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So it goes on….
Up and down like a roller coaster. Each day of the week, as Wolf’s caregivers exchange our impressions in the visiting area as we change shifts, we realize that we have witnessed a wide array of emotions coming from Wolf. We also get a variety of stories from the nurses and doctors, so confusion reigns.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching Wolf sleep this week. With luck, he is snug in his bed, curled up, comfortable. These days they’ve been putting him in the wheelchair for as many hours – and more – than he can handle. We know it is a good thing to not just be lying in bed (after a month of it) but it is painful to watch him support himself for hours in that uncomfortable chair. I know that I can’t sit happily in a chair for two hours, that alone seven as happens with Wolf. He is already weak and tired, and the energy it takes to stay upright with no head support is more than he can muster. He has no choice, and so his head flops forward, his back hurts and even his stomach is sore from the effort. We must wait for a nurse to come and rescue him and get him back in his bed. At least we can wheel him outside for fresh air, a bit of sunshine, and to hear the birds singing.
He is now without feeding tube – a nasty little situation he took care of himself one night. After a week of being told, “Eat, Wolf, eat, and they will take out the tube” – and eating even though he had no great desire for it – they came and changed the feeding tube because it was clogged. That night, I imagine in protest over the continuation of the intrusive contraption despite our assurances, he pulled it out. Fortunately they won’t replace it as long as he keeps eating, nor did they tie his hands up again to punish him (protect him?)
So now he is eating. Yesterday he moved on from purees and soups to “real food”. Due to the problem of being in the chair for hours zapping his energy (and apparently a bad night’s sleep) he could barely stay awake to eat the food. The other people in the room – a funny confused little man and a woman with Alzheimer’s whose son spends the day with her – had a lesson in English as I repeated, loudly, “Wake up, Wolf. Chew. Swallow. Can you take some more?” trying to get as much of the food into him as possible so that they will not replace the feeding tube or switch back to the purees that he is now thoroughly tired of. The woman’s son kept repeating “Wake! Chew! Swallow!” The man and the woman just seemed more confused…
Wolf’s daughter Melody took some cantaloupe in yesterday since this has been his biggest request these days. I got in a lot of trouble a couple weeks ago when I brought some fruit and gave it to him without asking. But Melody did it right and asked the nurses and was able to give him some. Once again, he was sleeping so soundly it was hard to get the food into him, but they managed.
So some days he is very cheerful, positive, loving and talkative – actually perhaps a little too talkative. Others, like yesterday, he is cranky and angry and restless to get out of there. We don’t know day for day, hour for hour, how we will find Wolf. There are many emotions that come out of him. We recognize that he is entitled to be frustrated and angry and it is often hard to understand what has set him off.
Melody told me that when the nurse came in and took his blood sugar last night, that it was dangerously low. They hooked up the IV and gave him glucose. That may explain the heavy sleeping and the wide swing of emotions. They did start him this week on a new anti-depressant, and we are already concerned that it is showing signs of leading him back to a manic state.
Ai yi yi. As you can read, the path we are on is as convoluted as the trail between Monteverde and Poco Sol (I think I just stole a line out of our book). He is in good hands at the hospital, but we are hoping that we can take him back to Monteverde real soon. To borrow another line out of the book, all trails lead to home.
My good friend Al Bair tells this joke: “Kay has a speech impediment. She has to stop and take a breath once in awhile.” We laugh, but there may be some truth to it.
Anyone who knows Wolf Guindon knows that he too is a talker. Of course, just because he talks doesn’t mean that listeners can follow, anymore than when he walks, those behind can keep up to him. Any of you who have read Walking with Wolf, (and if you haven’t, what have you been doing???) knows that it could also be called Talking with Wolf. I wrote the book after years of taping Wolf’s monologues and our conversations. Over the twelve years of making tapes, I listened to literally thousands of hours of Wolfspeak and ended up with hundreds of pages of written Wolfbabble. I know how this man can talk.
Well, let me tell you. The previous 80 years have just been a warm up for the marathon of chatter that is coming out of Wolf now. I believe it was December 14, the day that nurse Stefany and I took Wolf up to the Monteverde Reserve to visit his compañeros, that he started talking. And I swear, and I think the family would probably concur, that he really hasn’t stopped talking since.
Wolf is now in the Blanco Cervantes Hospital in San José. It has been just over a week since they admitted him to this social security geriatric hospital. As his body was getting stronger, it was also releasing more manic energy. When he arrived, he was still able to walk and was eating pretty well, but his mind was in another world and he was beginning to act strangely. And he was talking – a lot.
