Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mr. Ted

There's nothing pony- or writing-related in this blog.  More fanfic reviews will be here on Friday, at the usual time.  But right now, I'm going to take some time to talk about a major medical situation near to me.  If an unabashed personal blogpost doesn't appeal to you, I recommend you skip this--again, normal material returns next time.  If you do want to read it, though, it's below the break.

The last two years, my newcomers class has had a volunteer who comes in, who the kids call "Mr. Ted."  We have several volunteers who come in, actually, but Mr. Ted comes in every single day to help with math.  Mr. Ted is a former computer engineer who has decided to spend his retirement giving back to the community almost 24/7; besides elementary newcomers, he also volunteers daily at the adult education center and through his church, and he used to help out at the high school as well.  It's hard to overstate how much having any extra adult in the room helps, and with him being such a constant fixture, and a knowledgeable individual, he's practically a second math teacher.

When I came in to work on Monday morning, I found out that he'd been in a serious accident.  He rides his bicycle everywhere, even in the dead of winter, and over the weekend he was struck by a car while out on the road.  The 3/4 newcomer teacher had gone to visit him before school began, and was able to tell us a little bit: that Mr. Ted was expected but not guaranteed to survive, that he'd been intubated but had been awake and responsive when he visited, and that he was scheduled for surgery on Tuesday.  Not much more than that--patient privacy is a thing, and none of us are his family--but enough to drive home that this was serious, but not likely to be immediately fatal.

So in class that day, we had the kids write cards for Mr. Ted, and in the afternoon, I went to see him.

It shouldn't have been too frightening a visit; I'd already been prepared for what I'd see.  Mr. Ted was immobilized on some sort of tiltable table, so that he could be turned slightly to one side or the other to help with his breathing, and was half-covered in tubes, not least the one from his throat.  When he coughed, which he did frequently, a mixture of yellow and red flecked up the tube, to be sucked away out of sight.  His chest was bare and shaved, and there were angry purple splotches scattered across his torso, which rose and fell regularly yet with a noticeable unevenness.  And yet, he was conscious and aware; when he made eye contact, it was clear he was focusing and cognizant, and he was able to give me a shaky but unambiguous thumbs-up.

It was bad, yes, but it was the degree of bad I'd come knowing I'd see, buffered with plenty of reason for optimism.  What degree of physical recovery was possible wasn't my place to ask at this juncture, but his life and mind seemed to be secure, at least for the moment.

But looking at him, all I could think of was my brother.

I've been back to this same hospital many times since my brother died, almost a decade ago.  To visit friends getting surgery, or to sing for a Christmas concert, or to deliver a singing Valentine.  It was hard the first few times, but I thought I'd overcome that.  But I hadn't seen a man lying on that tilting table, in a room full of obviously important equipment of uncertain purpose, all obviously in active use, with the lights turned low and the curtains drawn.  I hadn't been in a room like my brother had been in.

My brother never regained consciousness after he was brought to the hospital.  I never got a last thumbs-up from him.

Besides a little more quaver in my voice than I wish I'd had, I think I did a good job of keeping positive around Mr. Ted.  The last thing you want when you're lying critical care is for the people visiting you to act like you could kick off at any moment.  I told him he'd picked a good day to skip volunteering, since it had rained all morning and the kids were extra-restless with no outdoor recess.  His lips were taped, but he managed to smile nonetheless.

In truth, it wasn't until I was almost to the parking lot that the quaver became the shakes.  I had to sit down and recover before I was able to leave.  And on Tuesday, I went back to work and told everyone that Mr. Ted seemed to be in good spirits.

There's no moral or message here.  But I need to tell someone that seeing Mr. Ted brought back the day my brother died.  I have friends and family who I can talk to IRL, of course, but I don't want to evoke the spectre of my brother in what, to anyone but me, is such a tangential way.  And besides that, it feels like trivializing Mr. Ted; it turns a traumatic injury he hasn't even begun to recover from into a story about my emotional reaction.

Hence, this post.  A chance for me to get a few of my feelings out, hopefully.  And to reflect on how much Mr. Ted has done for my class, though I've been doing plenty of that the last two days.  I don't know when we'll know more, but I hope and pray that he's able to ride his bike to school again someday, and that he'll come in at math time wearing his ridiculous neon-yellow vest and flip-flops.  I need him.

If, by chance, any of you who are reading this are inclined to prayer: please say one for Mr. Ted.


  1. I’m not a praying guy, but I can certainly send all my best wishes his way. Just from reading your post I like him already.

    Speedy recovery, Mr. Ted.

  2. All my best to him. I hope he makes a full recovery.

    And you hang in there to, you hear?

  3. Poor guy. I wish him a proper recovery, and that his surgery goes well.

    And on a more personal note, reading about your brother makes me think how, in a twisted kinda away, I'm glad that my father died as quickly as he did. There is no place I can associate with him passing away, and my last memories were of a sufficiently healthy man. And while I do miss him, even after over a decade has passed, I don't have any imagery to associate with his death, and I think that helped me move on – even if reading a post like this brings him to mind.

    All the best to you too.

  4. Man, I feel for him. A coworker and friend was killed over 10 years ago because a car heading the other direction crossed to the far shoulder and hit him while he was riding his bike.

  5. Thank you all for the good wishes.

    I won't continuously update his health, but having brought him up, I do want to say that he had a successful surgery on Wednesday, and can now sit in an upright bed. The doctors hope to remove the breathing tube within the next few days. The degree of physical recovery he can manage won't be known for some time, but the signs are all good so far.

  6. Having just read this, it touches me in certain ways I won't go into here, but suffice it to say there are echoes of personal experiences. I hope Mr. Ted is still doing well, and I wish him all the very best.