All but one of us shared Thanksgiving turkey. All of us are thankful.
My beloved wife, Tina Su Cooper, is quadriplegic, fed through a gastric tube. She nearly died seven years ago, due to pneumonia caused by a bit of food she inhaled, during or soon after an exacerbation of her multiple sclerosis. Her temperature went from normal to over 103oF in a few hours, and she was transported to the Critical Care Unit of our local hospital, suffering from a life-threatening pneumonia that rapidly developed into systemic septicemia. She was put into a therapeutic coma and thus began a hundred-day battle to save her life. Formerly paraplegic, she became quadriplegic. Formerly able to breath on her own, Tina became ventilator-dependent. Formerly able to eat, she must now rely on a gastric tube. And yet, she had survived, when the doctors thought she would not.
Seven and a half years ago, in releasing Tina from the hospital, the doctors had given us the choice of home care or hospice. Not expected to live more than a few months, she was allowed to go home, to around-the-clock critical care nursing, with a list of conditions, medications and necessary procedures that was daunting. That was June 2004. We hoped she would live through the summer. The next goal was Thanksgiving 2004, then Christmas. If she lived, April 3, 2005 would be her sixty-first birthday; June 2nd of that year, our twenty-first wedding anniversary. And so it went. With my IBM retirement medical benefits, we continued 24-hour nursing care. We made it to Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and now 2011. Each day, week, month, and year has been a triumph, a not-so-small miracle, for which we are thankful daily.
Thanksgiving 2011: all of us but Tina dined on turkey and on the rest of a traditional Thanksgiving meal: Mom, my sister and Tina’s sister [Dr. Irene Su So], our son [Phil Chiang], my brother and his wife and their two sons. Tina had her balanced nutritional liquid and various medications and supplements supplied with gravity feeding throughout the day, via her gastric tube. She and we are thankful, though. She would rather pass up turkey and live another day. Amen.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is the author of Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, available through amazon.com bn.com, or the web site tingandi.com.