Months To Years Summer 2018 MTY_Summer2018_v7 - Page 19

The Presence of His Absence By Cynthia Lim balance. He came home but never resumed his career as a bankruptcy attorney and now needed full-time care.   Over the years, I learned to adapt to life with disability. Our two sons grew from teenagers into men with their own independent lives in Tucson and New York. Perry’s My heart lurched when I saw four missed calls and a days were carefully orchestrated with walks at the mall or text from my husband’s caregiver. “Perry is in the UCLA beach with the caregiver, speech therapy and classes at Westwood hospital..pls call me.” I had been in meetings the community college while I worked fulltime. At night, all morning at my job with the school district and hadn’t I took over caregiving duties. We still managed to travel carried my personal cell phone with me. with accommodations and continued to have dinners out with friends although I missed my former life, and sorrow I called the caregiver in a panic.  always lingered in the background. “What happened?” I asked. Perry had not been hospitalized since his cardiac arrest 14 years ago and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I “He’s OK now,” said the caregiver. “We were at the mall arrived at the emergency room, a nurse was adjusting his and I couldn’t get him to walk after lunch. I tried calling IV and checking the monitors. He smiled at me but I could you but I guess you were busy. I called 911 and they took tell by the dullness in his eyes that he was sluggish.  him to the emergency room.” “He had a high fever and we have him on antibiotics,”   she said. I pressed for more details but heard the familiar Los Angeles. Memories of the first time my husband I moved a chair next to his bed and waited. As hour after was hospitalized flooded my mind. He had suffered a hour passed, I remembered the bedside vigil in Portland, cardiac arrest 14 years earlier when we were vacationing whispering in his ear, imploring him to wake and hoping in Portland, Oregon. I remembered the panic and terror that he would emerge intact. This time, he was awake but I felt as I paced the floors of the emergency room, not restless, twisting and turning on the hospital bed.  Nurses knowing if he was dead or alive. And then came the came and checked his blood pressure and his vital signs announcement that he was alive, the paramedics had periodically. Near the dinner hour, I sent the caregiver revived him but he was in a coma. His brain had been home. Finally, four hours later, the doctor, a slim woman in deprived of oxygen and they didn’t know if he would her 30s with long, curly hair and a broad smile, appeared. survive the procedure to place a stent in his heart. I prayed   with fervor that he would stay alive, that he would wake “Your husband was quite sick when he was admitted,” she and we would be able to walk out of the hospital together said. I dashed out of the office and headed west from refrain, “You have to wait for the doctor.” downtown Los Angeles to the emergency room in West and resume our lives.  I felt a sense of dread. What if he had some deadly But it didn’t work out that way. When he woke from his two-week coma, he wasn’t the same. His thoughts were jumbled and his speech was at times incoherent. After disease? Was this the beginning of the end?  I flashed back to Portland when a row of doctors faced me and laid out Perry’s prognosis. They had given him a 15 percent six months in various rehabilitation facilities, it was clear chance of survival. that he had severe cognitive deficits. He had short-term   memory loss and didn’t initiate speech. Although he regained the ability to walk, he had problems with his “What do you mean by ‘quite sick’?” I asked.  19