health update

Wes has actually been reading back through the posts about Sam. They go back a couple of years now (!). I just read one of the very first ones to Sam (maybe it is the actual “first” one) – “Ah… main man is back!
Sam says, “I spent more time thinking about death then than I do now.” That first year we talked about it alot, but then Sam “adapted. I got adjusted.” Wes asks, “What put Sam in the nursing home?”
“Well,” Sam says, “I was driving to Keene. A woman who’s since died was in the car with me. I realized that I couldn’t drive carefully enough. I put myself in Eden Park. It has trees on both sides. I can see them looking out my window. I went to Vernon Green, and they didn’t have trees. Thompson House also didn’t have visible trees.
“I have a large room with a large window. The walls are covered with paintings and photographs. More paintings than photographs.” (Sam calls the photographs his “Rogue’s Gallery.”)

“The paintings were done by Lorraine Sullivan and Phil Young. They are married. Lorraine doesn’t use Phil’s last name. If I was talking with you, Wes, I would say, ‘You know Easterners are like that.'”
Sam does speak, but it takes time and effort. He’s speaking quite clearly today, compared with other times when he’s tired or not feeling well. He does slur his speech sometimes, and it seems to me the issues have become more mechanical than cognitive, although the cognitive bit still shows up once in a while. The medical issue is deterioration of the cerebellum.
“I see Dr. Daly next week. I don’t know when exactly … they assume that I’ll be here regardless of the time they come.”
I do too! (That got a smile outta Sam.) 🙂
The move from Sam’s wonderful home in Putney to Eden Park took some time. He stopped driving in 2000, staying in the house for another year before moving to the nursing home. He got in-home personal assistance for awhile, but there were issues with him falling, and general difficulties getting around that hastened the transition. Sam took care of his legal affairs, sold the house to his long-time neighbors (practically family), and moved.
“My hands have gotten worse, I know.” It’s true. The legs seemed to be the first to go. Sam can still just barely support his own weight on them if someone else lifts him and helps him balance. I (and a few others) still take him out on the town; we can pivot him in/out of the wheelchair to the car and back again. The speech stuff showed up next – luckily it hasn’t declined as fast as the legs. The arms and hands were next. Sam can still manipulate things, but it takes some combination of patience, willpower, and focused concentration that one can only hope to emulate. “Hmm mmm”, says Sam as I just read this outloud to him.
“I don’t read. Everything is read to me.” It started with his eyes – they tear up and he can’t see. He just told me he’ll have to have an operation for cataracts. Now, it’s a combination of the blurry vision and the difficulty with grasping/holding things. “The past two or three months, it takes me awhile to focus.”
My last few visits, I’ve noticed some issues with Sam’s hearing. “My hearing is generally good, but there are periods when its not so good.” I wonder if its worse when he’s sick. “Perhaps. I have to go up to the Veteran’s and have them check. It’ll save me about $1000 dollars to have them do the testing.”
With all these physical ailments, one wouldn’t be surprised if there were deleterious effects on the mind and spirit, however, Sam seems as sharp as ever. 🙂 He still loves bawdy humor and follows politics with a great deal of interest. His passionate viewpoints are on display in his room: an effigy of Bush with flames coming out of his cowboy boots, and a framed faux Time magazine cover after Bush was elected in 2004 (I won’t say re-elected), proclaiming: “We are FUCKED.”
(BIG smile outta Sam when I read the preceding to him!)
“However, these images do not detract from the paintings. I find the Time cover laying face down sometimes. Either the nurses or one of the aides does that.” Oh well! They were pretty upset when Sam insisted on hanging his rusted metal welcome sign in the hall near his door because it’s an image of a naked couple, genitalia included. Sam refuses to succumb to stereotypes about old people. Period.

4 thoughts on “health update”

  1. Stephanie: Thanks for the update on Sam.
    I have different friend who is suffering from Progressive Supranuclear Paulsy (PSP) and your description of Sam’s condition parallels many of the manifestations of PSP. This condition is often misdiagnosed as ALS.
    Are you a relative of Sam’s?

  2. Is there such a thing as an adopted relative? 🙂 Sam knew my parents (David and Elaine Kent) before I was born. He was always Uncle Sam. When I moved east in 1993 we connected as adults and it’s been ever so grand!

  3. Thanks, Steph for the updates. Makes me very sad though. Also makes me feel as though I am in super good health!
    I’d bet Sam’s trees are turning a gorgeous color right about now….ours around my townhouse are beginning. I hope to drive to Grand Mesa (1,000′)elevation to see if there are any golden aspen leaves left.
    God bless you for all you do!

  4. Ahhh,Sam
    It’s been awhile since I posted anything. Seems
    we have the same afflictions going on here, but with my yellow lab, Barney.He can’t get up by himself, poops wherever he is, can’t hear(thunderstorm today confirmed that) and he has cataracts. Do I put him down? NO!!! Why? Because he still has dignity , despite all of these ailments. He has love and a spirit that I do not have the choice to make for him.
    You have the same in you. You have a love and spirit for life that I will never forget.
    I remember sitting on our deck, watching fall set in. Time to take up the garden, get the wood in for the winter, and maybe some oil for backup.
    Sam, you will always be a part of my life that I will truly cherish.
    Keep healthy, Sam
    Love, Jean

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