This is a daunting section to write. I will inevitably leave out names of people who should have been included. As I said, probably 1000 people were involved in my recovery and it seems only a matter of chance that I know some of them and not others. So let me begin by thanking all those who should have been acknowledged here and are not. Please forgive me.
At MGH how can I possibly thank Drs. Kris Kahle, Matthew Koch, Vijay Yanamadala and the other members of the neurological team that operated on me, or Dr. Ron Hirschberg, the director of physical medicine and neurological rehabilitation, who befriended me? Or that unknown doctor who challenged me by telling me I would never walk again.
Three MGH therapists, Lara Hirner, Christina M. Jelenik and Nicole Skrzyniarz, have become lifelong friends. They cared for me at MGH. They visited me at Spaulding and at the VA hospital in West Roxbury. We have entertained them for dinner at our apartment. We expect to be invited to their weddings.
I thank Ida, the opera singing nurse, who treated me with such kindness. Let her stand for all the nurses in the ICU and the care unit who took such marvelous care of me when I had no idea of what was happening to me.
At Spaulding I thank Emily, Keri and Leslie. I thank the aides who came in every morning and manhandled me into wakefulness. I thank the dietitian who helped Nancy improve my protein level. But most of all I thank Lachelle, the case manager, who recognized that I might be eligible for admission to the VA hospital.
At the VA hospital I thank Dr. Jayawardena, my primary care physician, for shepherding me so beautifully through my rehabilitation. I thank Dr. Sunil Sabharwal, Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Department for his good humor, support and friendship. Dr. David Powell, a fellow on the ward, is one of the wisest doctors I know. I thank him for his advice, to me and especially to Nancy. I thank Dr. Foo, my first attending physician at the hospital who told me that my bladder would work again. He was right. I thank all the members of CARF, who met with me every week and were tolerant of my interruptions. I thank Dr. Stephen Gaehde of the emergency room, who wisely lanced my MRSA with a No. 11 scapel and who otherwise radiated competence.
There is no way I can remember all of the nurses and nurse’s aides who took care of me for 4 ½ months, coddling me when I was an infant, encouraging me when I began to grow up. Here’s a list of some of: Alicia, Amber, Amy, Bonnie, Brian, Carolyn, Christine, Christopher, Cindy, Donald, Emma, Heidi, Joan, Jonathan, Kathleen, Kelley, Kelly, Kysa, Laura, Leah, Lisa, Maryanne, Melissa, Michele, Nick, Patrick, Rachel, Regina, Sandra, Sean, Sharon, and Trinh. I would like to thank Tracey and Nancy, my social worker and case manager for smoothing the way when it needed something.
I thank Meg Allen in the allergy clinic and Bret, in prosthetics, who did such a brilliant job of mending my wheelchair after its back was broken.
There is Tim Schmoke, the industrial engineer, who came back after he had already gone home to make sure that my computer was set up properly. And then there is Eddie Mitchell, the painter, who loaned me a CD player and reams of jazz CDs while I was an inpatient. Eddie was the personification of caring at the VA hospital.
Beth, Laurie and Carol in the outpatient clinic office were superb at handling the numerous emergencies and appointments with calm and skill. I thank Jeanette for clearing all those bottlenecks after I got home.
I want to thank Debra Freed, Executive Director of the New England chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America for reading a version of this book and making many excellent suggestions as well as for her unstinting efforts to keep the VA safe from its predators.
The therapists at the VA gymnasium were to me what Virgil was to Dante when he guided him through hell. Jess Allen and Barbara Brintnall deserve the lioness’ share of credit for getting me to walk again. They, along with Teresa Czepiel, my occupational therapist, and Eileen and Jim, my pool therapists, breathed life back into me. Kara and Bernadette, occupational therapists themselves, picked up where Teresa left off. I will never be able to thank them enough.
Others in the gymnasium offered their help when it was appropriate, Lee, Michelle, Heather, Diane, Amy, Mr. Lee.
