Monday, July 16, 2007

Amacker's Blog

Amacker has returned to chronicling her own story...

Her home page is here:

There is a link to her blog there.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I thank you all for the courage and kindness and the amazing generosity that you have given me and my family during this trying and triumphant time. So many of you reached out in so many loving ways. I'm so very grateful.

I hope I meet you all at one of Amacker's many wonderful parties.

Song of the Day: China Doll

A long time ago at a New Year’s Eve Show in Oakland, the Grateful Dead played a devastatingly sad song called “Stella Blue”, and because of several things that were going on in my life I felt so sad that I feared my heart might stop right there.

It was Amacker who sensed that despair and reached her arms around me and brought me back to the place where I could find my breath. I still owe her a thousand times over for that moment. I hope that when Amacker fears she can’t face another painful physical therapy, or can’t take the drugs that make the pain stop because they make her dizzy or hate food, or whatever the troubles might be… I hope I can bring her back to a place she where she can take a breath and keep going.

For Amacker, the Dead song that tears into her soul is "China Doll." It ends on this pathetic and beautiful lyric that so exemplifies the last six weeks:

"Take up your China Doll
It’s only fractured.
Just a little nervous from the fall.
La la la la la"

And so today’s song of the day is Suzanne Vega performing The Grateful Dead's “China Doll.”

Six Weeks

It was six weeks ago last night that Amacker rode her bike down in a fiery rage of steal, rubber, leather, cement, flesh and blood. For my father it is that image that has haunted him – the thought of what it must have been like for his daughter to know she was going down, and perhaps the helplessness of knowing he couldn't be there to catch her.

Amacker returned home yesterday to see her cats and bird for the first time since the accident. (Gargamel made a hospital, but the rest waited at home.) The plan for the next few weeks is a little less clear to me than the ones past. I don’t know when Amacker will start walking and dancing again. I don’t know when she’ll stop feeling pain. I don’t know when all her wounds will heal over and no longer need dressings and bandages. I don’t know when she’ll type with two hands or stop losing her voice after only a few hours of talking. I don’t know when she’ll climb the stairs to her parapet and cast spells on her world around her. Those things are all up to her. She will push herself harder than she should. My goodness she's moving so quickly. She will get frustrated. She will need help. But really, it’s all up to her.

I do know that my work here on this blog is done. I know it’s done because I can now look Amacker in the eyes and tell her I love her and know she heard me. That’s all I wanted throughout all this. If I can do it, so can you, so you don’t need me chronicling her further journey.

For me the underlying, sometimes crippling fear since the accident has been the realization of just how fragile we all are. I have found myself in tears with the thought that I might walk out my front door and not see again for six weeks the people I love… if ever. I wonder if the people I love know well enough how much I love them -- to know it even if I could never say it again.

I guess there's a lesson in everything.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Song of the Day: Homeward Bound

You don't have this version of a song you know very well. You've never heard this version. You covet it. Maybe if you're crafty you'll realize that you've always had the ability to download the song of the day... maybe you're just clicking on the wrong thing.

For obvious reasons...
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel performing "Homeward Bound"


Amacker is home.

I'm sitting on a couch next to her in her newly designed recovery lounge. She is teary and excited to be home. She said that Friday the 13th is lucky for her, and indeed it is!

The surgeons failed to schedule her for her skin graft before she left the hospital, so there are a few of us trained-up on the proper techniques for dressing and bandage changes. She also has a nurse / therapist who will come to her home once a day for the next week. Paul will spend the weekend with her, and Katy's here, too. Then Katy has arranged for an army of friends to come do Amacker's bidding over the next week or so.

Most important, she's happy. Amacker wanted so much to be around her things, around her pets, and around the things that are true in her world.

The first picture is of Paul and Amacker, faking Amacker's great escape in Gonzo / Hunter S. style. The second is Katy and Paul doing the real thing.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Song of the Day: I Shall Be Released

I know I've gotten a bit behind with the song of the day. The reasons are simple.
  1. With Amacker awake all the time now, I spend more time with her than writing.
  2. Now that she's awake, we actually discuss the song of the day, and frankly we can NEVER agree on anything.
That said, Amacker has asked that the song of the day always introduce new music, and maybe in a way that seems familiar. Peter Gabriel's "Summertime" was the first collaboration of ours like that. I won't always meet that requirement, but I'll try.

