Good Night Dave

Last night I said goodnight to a venerable broadcaster, David Letterman. I have followed his career for three decades. It started one night at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo TX. I was attending training there. One night coming back from the NCO club, I heard raucous laughter from a third floor room. The next day, I asked the inhabitants of the room what was so damn funny. They then introduced me to “Late Night with David Letterman.”

The show followed me to to my next base in Hawaii. My friends and I worked 3 day shifts, 3 swing shifts, 3 night shifts and finally 3 days off. Mondays thru Thursdays the VCR collected Late Night so whenever our shift was over we would gather in my room and see what Dave had to say. We never missed a show.

I remember saying during that time period that someday I would go to a live taping. I never did get to a “Late Night” taping, but I have been to five “Late Show” tapings. Had Dave gotten “The Tonight Show” I doubt I would ever have had the chance to see it live unless he taped in NYC. Fortunately, he lost out and Howard Stringer hired him and gave him the Ed Sullivan Theater as a venue.

Back somewhere around 1994, I started getting these curious CD’s in the mail from a company called AOL. I had dabbled in local BBS’s, but AOL promised international connections. Hooked. Suddenly, I can connect to like-minded folks around the world. Lo and behold there was a chat room dedicated to David Letterman. Hey there is a fan club and I’m now a member and golly there are no dues! Sign me up.

This AOL fan club has gravitated with the times from AOL to Usenet to Facebook. We count as members not only fans but a full spectrum of the Late Show staff which got their severance check yesterday. They have truly been wonderful to us devoted fans. The staff has welcomed us on to the stage after a taping, showered us with gifts and tours of the backstage and most all of allowed us to sit at Dave’s throne.

A month after my last opportunity to attend a show, my wife fell and became a quadriplegic. I reached out to writer Steve Young when we planning a benefit for her and asked for some Late Show stuff. He came thorough in the nicest way with vintage Late Night and Late Show gear. I had gotten some comedians to perform for the benefit and I was able to pay them with Dave swag. They were overwhelmed and said to me “We’ve never been paid for a gig before.” Thanks Steve!

Benjamin Franklin

once said – Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

I have spent days by Gina’s bedside carefully watching the skilled nurses tending to her needs. After a period of time they let me assist in her care. It was as simple as positioning her wheelchair underneath the Hoya lift, assisting with repositioning her in bed, or doing range of motion movements with her limbs. Once we got to rehab, I was allowed to become more involved.

Her life revolves around a ventilator to assist her with breathing through her tracheotomy incision. Without this assistance she cannot maintain an airflow to keep her alive. Tammy and I have both gone through the training on a “live” mannequin. Live in the sense of the word means it does breathe. I went through four repetitions of swapping out the trachea device and felt confident at that point to go the full route and perform it on Gina. This is something that will be needed monthly. It must be done quickly because she will be unable to breath normally during the swap. It needs one person to do the swap and a helping hand to assist. Gina was due for the swap that day, so I did it with a helping hand of my instructor. Gina and the instructor gave me an A.

The company who is supplying the ventilator here in Maine requires their instructors to sign off on Tammy’s and my proficiency before they will release the equipment to the house. We will be training here at our house mid-week to become certified.

Anxious/Anxiety

Two words that are close enough to be cousins and yet can be interpreted disparately.

Gina and I are anxious to get her home into a familiar environment where she can have family and friends visit at will without the restrictions of travel. This is a good feeling to have between us and I encourage her to look forward to it.

Gina and I both exhibit anxiety about the future ahead of us. It is an uncertain path we are both following together. The biggest obstacle we face is can our physical and mental health withstand the strain of everything to come before us. I have to hide my anxiety from her so as not to increase hers.

We have taken many large and small steps towards getting her home these past six months and I have found that continuing reassurance is tantamount to getting her over the threshold of our house.

She should be home shortly so the anxiousness will disappear, but the anxiety I fear will always be at our doorstep.

Shackles

One evening Gina was out with friends and a woman at the establishment she was at harassed her because of her small stature. Gina did not take too kindly to this and a confrontation ensued.  Gina came home and recounted how she stood up to a woman two feet taller than her and just plain out wailed on her with her fists. The woman called the police and Gina was nearly handcuffed and put into the back of the cruiser. Thankfully, the policeman looked at the two of them and talked the woman out of charges, probably knowing full well that that the charges would not have held up in a court of law.

Gina is shackled now to a hospital bed but the gumption she demonstrated that night hasn’t wavered. No one will keep her down if she can help it.

Roles

In a few days it will be six months since Gina’s fall changed our lives. In that time, we both grasped the enormity of the situation before us. She has  the lead role in this drama and I have the supporting actor part.

Gina is the breath of fresh air that keeps life to what we are witnessing and my role is just the supporting actor who keeps her character fresh.

I taped this movie one morning just before I proposed to Gina atop the Empire State Building. Little did I know how true to life it would become.

Google “An Affair to Remember”  Wikipedia explains it all.

Nursing

My aunt Judy was a nurse. She occupied the operating room at Mercy Hospital. She was also my second mother. Gina adored her. I brought Gina to her first holiday gathering with my family and my aunt thrust a beer into her hand, drew her into her living room and then let her loose into the fray, but checking back on her to see if she was okay.  Her actions left an indelible mark on Gina. She often mentions this when talking about our family. She felt welcome and comfortable in a delicate situation.

Gina has had a variety of nurses this past six months. A great majority of them have been outstanding. Many and I mean MANY have followed up on her care through the facilities she has been cared for since the fall. Gina has made such a mark in their lives that they deeply care for her after their shift overseeing  her is over, much like my late aunt Judy did with her.

SNAFU

That military acronym for “situation normal all f&$@ed up.” We fully expected Gina to be released to my care this week and then when the order went through to deliver a ventilator to the house the provider would not release one unless I and one other person completed their training program and in addition it would take up to two weeks to get a machine.

In a stroke of fortune, the case manager here at Crotched managed to find a place that will get a ventilator next week for Gina. Then Tammy and I can begin the training program here at Crotched that they require before releasing Gina into the wild.

Humor

Laughter is the best medicine. The late Robin Williams portrayed the iconic Doctor Wanna-be, Patch Adams in the film of the same name. He portrayed a medical student that used the art of clownage to lift the spirits of the sick.

They say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but a way to woman’s heart is to make her laugh.

I think we have both demonstrated both of those ways because my belly has always been full and her throat still exhales laughter at my joking asides.

Heartbreak

For Gina’s birthday one year, I presented her with a Cocker Spaniel puppy. He went unnamed for a couple of days, until she settled upon the monicker Seamus. A trait of Cocker Spaniels is that they bond to one member of the family.

Seamus truly bonded to Gina from the get go. He was steadfastly by her side as my faithful Cocker Spaniel, Malachy was by my side.

I had expected that Seamus would grow to be the same size as his brother Malachy, yet he stayed small in stature as if the bond with Gina was so tight that he wanted to be in comparable size to her footprint.

After Gina’s fall, I brought him in to the hospital to visit her and soon after the second visit he suffered a heart attack and I had to rush him to the vet where he went into an ICU like his human mother.

Seamus is now on a strict regimen of drugs to prevent a reoccurrence of the heart failure. My good friends Mark and Diego spend the days and nights with him when I am away tending to Gina.

I wonder if the heart attack Seamus suffered was a result of the heartbreak of seeing Gina suffer.