The Unexpected Present

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Recovery Road

photo of leaves

FRIDAY 7:45 P.M. Despite being taken “for a ride” from Westchester into New Jersey by two EMTs who have never ever been to New Jersey. They take Yuri to the wrong Kessler campus in West Orange and make their way to Chester hitting every pothole they could find. It’s late when they finally arrive. I could only breathe a sigh of relief.

The first day’s drive to Kessler Institute in Chester, New Jersey, is a slower, meandering back road for me instead of the craziness of the major highways into Westchester with every white vehicle simulating Star Wars Storm Troopers ready to run me off the road. I arrive to a quiet, bucolic, country setting with gardens and pathways surrounding the facility.

As I enter Yuri’s room, I see a totally different environment from the depressing setting reminiscent of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest to a sunlit space and ground-floor view of the beautifully landscaped courtyard. His nurse tells me he is still outside for his therapy session. Excellent!

When he gets back, I see visible improvements from a desperate prisoner tethered and tortured by an unfeeling night nurse to an escapee embracing his newly acquired freedom. Yuri tells me how great it is to be outdoors, the sun on his face, the breeze over his skin. It reminds him of Lola, one of his cats brought into our family when we married.

My Nell was not amused by the addition; however, in time she made efforts to instruct Lola on being an outdoor cat respecting the backyard perimeters, and staying close to home. We watched Lola’s enjoyment sitting in the grass, motionless. A soft breeze floated by and we saw how she embraced the feeling of a breeze on her whiskers for the first time in her life. A moment of sudden insight. Her AHA moment of discovery. Being outdoors for the first time in two months is a genuine moment of gratitude for Yuri.

But it’s not home-free. The real work is just beginning. Schedules are set for the week: physical and occupational therapy, medical team assessments for damage done to the trachea, larynx, and vocal cords, speech pathology treatments, swallowing assessment– all things we take for granted. Above all else is maintaining his respiratory health and monitoring the reduction of the major meds necessary to kill the pathogen invasions.

It’s a tough schedule but Yuri is motivated and gaining strength every day. While we don’t know how long it will be, I know he’ll be back. Yesterday he asked for his violin.

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