Monday, April 11, 2011

It might be Darfur.

Megan (Stage Manager), Kathleen (Director) & me (Assistant Director) between performances of Cinderella. November 2010.

I met my friend Kathleen thanks to theater. Among a million other things, she is a great performer and an even more outstanding director. I jokingly refer to her as "The Controversial Genius" because she's just really, really good.

Kathleen and I have a little saying when things aren't going our way. Whether one of our kids is behaving in a way that makes us nuts, or we're annoyed about jobs, or we're not feeling well, or our cars have broken down. We say "It's not Darfur." Because really, whatever we have going on... it's NOT Darfur.

Kathleen has ovarian cancer. She is a single mom to an amazing 13-year-old. Six years ago she lost her partner to breast cancer. She was supposed to go to Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital today to begin the plan of removing it and making sure it stayed away.

That was Plan A. We are well onto Plan E or F or G...

Last night I decided to pop over to her house - it's about a 30 minute drive - with a "car care package" for the first of many road trips she was going to be making to Hanover, NH. It's kind of a haul from her house. I made a card and decorated a shoe box with paintings the boys had done. I bought a Vanity Fair with (a steamy, shirtless) Rob Lowe on the cover, threw in some Tic Tacs, granola bars, a bottle of water, cross word puzzles... you get the idea. I knew she was extremely anxious so the plan was to pop in, give her a hug, make sure her ducks were in a row for tomorrow (oh, yes, it's tech week for the musical she is doing with middle school students) and take off.

When I arrived, I knocked on the side door and got no answer so I peeked my head in. Lisa - a teacher friend - was there cleaning up a storm. I could see from the look in her eyes that this was not going to be a quick visit. Jeanne was at school with her theater friends and parents to set up the stage, props, etc. for the show. Lisa said that Kathleen was not feeling too good and suggested I pop into Kathleen's room and check in with her.

It was dark in there. Kathleen was on the bed and told me in a very worried voice that she had been down and out all day. Her chest hurt and she was having trouble breathing. She thought it was anxiety about the appointment, but it just wasn't easing up. I was *sure* it was anxiety, too. (Hey, I've seen enough made-for-tv movies to know that a panic attack looks and feels very much like a genuine heart attack.) So I sat with her and talked awhile. We talked about being scared for Jeanne and talked about not knowing, really, what was coming next. We talked about theater. I hugged her and rubbed her shoulder. (Note: Don't rub her shoulder. It annoys her. But I kept forgetting and it seemed to be my go-to empathy touch! Oy!)

Before my arrival, a call had been made to her doctor, who was not on duty, so we were waiting to hear from the on-call doc. At about 9:00 Jeanne was back from the school, Kathleen had roused herself enough to give Jeanne some instructions on the play ("Make sure so-and-so has the CD, make sure so-and-so knows where his props are and doesn't break them...."). I felt fairly comfortable because she was, though tired for sure, acting like a woman who had a show going up this week. She was being Kathleen. I helped Jeanne and Lisa make the fold out couch into a bed for Diane Booty, who was on her way to spend the night there. I went down to say good night to Kathleen and chirped "Last call for sarcastic comments for the night!" She was sound asleep and I was relieved and drove home concerned but not panicked.

At just before 11PM the phone rang. It was Megan, another theater friend. She had seen a post on Facebook from Jeanne about an ambulance and police officers in her house. She immediately got in touch with Jeanne and learned that Kathleen was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital. Oh. Shit.

This morning I learned that the on-call doctor called not long after I left and, after hearing the symptoms, advised that Kathleen be taken immediately to the hospital. She was given a chest x-ray and a CT scan and they found multiple pulmonary embolisms. (Is that the plural? Anyway, blood clot on the lungs). Lisa, who was going to go home to bed, stayed at the house with Jeanne. Diane went with Kathleen. Eventually, pain and anti-anxiety meds got her comfortable enough to sleep, though she was still in a good deal of pain. Diane stayed until 4:30, went back to Kathleen's to relieve Lisa and was heading back to the hospital this morning to find out about tests Kathleen was having.

Kathleen has 5 brothers. They all live far away. One of them is flying in from Chicago - or more accurately has certainly already arrived. I'm so glad about that.

It's 1:19PM. I don't know anything else. I want to give Diane a chance to rest... she's been up since God knows when yesterday. And I also don't want to know.

For her, now... it IS Darfur.

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