big deal).
The nurse thinks she is now sufficiently aware to be told that New York-Presbyterian is closed to all visitors, but that I am checking on her twice a day by phone and that I love her very much.
Actual dialogue, guaranteed unembellished:
NURSE Yes, I think that will make sense to her—I’ll tell her as soon as we hang up.
ME (silence—I’m too choked up to speak)
NURSE (after a moment) Mr. Teachout? Sir? Are you there? Are you all right?
ME (finally, clearing throat loudly) Oh, yes…I’m really, really fine now.
* * *
To learn more about her rare illness, go here.
To find out how to become an organ donor, go here.
* * *
Lee Wiley sings “A Ship Without a Sail,” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart: