Showing posts from October, 2006


As I stood in the doorway just now, waving goodbye and watching her toting 40lbs of complaining pussycats on their way to the vet, I realized it is time once again to raise my voice in praise of that superhero called Lisa. Lisa , of course, does everything I cannot. Right now, this means she does almost everything for us. This is the hardest part of my recovery. Not the physical discomfort, the restricted mobility, the fatigue, the boredom, the uncertainty of it all–– but the fact that Lisa is now burdened with all things domestic on top of her responsibilities at work. So join me, won't you, in singing her praises, dedicating equestrian statues to her, or perhaps writing a Broadway musical about her superheroic feats. And, oh yeah, if you're tempted this evening to call upon her to rescue kittens from trees or defeat diabolic schemes, please resist–– she deserves a night off.

all this time....

On Halloween, nine months will have passed since Robb's accident. During all this, time has taken on an unreal quality for me. Parts of the day of the accident have been burned in my brain indelibly, while other details seem distant and hazy. I can recall far too much of the conversations that Robb and I overheard in the emergency room triage area. But I'm unclear on which members of our family I spoke to during the afternoon while Robb was being prepped for the neurosurgery. I do recall asking people not to call me right away, because I knew that there were only so many times I could tell this story. This, initially, is why I started the blog. I needed some space, and I couldn't bring myself to tell the story over and over again. I needed a way of communicating information without exposing my heart too much. Everything was too raw, I was terrified and on edge, and I needed a buffer. And the funny thing is that over the months, the function of the blog has shifted.

a really lovely weekend

I'm a bit tired so I'm going to rely on photos to tell about the glorious weekend we had. We took our wheels out to Point Pinole, which is an odd park next to a correctional facility. You can hear birds singing, children playing, and prisoners doing some kind of call-and-response exercising. I haven't figured out most of the features of my new camera, and we didn't see any particularly exotic birds, but there were some nice moments, such as this white-crowned sparrow drinking out of a bucket of water. These terns. There was also a dead California sea lion, bobbing around under the fishing pier. If you must see it, click here . I dutifully reported it to the Marine Mammal Center, and got a call from someone at the California Academy of Sciences. He was hoping that the carcass wasn't very near people, because doing a necropsy is upsetting for park visitors. We met Kara and Ellen (who is in town for a conference) for dinner, and again the next day for a hike. I ha

a little birdie

Robb bought me a beautiful new camera, and I'm trying to teach myself how to use it. I'm currently experimenting with the mysteries of depth of field.


To all of you who wrote in comments, called, sent cards and gifties and dropped by to celebrate with us last night: Thank you! We had a great time yesterday. Now it's off for more adventures... it looks like it's going to be a glorious weekend here. —Robb & Lisa

News Flash!

LISA(scenic) SET TO CELEBRATE @#TH BIRTHDAY TOMORROW [Oakland Calif.]-- In other news Robb & Lisa, Inc. will mark its 16th anniversary on the very same day. Worldwide celebrations are planned. Revelers in Berkeley, Calif. will be congregating at the Jupiter on Shattuck (across from the BART) for happy-houring activities. All of humanity will be united in celebration back in the garden starting around 5 o'clock. Please stop by if you're in the neighborhood.


Because he can neither feel nor control the bottoms of his feet, Robb loses his balance a lot. This is why he had to use a "walker" when he was first re-learning to walk, and why he uses a cane when he goes out of the house. Robb continues to work with his therapists on this issue. He used to have to use his arms like a tight-rope walker, but can now cross his arms in front of his chest and stand without losing his balance. Of course, when he does this with his eyes closed, and shoes off, it is a different story. Last night while I was cooking dinner, Robb started to lose his balance. Normally, this is no big deal. But this time, Robb got really excited, because for the first time, he used his toes to correct himself. We made a suitably big deal out of this milestone. Then Robb proceeded to try to replicate the experience, and spent a lot of time almost falling over. Oh well, if he did it once, perhaps he'll be able to do it again. And again. And again.

Messages getting through?