Linda Hutchinson, Nancy’s niece, gave us a week away from her family and her job at a point when we sorely needed help moving into our new apartment. The moral support of her presence prepared us for the next stage of their lives.
Once I joined Nancy in our new apartment, a stream of caregivers helped us make the tremendous adjustment workable. They came from a firm called Always Here Homecare. They did a remarkable job supplying us with simpatico caregivers. I remember, Courtney, Lashea Renee (whose nickname, Lash, I gave her and it stuck), TeeTee, Shaquana, Brittany, Billy, Jean-Yves, Rosa and their brothers and sisters. I don’t remember all their names. Please forgive me. Then there was Gwen, the visiting nurse who brought me a frog made out of clamshells after her visit to Puerto Rico.
I can’t thank the friends who took the time to visit me at the hospital enough. They kept me connected in a way that was far more important than they ever knew. Joel Moses and his wife Peg, Gerry Sussman and Julia, Ted Porter, Morris Halle, Sylvain Bromberger, Steve Senturia, Ed Bertschinger, Donca Steriade, Barry Schein, Noam Chomsky and Valéria, Gita Manaktala, Nick Lindsay, Everett Longstreth, Cliff Weeks, Ellen Faran, Paul Levy, who graciously agreed to write the foreword for this book and his wife Farzana Mohamed, whose personal and moral support was like water in a desert.
Larry Bacow and his wife Adele, Robert Birgeneau, Ellen Harris, Phil Khoury, and Rosalind Williams were with me from the beginning and offered me countless moments of support. Thank you for keeping me in the circle.
Thanks to George and Gaby Whitehouse who supported me in my ordeal while they were facing theirs. That kind of friendship is hard to come by. I won’t ever forget their love and loyalty.
The grande dame of Fisher House, Elizabeth St. Pierre, opened the doors of that wonderful institution to Nancy and me. Nancy spent many weekends overnight there receiving help and support from Elizabeth and her solicitous staff, Brian and Janice. The opportunity for Nancy to live with other family members in the same boat if only for a few days at a time was incredibly nurturing. Fisher House is an oasis in a desert of uncertainty.
Thank you, Mike Strauss, for that plastic pBone and for your incredible generosity helping us in the new apartment. Thank you Bill Birtles, Bobby McGinnis, Dan McGinnis and Roland Paquette for visiting me at the VA and then for those uplifting Dixieland jam sessions at my place when I came home. Thank you, Aardvark Jazz Orchestra members, Peter H. Bloom, Taylor Ho Bynum, Arni Cheatham, K.C. Dunbar, Jerry Edwards, John Funkhouser, Grace Hughes, Bill Lowe, Jeff Marsanskis, Richard Nelson, Bob Pilkington, Chris Rakowski, Phil Scarff, Jeanne Snodgrass Harry Wellott and Dan Zupan. Thanks to you, Aardvark progenitor, Mark Harvey, for making the band a beacon that helped guide me back from the edge and to you and your wife, Kate Matson and to Rebecca DE LaMotte and your husband, Peter, for remembering me during the dark days.
Thank you, Sheelah Ward, my wonderful assistant for helping me to keep my journal going so seamlessly that our readers never know I was injured.
Thank you, Anne Mark, for what seems like a lifetime of friendship, for being the best copy editor in the business, for being so loyal to me and so helpful to Sheelah.
My children, Beth and Ben, were with me every step of the way in their presence when they could and in their thoughts, always.
Thanks to you, Deborah Chasman, for being my editor and my friend. Without you there would be no book.
Finally, it will be apparent to anyone who has read this far that there is no way I could ever have found my way out of the Minotaurian maze of my injury without my wife, Nancy Kelly. She is as important to my recovery as the neurosurgeons who opened up my back, shaved my spinal column and repaired the hole at the base of my brain. There simply are no words large enough to thank her.
“I love you” will have to do.