I am truly amazed that someone could talk this much and not lose their voice. His voice undulates – from whispers to shouted commands – but maintains a very steady monologue. I feel sorry for the five other men in the room with him. They are in varying stages of their own distress and a couple of them let out loud shouts and moans from time to time. So though he isn’t necessarily the loudest one, Wolf certainly is the most constant noise maker. It might not have been so bad if he just talked in a low monotone that blended with the background city noises and you could become immune to it. Wolf’s voice rambles up and down as does his mind, just about lulling you to sleep only to then make you jump out of your skin as he shouts to someone ahead of him on his mental path. I’m sure the men wanted to strangle him at times.
And what has he been talking about, you ask? That is hard to say since much of it is mumbled, but there are certainly some common recognizable themes. The most frequent, and my favorite, is when he is in Peñas Blancas valley with his good friends Eladio Cruz and Frank Joyce. “Eladio,” he shouts. “Frank. Vamanos!” I can’t follow much of his speech, but can just about follow him up and down the muddy trails. He throws in names of cabins – El Valle, the German’s – and talks about the rain or drinking coffee. One day there were a number of “Hallelujahs” interspersed as well. He often has a smile on his face during these long verbal hikes.
True to his lifelong commitment to the protection of the Monteverde forests, he also talks about issues of conservation and about the need to attend meetings and have his opinion heard. Just as he was starting to enter this rather psychotic period in December, he attended the Bosqueeterno S.A. annual meeting, where he had a hard time concentrating. He was starting to prepare statements to be read at the Monteverde Conservation League and Tropical Science Center meetings that are coming up soon. Even in his rambling state, we still see these issues that are at the core of his being.
Other days he’s driving a machine. For most of this week, Wolf’s hands have been tied to the bed to prevent him from getting out and hurting himself or others. But as he talks, his right hand works a gear shift, and every little while he exclaims in a high voice, “Ping!” We have all wondered what this is, guessing that he is driving either his tractor or his truck, perhaps from the years he was hauling pigs to the lowlands or milk to the lecheria. Whatever the “ping” is, we haven’t figured that one out yet.
He has less pleasant conversations with God. It’s heartbreaking to listen to him asking God why he can’t die, why he must suffer. That is something often asked in these difficult moments of life. When he turns his head and glares into my eyes, I feel terrible for not having the answer for him.
Wolf is receiving great care in this hospital. We have been reassured by many of the family members visiting other patients that the doctors and staff are very attentive and concerned. Unfortunately Wolf was admitted just before New Year’s Eve, so of course the staff was minimal and the doctors were on holiday. But now everyone is back to work, tests have been taken, and now we are in the process of trying to find a new medication to bring Wolf some mental stability. The first one they tried just seemed to make matters worse, so he was taken off that and they are letting his system cleanse for a couple of days before trying something new.
A couple of days ago, they removed his catheter to try to stop the continuing urinary infections. There is a good chance that this will also help his mental state with less infections and less discomfort.
Each member of the Guindon family in Monteverde, along with his nurse Stefany and myself, have come to San José to take turns watching over Wolf. We don’t have as much to do this time as we did at the Puntarenas hospital. The staff here takes better care of things and we are only allowed there between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. He has not been uncomfortable, except for the restraints on his arms, but we can’t do anything about that until he is of a sound enough mind to be responsible. He hasn’t been asking to go back to Monteverde, since he doesn’t seem to know where he is. He has pretty much refused to eat, so we don’t need to feed him though we try to convince him to take a few spoonfuls of soup so they won’t insist on putting a feeding tube in him. He has barely slept, his manic energy not allowing him such peace.
All we can really do is sit with him, touch his arm, and listen, since, it would seem, all he can really do is talk.
PS: On the day I’ve written this, on Wolf’s ninth day in the hospital, there’s been a change. When I went in to be with him today, he was sleeping soundly. When he awoke, the silence continued. He had stopped talking. I sang some songs with him and he joined in. I asked him some questions, and he answered them fairly sanely. He asked me where he was and I told him. I had a mandarin with me, and he sucked on some sections and then asked for some other fruit – cantaloupe or watermelon. I ran across the street and got some and he took small bits and sucked the juice from them. It was the first time he had desired any food in over a week and he enjoyed it. It was the first time I had seen him sleeping soundly in as long. When I looked in his eyes, I saw a small flicker of light that hasn’t been there for awhile.
But it is the silence, that blessed non-verbal silence, that is truly golden. Wolf finally ran out of things to talk about, although I’m sure he still has plenty to say.
Welcome 2011! From my window looking out on Monteverde, it appears to be dawning with turbulent winds, undulating temperatures, and a mosaic of sun and clouds…hmmm, sounds like another year of surprises and change!