The news that Amacker will soon leave the hospital has all hands are on deck putting the finishing touches on her home for her return. In fact, I dropped in yesterday to see their progress (I haven't helped one bit!), and I actually heard this quote:

"Katy, between the Cosmologist and the Speech Writer, neither of us can figure out what the f*ck you want."

Tim, the cosmologist, and Lisa, the speech writer, were trying to hang tapestries to the specifications of Katy, the yoga-instructor/dancer/musician wonder-girl... oh my.

Anyway, with Amacker's upcoming release from the hospital, the song choice today was easy. From a recording in 2004 featuring Warren Hayes and one of my very favorite artists, Ray Lamontagne, here is a beautiful cover of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."

The picture is from Cherry Tart and shows Amacker's feet and the view from her place in Baja. Released indeed!

Gargamel's Visit

Garagmel, probably Amacker's favorite cat, went to visit her a few days ago. And with that I give you the first picture I've posted of Amacker taken post-accident. She looks pretty good!

Gargamel and Amacker went "duck hunting." As it turns out, Gargamel is terribly afraid of the ducks, which is good because it's my daughter Sarah's favorite thing about Stanford hospital... visiting the duck families that live in the families.

Me: "Do you want to come with me to visit your Aunt Amacker?"
Sarah: "Not really."
Me: "We can stop by and see the baby ducks."
Sarah: "Okay, let's go!"

I'm being a bit sarcastic, but the ducks have definately helped motivate Sarah to go with me. Boot, my son, has been most motivated by his new skateboard and Stanfords endless miles of smooth pavement...

There are more pictures from Gargamel's visit below in the post about 5 weeks.

Five Weeks - The Final Stretch

When I say "The Final Stretch", I mean to say that soon Amacker will be release from the hospital to go home, be near the things she loves, and continue her amazing recovery. I don't mean to imply, by any means, that the road ahead of her isn't full of obstacles and difficulties. In many ways the most difficult road lies ahead. The doctors, and nurses, and nurse's assistants, and therapists, and cooks, and orderlies, and shrinks, and cleaning staff -- all of whom have worked so hard for Amacker -- they've done their part, and the next stage is up to Amacker herself, and us to help her through it.

Amacker is currently scheduled to leave the hospital Friday. There will be no marching band. There will be no fanfare. (I say that knowing full well that someone will put together a band and fanfare just to spite me.) But A few of us will roll her out of there for good, take her home and get her settled in her newly arranged home.

Katy and Don have organized a team of many... Paul, Lisa, Tim... so many others... who have come to Amacker's house for several long days, and arranged a downstairs room to be sterile and functional for someone who isn't yet walking, but also to make it very Amacker. There are lovely tapestries on the walls, pieces of art, and interesting lighting. She'll have broadband internet, TiVo, DVDs, phone, and easy access to a restroom and a kitchen. All of it is downstairs and made accessible with ramps and rails. Still, Amacker's amazing library and bedroom wait for her upstairs as yet another carrot in her recovery. To say thank you to that team of people who created Amacker's new space is nothing but of insufficient, and yet there's more.

As we speak, Katy is organizing a team of folks to be with Amacker around the clock for the first week after she gets out. We're going to take turns baby-sitting a woman who, as far as I'm concerned, is completely competent. She might need help with the odd tin of sardines or something, but she's going to get most things done herself. If you'd like to help out with that, please do email me.

Amacker has come a long way. Her full memory is there. Her full voice is there. She can do amazing things physically, especially when you consider she isn't allowed to use her left arm, her left wrist is not listening to her (some significant nerve damage there), and she's not allowed to put any wait on her left leg. She sits up in bed all the time. She gets out of bed and gets herself in her rolly-chair. She can roll her chair in a straight line, which, you know, is more than she could do on her motorcycle. She has far more flexibility in her neck than I ever imagined. She eats what she wants (no chocking hazard), and goes to the bathroom by herself. She'll delight you for hours with stories from before or after the accident. She'll tell you the names of every care provider who visits her. She will even, when asked very nicely, answer the ridiculous questions the psyche care providers ask her.

On Thursday Amacker is scheduled to get a new skin graft on her left shin, covering a place where the first graft didn't take very well, and that will mean all the bits are closed and mending. She'll need dressing changes in a few places several times a day, but she'll be plenty buttoned-up for her return home.

