Friday, June 1, 2012

Hopeful (Discomfort)


“Medicine is an art, not a science,” explained a friend recently, as I struggled with misdiagnoses and conflicting reports.

“Fifteen people looked at my wife’s images,” he continued, “and only one analyzed it correctly.”



(pictured, Dr. Dog, a 7-foot mixed media on chrome, from the collection of Lafayette General Hospital as part of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts' Art for Healing Program; more on mixed medias at this link; click photo to enlarge-)

I’ve thought a lot recently about opinions, specifically about how we view others, how our egos guide us into dangerous errors and, without mentioning specifics, how hero-worship precludes not only effective analyses, but also focused concern.  After trying for years, I've finally mastered answering well-meaning, impossible questions like "How's George?" or, worse, "How are you?" with a question, lest I drift into overreaction or, worse, reality.

The word “hopeful” haunts me within emails and conversation, losing its meaning in repetition.  Articles and websites mention the latest medical procedures as “hopeful,” not to mention the word's proliferation within personal health blogs, support groups and, until this realization, my own email updates.  As I sat in another hospital waiting room today, author Liza Campbell admitted, “I do not feel at all hopeful,” on the pages of A Charmed Life, a gift, pre-crisis, from my sister Heather.

I asked George about the word, but he claims not to have noticed.  

“Discomfort,” he declares.  “That’s the word of the month.  If one more doctor or disclaimer mentions ‘discomfort,’ I’ll scream.  ‘Discomfort’ means pain for days, especially the promised ‘discomfort’ as they send you home on the Friday of a holiday weekend.  Discomfort, HA!”


(pictured, Doctor on the Bayou by George Rodrigue; detailed at this link-)

I wonder, had I questioned the hopeful doctors and fought with the hopeful nurses, would my mother be alive today?  Instead, my ego guided me, as I worried more about interrupting the stressed health care workers than addressing her discomfort, an issue that even I, a medical novice, noted with suspicion.

The oil paints and especially the spray varnishes that assaulted George’s body with hepatitis in the mid-1980s returned with a vengeance in recent months, despite his switch years ago to acrylic paint. 

“Many nights I fell into bed as the room spun around me.  It’s the reason I moved my studio from Jefferson Street to Landry’s,” explains George. “I couldn’t breathe anymore in the attic.  I don’t know if it was those forty paintings or what…”

… recalling the paintings from the book Bayou, a project for the 1984 World’s Fair, including the first Blue Dog painting.  Despite the move, however, George continued to poison himself, painting the Saga of the Acadians, several presidential portraits, and numerous early Blue Dog works all in oil before a doctor diagnosed the source of his illness.


(pictured, George Rodrigue at his easel, mid-1980s; click photo to enlarge-)

“I don’t want to hear about these problems anymore,” said George recently. “I only want to make art.”

Twenty-five years later those same toxins ate away his L-1 vertebrae, nearly collapsing his spine until a savior, a single doctor, recognized the crisis on an MRI last week, after half a dozen others dismissed George’s pain as ordinary discomfort.  The surgeon filled his vertebrae with concrete, securing his spine just days before paralysis.  

I asked him before surgery if George would be fine.  The doctor replied,

“We have every reason to be hopeful.”

Are you depressed? If yes, explain…, asks the hospital forms.  I hesitate, Of course he’s depressed! I want to scream, Who wouldn’t be?!  But that would be a tirade, so unlike me, and, for better or worse I mark “no.”

 “He is already well,” stated a friend earlier this week.  “Remember that, whatever the doctors say and whatever the test results."

He has a good brain…. I thought to myself as George entered his brain scan the following day.


And I was right.

Wendy

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14 comments:

  1. Oh Wendy,
    How the pulse of your life-force flows so directly to that "brain", onto your keypad and into our hearts. We read. We think we hear. We reread to fathom the depth of emotion behind the words. We make comparisons and personal life-story analyses. We refract the dimensions of your reflections to reflect upon George. While wistfully searching for words, I walk into Marion's office.
    There, on the wall directly in front of his desk, is a simple lacquered plaque with a handwritten salutation, "To Marion-One who knows! From his friend, Edmond Reggie." I divert to the boldly printed quote by Domingo Ortega.
    "Bullfight critics ranked in rows
    Crowd the enormous Plaza full;
    But only one is there who knows--
    And he's the man who fights the bull."
    George, as you face the Bull, dance with stealth, my friend.
    Lovingly.
    Penny & Marion

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  2. Wendy you have an amazing gift which transports the reader to your side as those present with you. I pray many blessings to you both.

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  3. I am hopeful............Always. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Grounds for believing that something good will happen.

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  4. Hope George is on the mend!! And the Good Luck to the Nurse!! Love your writing, always pulls you in.

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  5. Damn, George kills my plan that the good brains should all be in lucite boxes, unfettered by the vagaries of bodily malfunctions, freefloating and sharing our thoughts and sounds. You could do that, a Wendy-brain-thinker-slash-writer.But he needs those hands for the images, and those hands are attached to a decades-old apparatus. Oh, phooey, as long as we're projecting into a Matt Groening future, his lucite box can have finely calibrated robotic parts that feel no pain and do as he wishes.

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    Replies
    1. Patty, You're killing us! Thanks for the laugh. -Wendy and George

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  6. Oh so sorry Wendy and George...Without hope there may be no reason to live...without extremes and polarities there may be no need to create or invent. Therein lies one of life's paradox.

    Thank God for the one physician who thought outside the box and created a plan to help George. Hope you both get some rest and feel better soon. I have yet to come to terms on who it is more draining on - the caregiver or the patient.We feel for both of you!

    We are going through some of the same scenarios here. Aging is not for the faint of heart. With love, Karen and John E. Bradshaw, Sr.

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  7. Many thanks for your thoughtful comments, everyone. I've enjoyed sharing your words with George as well. He is feeling better every day and looks forward to returning soon to his easel. Take good care of yourselves- Wendy

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  8. Wendy and George,
    I've been praying for George and asking others to do the same.
    Love ya

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  9. Wendy and George,

    Thinking of you both and wishing a speedy recovery and easy, blue skies ahead.

    All the best,
    Christine and Mike

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  10. Wendy, I just today saw a post from Melissa Bonin
    which directed Acadiana readers to your blog. I am piecing together several postings and it seems that George has had surgery on his spine. Whatever it is, Carl and I wish you both strong healing powers and the ability to continue to laugh out loud. We know how important it is during
    hard times. I will now now what's up as I will be following your blog. Big love, Susan and Carl Brazell

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  11. I'm so glad to hear that George is on the mend. I have been a fan since the day I walked into a little gallery in New Orleans festooned with Blue Dogs of every size, many, many moons ago. I picked up a little postcard advertisement which I have clung to these many years, have added books with pictures of his collections, but nothing replaces the vibrancy of his originals. I love, love, love the chrome series. My love for his works only grows with time and one day....one day soon, I will own an original Rodrigue. So, to you both, live long and prosper..God has you in his loving hands!

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  12. Such wonderful messages, everyone. Many, many thanks from me- and especially from George - who continues to mend during this Summer of Healing, 2012. Wendy

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