Last night a portion of the talented mass of Monteverde musicians took to the stage and presented both an acoustic and electric set of 60s pop music. The community has grown to expect a great show from Robert Dean, Alan Masters and their friends. For three years, on New Year’s Eve, they did a Beatles Revue, but this time they broadened the spectrum to embrace the whole decade of the flower children. I don’t think there was a Beatles song in the bunch. However their version of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes was exceptional, as was Robert doing Hendrix’ Purple Haze.
Alan and Robert’s rock band, the Chanchos de Monte, Monteverde’s horn section (Richard Trostle on sax), Monteverde’s string section (Jonathan Ogle, Heather Grosse, Alan Masters and Jeffrey Dixon), took turns backing a variety of guest singers including the lovely Annie Wenz, who comes to Monteverde from the US and has joined in musical events here before.
Talented locals Jesse Gryst, Nicolette Smith, Ken Landers, Maya Salma and the beautiful young Riley Walker all provided vocals. So did the audience, most of who sang along to the tunes, many who danced throughout the show.
I was the host and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Being the sixties, and a party, it was worth getting a new dress and some great earrings to match the occasion. Nicolette and I had our hair styled by our friend Willy Bach. I’ve known Willy and his partner Rowan since they came to Monteverde a couple of years ago, but have only known Willy as a serious academic who is always interesting to talk to about issues of profundity.
Little did I know that in his former life, and for many years, he was a hair dresser. When I saw him the other day, he offered to come and bring out his rusty scissors (metaphorically of course) and give us appropriate dos. We had a lot of fun, the hair poofing interspersed with interesting hair story chit chat, and saw a whole other side of Willy that was quite charming. And both Nicolette and I looked fabulous!
My Roberto left a couple of days before, and that kind of took the oomph out of my New Year’s Eve celebration. After a couple hours of exuberant singing and dancing with Robert Dean and gang, followed by a candle-lit tapas and sangria gathering at the Hotel Belmar, I didn’t last long at the Mata, where the dancing no doubt went well into this morning.
Which is, of course, the first morning of this new year 2011!
The year is starting off in a rough way for our friend Wolf. Four days ago, the family finally got permission to take him to Blanco Cervantes Hospital in San José. This is a social medicine hospital that specializes in elder care and chronic, long term illnesses. Over the last few months, we’ve been hoping that Wolf could be taken care of there, but it has been quite a process to get him admitted. Now that he has been, I believe that any emergencies or treatments in the future will be at this place.
Neighbour and friend Harriett Joslin, who has helped out as chauffeur for the family before, took nurse Stefany and sons Berto and Benito down to the city, the latter two acting as body guards for Wolf. This meant restraining him from trying to get out of the car or getting restless with those in the car. They got to the hospital and Wolf got admitted. From there, it isn’t a nice story that has unfolded so far.
For whatever reason – confusion caused by an infection, dementia, stroke-related problems, or (my personal belief) the wrong substitute medicine for Wolf’s bipolar condition after he was taken off lithium – or a potent mix of all these -he has been in a very manic, agitated state. This started a couple of weeks ago with constant talking, but has grown to aggressive and quite obnoxious behavior – I use those words with all due respect for a man who I love and admire. It is simply hard to find other words to describe what is a behavior that is obviously out of Wolf’s control.
As his body has gotten stronger, he has more energy with which to be manic. Unfortunately, much of this is negative energy. They have restrained him, tied him down, much of the time at the hospital. That is a very difficult thing to experience, for both Wolf and his family.
He did tell me on Christmas Eve that he knew he was losing control of both his mind and what came out of his mouth. He was ready to get help. He has now been in another reality several days and those who have been with him don’t think he is very aware of anything in this, the more common, reality.
I am heading down to the hospital tomorrow with Lucky and Stefany. We don’t know what we will find, but I’m going to spend a couple of days on Wolf-watch. Unlike Puntarenas hospital, where we managed to have at least two or three people with him at most times, the Blanco Cervantes is apparently very strict about visitors and only one person can be with him at any time.
We await the results of blood and urine tests as the doctors (mostly on vacation until Monday of course) evaluate what is going on in Wolf’s mind and body. Once they have an idea, they will hopefully be able to give him a medication that works to control his wandering mind. This is what we are all hoping and waiting for. I am prepared to spend a couple of difficult days with my old friend, or at least with the outer rather strong shell that houses a very troubled man with a mind that is blowing around like the wild Monteverde wind. I’m sure he still has his sense of humor, though it may be revealing itself in inappropriate ways. I’ll keep you posted.