As I said before, it's now up to her, and us. Amacker is VERY motivated and has an amazing positive attitude. She will, of course, need some cheerleading. Some days will be better than others. Some days she won't want to open her eyes, but I have days like that, too.

It's all a bit overwhelming to see her amazing recovery, as you might imagine, but all the kings horses and all the kings men...

Today's Schedule

Amacker has asked that people not visit during the time of her therapy, as she is now going to a "gym" to build strength, and misses seeing people if she's in therapy when they come.

Her schedule today is:
9-10a: Physical Therapy
11-12p: Speech Therapy
3-4p: Occupational Therapy

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A New Private Room

Amacker is celebrating 07/07/07 in a new private room that her Wonder-Nurse-Assistant Larry wrangled for her. With a day full of 7s, you can now find Amacker in room C107 -- same directions as before to get there.

Her phone number is: (650) 498-3139

Friday, July 6, 2007

Song of the Day: Summertime

Today is one of those perfect Northern California days... not a cloud in the sky... already perfectly warm. Amacker is going to go exploring throughout the hospital grounds. The gardens are all blooming. It's a good day to get out of bed, for certain.

Her three ghosts (therapy appointments):
11a: Occupational Therapy
1p: Speech Therapy
3p: Physical Therapy

Amacker now takes trips whenever she's up to it. She gets herself in and out of her chair, and we push her where she wants to go. When I came in this morning Larry the Wonder-Nursing-Assistant was washing her hair for her. She was really happy to have it cleaned. She's also a pretty big fan of Larry. I also got a good look at the back of her neck. It's healing up very nicely, and the hair is already starting to grow over the area.

I'm going to spend the morning with her... I can work here just as well as anywhere else, if only she'd shut up every now and then. She's quite the chatter bug.

Today's song fits the day perfectly. Peter Gabriel performing Gershwin's "Summertime."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Last words on the Fourth

Ahem...tap, tap, is thing on?

This is Katy Bell. I am writing at the behest of our esteemed blogmaster Richard, though nervous and reluctant about stepping up to add my voice to what is already a complete and heartfelt account. But here it goes:

Amacker and I had a very long and lovely visit yesterday, most of which Richard has already shared. I pointed out to her that she had now taken up residence in a rehabilitation ward, and that she should be prepared for the commensurate ribbing that comes with the statement (spoken in hushed tones), "Amacker's in rehab."

It was indeed thrilling to hear her voice so clearly, move through a whole day of her routine by her side, see her sitting up in the chair for a few minutes. It was a broiling Fourth of July at Stanford, so we looked for ways to cool down AND be American. We missed the ice cream social down the hall due to a PT appointment, but later in the day Ami Sun brought a festive mini-buffet to the room. We nibbled treats "poolside" while putting flowers in Amacker's hair, feeding her watermelon and threatening to load her up in the wheelingchairdevice to lead our little party outside for bathing in the hospital fountain. She yelled at us for killing all the geese, and I wondered aloud why hospitals do not have bars. It was very much like other daytime parties I've attended at Beanflower, minus a few animals and a lot of vodka.

Best thing: speech path lady asking Amacker a series of "logical questions" as part of a test:
"Does wet paper burn faster than dry paper?"
"If I've soaked it in gasoline, it does."

Worst thing: pain meds wearing off during PT

I will put in a plug for continued visitors. Please do come. I know that some folks were standing off and waiting for the buzz to settle, but it's great to keep her spirits up and continue the healing process surrounded by love, snacks and jokes. Richard mentioned her fears about her life being not there when she gets out. Visits help with this, time will help with this, and then there will be a few things that are different.

When I left the hospital yesterday, I went down to the SRL shop for some work, food and fireworks. This amazing group of people are friends and colleagues of Amacker. I must've told stories of my day at hospital 10 times to different groups of folks, to which they responded...well, I suppose the photos speak for themselves.

We're all going to be waiting with open arms, Amacker.

Song of the Day: America

Amacker and I were discussing the various Live Earth: Concerts for a Climate In Crisis events scheduled for Saturday, and she was lamenting that while these sort of events always have amazing artists, the sound quality is almost always rotten.

And then she got a distant grin on her face and said, "except for David Bowie doing 'America.'" I asked her if she wanted that to be the Song of the Day today, and she said, "Yes!"

And so, by request from her magnificence herself, today's Song of the Day is David Bowie performing live at the Concerts for America, just after the twin towers came down, "America".

