A MATTER OF DEGREES
January 13, 2012
Dennis’ weight just made an eye-popping quantum leap of five pounds, and with that excess corpulence has come a clarity of recollection of the recent episode in Houston. He wants to know more of just what took place. I’m not sure if neuron-function is directly related to greater accumulation of bulk, but if it is, I’m having my IQ re-tested immediately.
Personally, I’m a little reticent to leap blindly into full disclosure. It’s a little like divulging the facts of life to one’s children. These things must be done delicately. Some things may be disturbing. One must judiciously select what is to be revealed and what is to remain concealed. When moved upon by discretion, I can actually become the sphinx.
I opted to begin by telling him about steroids. That’s pretty safe. The doctors decided to put him on a regimen of prednisone to pump up his batting average, enlarge his quads, and prepare him for his ultimate goal of extreme cage fighting. They would also assist him in transitioning from NPO to solid food – mainly ice chips.
OK. The Clot ratified prednisone. However, as with all potent medications, this one has serious side effects. Namely: it increases the appetite and could cause considerable weight gain. OK. We can handle that.
Only minutes after Dennis was administered his first dose, The Clot beat a hasty retreat to the nearest exit and headed en masse to Burger King, where we ordered their super-size Orca burger with all the trimmings…and tried to refrain from asking fellow patrons if they wanted the rest of their fries. Boy Howdy, that stuff is powerful!
We waddled sheepishly back to the ICU, trying to dislodge sesame seeds from our teeth with our tongues as, in a laudable humanitarian gesture, we took turns spooning ice chips into Dennis’ mouth. Copious consumption of peppermints helped disguise tell-tale whale breath.
Dennis listened to the story without interruption and said, “Sometimes comas are a good thing.”
We are all glad he is off prednisone. But check out those quads!
I also decided to relate a notable encounter with Dr. Wolff and our daughter Erin. Dr. Wolff is a brilliant physician whose great brain wields untold quantities of knowledge and information. His mind is the warehouse of impressive and vital facts. He is the quarterback of our team. None better.
One evening he came into Dennis’ room to discuss his condition and current medical circumstance. We steeled ourselves for a barrage of disheartening information. And Dr. Wolff did not sugar coat nor mitigate harsh reality. It was all rather grim. Dennis’ condition was serious and threatening. No question about it.
Erin and Brodi listened intently, and I sensed the crushing weight as the severity of the situation settled upon them. Knowing our daughters as I do, I wondered how long it would be before one of them spoke up.
Turns out, not long – and, of course, turns out it was Erin. With great dignity, she said, “Tomorrow my Dad’s going to be better.”
Dr. Wolff responded that he, too, was optimistic. But, he insisted, “I’m just telling you the facts.”
Once again, Erin, with unmitigated authority, replied, “And I’m telling you my facts. Tomorrow my Dad will make a 180 percent turn around!”
Dr. Wolff was a little taken aback. Out of the side of her mouth, Brodi whispered, “Erin, that’s 180 DEGREE turn around.”
Undeterred, Erin continued to pontificate that the day after that, Dennis would make another 180 DEGREE turn around!
Applied mathematical principles would suggest that two 180 degree turnarounds would put one back where one started. But such rational calculations had no place when one is making pronouncements. Erin’s facts defy the numbers.
Dennis emerged from oblivion during this exchange just long enough to mutter, “See what I’ve lived with all these years?”
Dr. Wolff managed a smile after being carpet bombed by a wall of Ashton women, and conceded that both Erin’s facts and scientific facts could reside in peaceful co-existence.
The following day, in fact, Dennis made a 180 degree turn around. Go figure.
I learned great things that day. Perhaps, after all, understanding trumps science. After tracking Dennis’ monitors for 12 straight hours, and watching graphs, numbers, flow charts and alarms react with the latest unnerving news, as well as being swarmed by platoons of technicians, doctors and nurses, even brilliant minds could still arrive at faulty conclusions. There was no machine to register strength of mind and strength of will.
Erin and Brodi knew their Dad deeper, better than all the technology of modern science. They possessed the greater understanding that there are certain forces in the universe that conspire and center on someone with particular healing properties.
What the heart understands transcends scientific data. Erin has always believed that everyone, including the entire medical community at MD Anderson, is entitled to her opinion and the facts as she interprets them. And why not? She was right.
After hearing this anecdote, Dennis’ desire to know more seemed sated for the moment. He’ll eventually get the whole story, but only in degrees.