A few days ago, Wolf was released from Intensive Care and put back in a ward at the Hospital Blanco Cervantes in San José. This is hopefully the first step toward his release to go back to his home on the green mountain.
There are some conditions that have to be met before he can go: the most important being that he must be eating on his own. He has had the feeding tube stuck up his nose for over a week. It is uncomfortable and restrictive. Wolf is very aware that he’s gotta eat if they are to remove this miserable snake, even though he doesn’t have an appetite nor any desire for food.
So a couple of days ago, resigned to the reality, he opened his mouth and let the nurse shovel in “puree” – whipped potatoes. We remind him to swallow or he ends up with a mouth full of potatoey goop. Even though he took it well yesterday at lunch (with cheerleader Kay doing “yes you can’s” at his side), by night time, when his son Benito was there, he had run out of patience with the mash diet and was gagging and choking again. So today we will ask for soup and hopefully he’ll continue eating. Even though we all appreciate the necessity of eating, we also realize how miserable it is to be forced to eat when you don’t want anything.
Once we break him loose from the hospital, if he wants to stop eating, that is his prerogative. And it will be respected.
Wolf’s mental health is also a concern. He has now been without any anti-depressants for about twelve days and is quite calm and coherent (well, we actually don’t understand much of what he says, but that has to do with the difficulty of us understanding his speech, not him understanding us). His extreme talkative mania in December was the result of being given the wrong drugs. It is possible that once his system is cleared out of all these anti-psychotic medications, perhaps it won’t be necessary to give him anything. It is said that for older people, their manias and depressions aren’t as severe as when they were younger. It is also possible that Wolf’s confusion has been caused by strokes, infections, and age, so it is now important to move slowly while accessing his mental condition.
Another very important result of his return to the ward is that we can be there for ten hours of the day with him, and so we are back on a rotation, the Guindons, his nurse Stefany and I, along with the occasional surprise visitor. Each of us spend a few hours with Wolf, helping him be comfortable, talking to him and trying to understand his toothless-mumbles.
Wolf has perfected the art of rolling-the-eyes. Since he knows that we can’t decipher what he is trying to say most of the time, he uses his eyes and his forehead to great effect. He lets us know through the eye-rolling technique that something is either bothersome or of no importance. He also lets us know through lovely little squints and winks, that he is appreciative. The other day, this sloth gave me a nice little double-eyed blink, and I couldn’t help but think of Wolf.
The most celebratory aspect of the change is that because we are with him, they have untied his arms. Imagine being in a bed with your wrists tied to the bedrails for three weeks! He spent that purgatory mostly on his back, forced to sleep in a position that isn’t natural for him. Finally the nurses have let his arms loose and unwrapped the bandages from his hands.
That restriction was the cruelest and most frustrating reality of his life in the ICU. He couldn’t even scratch himself. When I arrived back from a few days away and found him back in the ward, he was curled up on his side, his arms tucked up close to him like he was holding something precious close to his heart. He was – his freedom.
That first day, he hardly woke up, and resisted any attempt to pull his arms away even from a dream state. He must have been so happy to be free to make himself comfortable in whatever way he wanted. Although they were still tying him at night when we left, I think the nurses finally decided yesterday that he isn’t going to commit hari-kari and sabotage the feeding tube. Wolf is aware of the consequences and resigned to following the rules if he wants to get out of there.
When I couldn’t take anymore of Wolf’s ICU imprisonment, I escaped for a few days up near Arenal Volcano with my good friends Zulay and Keith. Over my twenty years in Costa Rica, Zulay has nursed me back to health on numerous occasions and provided a respite in the days when I was working day and night with groups or on the Monteverde Music Festival. Once again, she fed my body and nurtured my mind with her wisdom and friendship. We spent two hours fertilizing orchids throughout their large garden and the pictures blooming throughout this blog are from that morning of floral splendor.
Now I’m back in the city, staying with Lorena and Edin, who is the hugely talented and extremely sweet guitarist of Editus, a grammy-winning band here in Costa Rica. Last night, the Ministry of Culture and Youth held a large outdoor concert at the Museum of Costa Rican Art to inaugurate a new logo and renewed spirit for the ministry. There were thousands of people out on a gorgeous evening in front of the stunning dame of a building, with an array of the best of Costa Rican music, dance, art and poetry, old and new. For the first time I heard Percance, a super high energy ska band, who I loved and will definitely go and find again.
The starry night sky was a perfect backdrop to an enthusiastic crowd and an exotic light show reflecting patterns on this lovely old building that provided at least four different stages. From one of the balconies, Edin, pianist Luis Monge, and Tapado – Editus’ phenomenal percussionist – accompanied vocalist Arnoldo Castillo as the crowd sang along to Costa Rica’s campesino anthem, Caña Dulce . I saw a number of old friends, including the Minister of Culture, Manuel Obregon, who I’ve known for years from his many performances in Monteverde (and a couple concerts in Toronto as well). I also met up with other musicians who I don’t run into often but who I spent great times with back in the days of the Monteverde Music Festival.
The flowers, the friends, the music and the joy have all renewed me to continue accompanying Wolf and his family on what has so often been such a difficult path. Who knows where we will end up next, but at least our friend has tasted a bit of freedom, and for that, we are all truly thankful.