In the late eighteenth century, an Italian scientist by the name of Luigi Galvani observed that the legs of dead frogs convulsed when an electrically charged metal scalpel made contact with the frog's sciatic nerve. This discovery eventually led to our current understanding of nerve cells as transmitters of electrical impulses. Early in Robb's recovery, he was issued a machine, which was to be used to electrically stimulate some of his leg muscles. The machine had adhesive electrodes that would be applied to Robb's legs, and through which mild electrical energy would run. The intention was to keep the muscles that were not enervated (or not getting electrical impulses from Robb's damaged nerves) from atrophying. Although Robb and the therapists spent a lot of time and effort in finding the "sweet spot" on Robb's leg, they never had much success. They would move the electrodes around Robb's leg, without managing to get the muscles to react in the way

Sunday, belatedly

I never did write anything about our outing to Bay Farm Island, which may have been described as "birding in the 'burbs." Sunday was another glorious sunny day. The birds were out in force, and this time we could actually see them. So often, we joke that the birds are laughing at our feeble attempts to locate the source of their sounds. This little fellow is a chestnut backed chickadee . He is America's western chickadee. This is a black phoebe . Another Western bird. An Anna's hummingbird . This is a truly tiny bird. She weighs less than a nickel. Having handled an injured Anna's, I can tell you that holding such a tiny creature is a truly amazing experience. These little birds are tough. Hummingbirds think they are the biggest, fiercest creatures in the air. We usually locate them because they "scold" us as we walk by their perches. While Robb had been waiting for me to catch up with him (he took the wheelchair and was outpacing me) he w

how to re-connect?

Robb and I have been working in the arts, and particularly in theater for quite a number if years. It is a rewarding field, but in some ways, it is a bit like migrant labor. We go where the jobs are. Robb and I met in Maryland, and over the years either one of both of us have lived in Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Connecticut, and now California. Robb has also toured extensively as an actor, performing in Scotland, the Netherlands, and most of the United States. We have lots of practice in packing up all our possessions and moving to a city where we know nobody at all. We also have gotten quite good at living apart from one another. When I ran the paint shop for the Glimmerglass Opera, I would spend three months living in rural New York State, and would only see Robb occasionally. Amazingly, this has never put a great strain on our relationship. We both seem to relish the challenges of life in a new place, and new adventures. But our here-today-and-gone-tomo

Contrast and Change

Robb and I went out walking yesterday. Thanks to a suggestion by our friend Lea, we discovered another bit of wild space in the middle of Oakland. Robb took the trekking poles, and we did a short but pleasant hike. See that tiny bright blue dot at the end of the path? That's Robb. I had been thinking about how, when Robb was first home from the hospital, we would go on outings where the extent of the hike would be to go from the car to the nearest bench or picnic table, and then stay there. On those early outings, Robb had great trouble walking if the ground was anything other than golf-course smooth and flat. The walk yesterday started with a steep decline, on very uneven terrain. I think we probably walked a half a mile, altogether. This may not sound like much, but that is because most of you weren't in the room during the early early days, where walking one hundred feet in a therapy gym was a huge accomplishment. After our walk, we drove to Piedmont (an affluent and

sorry to disappoint you

If the blog has been a bit silly of late, it is because nothing very notable has been going on, and I have been trying to keep myself amused. When people ask me how Robb is doing these days, I tend to say that participating in his recovery is like watching glaciers move. Something powerful must be going on, but it is imperceptable to the human eye. In any event, Robb has gotten over the fever, and will be resuming physical therapy tomorrow. A while back we stumbled across a service that allows us to look at where the "hits" to the blog are coming from. Generally, it isn't very insightful, as it thinks I work in Plano Texas, and live in Los Angeles California. We recently noticed our first visitor who came upon the blog while searching on Google. I'm not able to ascertain what word or phrase they were searching, but they ended up yesterday's entry, which was entitled "Nice Legs." I'll bet they were disappointed!

Nice Legs!

A number of years ago, I dislocated my knee. My kneecap slipped completely out of place, and I had to make the icky decision to whack the kneecap back into place myself, rather than waiting an hour or two for the people at the hospital to do the job for me. I figured that I had better move fast, before the "shock" wore off. My recovery was a tedious and painful process, and for much of it, I had my injured leg immobilized in a rigid ankle-to-hip brace. I remember going to the beach with friends, and taking off the brace, looking at my legs and bursting into tears. My uninjured leg had gotten so muscular so quickly that it was covered in stretch marks. My injured leg had atrophied so severely that the largest part of the leg was my knee. My thigh was actually concave. I had been expecting something of this sort to happen to Robb, but, in fact, it has not. He may not be able to control or feel large portions of his legs, but, for the most part, they look the same as they

scary home haircuts as physical therapy

Robb has been needing a haircut. On Monday, we made plans for him to take the bus into Berkeley, get his hair cut, and meet me when I got off work from the theater. Public transportation had other plans, however. While he was standing at the bus stop, not one, but two, buses drove past Robb without stopping. Robb manages to keep his sense of humor about this sort of thing, and gleefully recounted how he got to do his "best old man act: hobbling after the bus, and waving my cane angrily in the air." I was chatting with some friends tonight, and told them that I was going to have to leave to the conversation because I had promised to give Robb a haircut, and needed to go find the perfect bowl. Kelli immediately replied, "Nuuu not the bowl!!! Get up and RUN Robb!!!! And I thought, if only it were that simple? What if proper motivation was all that was holding Robb back from being able to run? (With all the cat hair that gets produced at this house, I have long been th