How To Navigate To Older Posts

You can still get to older posts. Just click on the posts to the right, and as you go further down, the new pages will show you the older posts. Keep doing that until you get back to the beginning, if you so choose.

Day Dreams and Nightmares

When I visited Amacker this morning she went on and on about what a great day she had yesterday. So many people came to see her -- Fred even flew in from LA -- and all that attention meant the world to her. Thank you all so much for giving her such a great day!

Her schedule today is as follows:
10-11a: Occupational Therapy
1-2p: Speech Therapy
3-4p: Physical Therapy

You can visit during those times, but be prepared to be a cheerleader when you do!

I spent a few hours with Amacker this morning, and helped put her back together after what seems to have been a rough night and early morning. She's having some fairly intense nightmares. She also gets trapped in the semi-awake state, where she wants to wake up and make the nightmares stop, but she is too tired. She even cries out inside her head, but I've been there when she said, "I was calling for you. Why didn't you come." I think she is calling in her head, but nothing comes out. The doctors assured me it's a symptom of the trauma, not the medicine that's causing the nightmares.

She has some fears of abandonment. She has some fears that her life won't be there when she gets back to it. The more I talk to her, I'm realizing that the cat is a metaphor for her whole life -- the beautiful network of friends, and art, and festivals that are everything she loves. She doesn't miss the cat as much as she misses her life. She isn't worried that the cat won't be there when she gets out. She's worried that her life won't be there when she gets out.

Because of those fears, and some very real frustration with slow-moving nurses reacting to her very real needs, Amacker was fairly out-of-sorts this morning. It took a long time of talking to calm her down, but she's much better now.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


I tried to open the blog on my phone today, and it said the page was too big. To make things a bit more manageable I have broken the blog into 20 posts per page.

Leave me comments if you think that's too many or too few.


Ami said it best in the comments... Amacker showed great independence on this day with the same name.

I visited Amacker this morning, and her new room is great. It's big, and has lots of light. She's on the first floor, so as soon as she's ready she can take trips around the various gardens. Amacker had many visitors today, and it seems to really lift her spirits. I don't want to take the thunder from anyone who might post about their visit, but the conversations she's having are really accelerating the regeneration of neural pathways. She's really connecting the dots nicely, and her memory both short and long term is more intact than most of the people I know. She might let you know if she gets overwhelmed, but be sure to ask her if she needs quiet or rest.

Right now I'd say that Amacker's mental recovery has pulled ahead of her physical, but she made great progress physically today, too. Other than a PIC line in her arm for medications, Amacker has no tubes in or out, eats what she wants, and makes assisted trips to the loo, etc. She asks to be left alone in there, and does just fine. She's sitting up, and has good flexibility. She's trying to eat more kinds of things each day.

The carrots Amacker is working towards include a full body bath, trips outside, and most importantly the eventual trip home, which several of her doctors and therapists are starting to mention.

When you visit, please help her toward her goals. Engage her to sit up, to eat, and to hop in her rolly-chair. (I hate the stigma of the other word.) Most of the doctors don't seem to mind if you hang out while she's in different therapies, but be a cheerleader!

I guess the overarching message today is that Amacker is making progress by leaps and bounds, and we're all very proud of her!

Where For Art Thou, Oh Amacker

Amacker is now in Room C105a.

If you come in through the rose garden entrance, right near the parking garage, C wing is immediately on your right as you walk in. In fact, you can look in her room as you're walking up.

And if you want to call her, during polite hours, her number is (650) 498-3136.

Song of the Day: America (My Country, Tis of Thee)

Nothing shows independence more than taking your colonial master's national anthem and changing the words to evoke national pride for your newly liberated country.

This particular version has no words, so those of you from the UK will recognize this as "God Save The Queen."

However, many of us today will enjoy our mustard-laden hotdogs (only communists put ketchup on a hotdog), our John Philipa Souza, our magnificent fireworks, and a communal sense of longing for a time when America was a bit more noble in our global policy. For us, this song is about those times.

I will visit Amacker this morning, and then I will celebrate the birthday of my son, who was born 12 years ago today, as the fireworks went off outside the window, in the very hospital where Amacker is making her miraculous recovery. Amacker was there then, too.

One of my father's very favorite musicians and a fellow Texan, Christopher Parkening performing "America (My Country, Tis of Thee)"