Saturday, September 26, 2009

Strange and Scary Days...

The last thing I remembered was sitting down at the kitchen table for a celebratory dinner with my youngest son Torrey and his new fiancee Allison. I gained full consciousness a day and a half later in the ICU at Eastern Maine Medical Center. I call it consciousness because I was aware of my surroundings, but it was an awareness that was very distorted and disorienting. Let me explain.
Part of my morning ritual is to go to a drawer in the pantry and take my oldest son's medication to him when I do my morning workout. He has suffered from schizophrenia for years now and is on quite a variety of "heavy duty" medications, which he takes twice daily. The evening doses of the families meds (vitamins, heart meds for me, etc.) my wife Jennifer sets out for the family as the table is set for dinner each night. Monday evening Matt had decided not to eat with the family and everyone else had taken their medications before I got to the table, so... I had to get my own pills from the pantry drawer. It seems (I do not remember specifically doing this) that I reverted to my daily routine and took the pills from Matt's pill box and swallowed them.
The rest of the details have been described to me by several members of my family, and they coincide with what I do recollect from the experience. Everyone thought I was having a stroke as I sat at the table, lowering my head and curling my fingers, palms up, and lapsing into unconsciousness. The MTs arrived within 10 minutes (what an amazing resource we have in our small communities). At some point I stopped breathing voluntarily and so had a breathing tube inserted during my trip to the Ellsworth hospital. My stay at Ellsworth was brief as there was no room in the ICU, and so I was sent directly to EMMC, where I began to slowly gain consciousness.
My regaining of awareness, strangely, was very insightful to me. I displayed to visitors (and to myself as I was aware but without control) symptoms that were very similar to the symptoms that Matthew had displayed many times over the past 15 years. I saw strangers that would appear in my room and then vanish before my eyes after I had communicated back and forth with them, I had conversations with visitors that created puzzled expressions on their faces (my thoughts were full of unconnected tangents), and I had people talking to me that I could not see, the "voices" that entered uninvited into my consciousness. My speech was slurred, I had difficulty getting words out, and any complexity to language and thought was, at first, almost impossible. As time went by, and my body purged itself of "toxic medications" my speech and thoughts began to improve, and by Thursday morning I was somewhat myself, with only a sore throat (from the tracheal tube I suspect) as a physical symptom. I had blood drawn each day as doctors (who are excellent, as are the nurses and staff at both EMH & EMMC) were concerned about pneumonia developing from bacteria in my lungs, and then Friday the blood cultures came back negative and I left the hospital around 6 p.m. that night.
If you have read this far I want to sincerely extend my deepest gratitude for your concern (or even curiosity as they are spiritually connected) and the many prayers and well wishes that have been presented to me over the past week. I firmly believe in the power of the collective spirit, and without the caring thoughts of family, friends, and colleagues I would not have survived this experience. Thank you all!


  1. Charlie, I'm glad you're better and I admire your courage for sharing this personal story. We were all pulling for you. See you soon.

  2. Wow - Almost like you were caught in one of your own paintings. Instructive as well as to the effect the Drugs may have had on Matt.

    Nice job on waiting for Haystack to end before taking the pills.

    I keep leaving the hose on at night. I want to be convinced someone else is at fault. I no longer wet my bad at night, but I do one hell of a job on the lawn.