A Delightful Weekend

Saturday was a quiet day for us. Robb has been having a lot of trouble with muscle spasticity, where his muscles clench up and don't release. This is painful and exhausting, and has been the norm these days. Although this wears him out, he actually has a lot more energy than he used to. We choose to take this as a good sign. On Saturday morning, we met with one of our letterboxing friends at the farmers' market for a cup of coffee. John is the Old Blue half of DoubleSaj & Old Blue. They are a wonderful couple, who created special letterbox as a get well gift for Robb when he first came home from the hospital. The rest of the day was spent resting (Robb) and attempting to clean up the apartment (me and the robotic vacuum ). I need some help hauling things down the stairs. We're drowning in items that need to go to the Goodwill. I had to stop by the theater Saturday night for a meeting with the scenic designer, so Robb and I made an outing of it, and followed t

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Some day, I think Robb and I should give up our art careers, and become internet scam detectives. Since my hit-and-run accident , we have been quietly shopping around for a new car. We would like a used station wagon, preferably one that doesn't suck down a huge amount of gasoline. Really, I would just like my old car back (only with slightly better gas mileage). One car that caught our eye is the VW Jetta diesel turbo wagon , which we could run on biodiesel. Unfortunately, these are a relatively new model, and are not in our price range. I want to buy the car outright, and not have to worry about financing and car payments. So, Robb was amused when he saw listing on eBay for the 2004 version of this car, with the "buy it now" price of $6,200, and an offer of free shipping to anywhere in the United States. Robb often describes himself as an internet scam magnet. When we were shopping for our current computer, many nice people in Bulgaria made all sorts of astonishi

A Story from the Frontiers of Medicine

I came across a story recently I thought I'd share. Fourteen years ago, a Canadian named John Bannon suffered an all-too-familiar accident/injury. He fell into a shallow swimming pool and struck the bottom. Before he could even float to the surface he was so completely debilitated, he couldn't move his arms or legs or even a draw breath. His friend, a former ambulance driver, saw what happened and went in after him, fighting off all the others who, naturally, wanted to drag their friend out of the pool. It was a good thing too, John Bannon had severely injured his upper spinal cord. Moving him at all might have made his situation even worse. Many months of physical therapy followed during which he managed to regain the ability to stand and breathe on his own as well as the use of his arms. His condition pretty much stabilized and another dozen years went by. Earlier this year he was offered the chance to participate in a study for a new drug called Fampridine which is d

why I love the internet

As Robb and I no longer get up at the same time, I have taken to eating breakfast with the internet. I'm not being an efficient multi tasker who is solving all the world's problems while planning nutritious meals for the next week. Nope. I'm tossing the ever-loving, ever-curious cats off the computer keyboard and am generating the mental equivalent of white noise. In other words, I'm waking up. But I do manage to stumble on some wonderful things, from time to time. Here is an artist/engineer who created an arcade simulator game where the player assumes the role of an infirm person, trying to cross a busy street. Brilliant. If I understand this device correctly, a little diorama spins around, and the player walks on a treadmill, watching the dirama on a video screen. The player tries to avoid being run over, but if they get into trouble, there are "stock" videos of the mayhem that ensues. I suspect that Robb would be very good at this game. He has lots of pra

Fever Heat, Blood Heat

Robb is still not feeling better. We managed to get a doctor's appointment, but the fact that the lab hadn't even started working on the tests that Robb had done two days ago made the doctor's answers somewhat inconclusive. I hope that Robb is going to be able to sleep. Things have not been going well, and he was awake most of the night. He woke me around 5am, because whilst powdering his nose, he had almost fainted. You can imagine that was pretty upsetting for both of us. In any case, Robb is now taking an antibiotic, and hopefully the tests will show that it is the correct antibiotic for this current infection.

a day at home

So, it turns out that Robb's fever was most likely the result of a bladder infection resulting from his spinal cord injury. I drove him to a lab for some tests today, and we're awaiting results. He no longer has a fever, but has very low energy, and had a quiet day at home. Since I worked on Sunday, I took today off, and tried to catch up on some housework. I'm not sure why, but I've been particularly un-energetic when I get home from work. And, thus, the housework has been piling up. An amusing thing about doing a lot of laundry at one time is the opportunity to make observations about one's taste in clothes. Linguine took the opportunity to deposit more cat hair in the laundry basket, bypassing the clothes altogether.