The original Cedars of Lebanon Hospital opened in 1930 in the cool building pictured above on Fountain Avenue (now garishly painted blue and one of the main headquarters for Scientology). It was one of two Jewish hospitals in Los Angeles, the other being the Mount Sinai Home for the Incurables which was founded to treat people during the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918. The two hospitals merged in 1961 and, with the help of the Max Factor Family Foundation (and others), the complex where I’m currently sitting opened in 1976. Construction has never stopped—Cedars has been spreading its tendrils in the neighborhood for the past 35 years. The building where we’ve been for the past 12 days, the Saperstein Critical Care Tower, opened in 2006 but didn’t house the PICU when we were here in 2009. It’s a beautiful state-of-the-art building and I’m grateful for every Hollywood dollar that was funneled into the place. Among the many buildings on the Cedars-Sinai campus are the Burns and Allen Research Institute and the Steven Spielberg Pediatric Research Center where we’ve gone for all of Charlie’s NICU follow-ups.
It’s fun (for me) to be in a hospital with so many movie connections—the founders, the funders, the movie greats who’ve had stays on these floors and, of course, those who spent their final moments here including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson, Don Knotts, Gilda Radner, Andy Kaufman, Ernest Borgnine, and, since we arrived here almost two weeks ago, Lakers owner Jerry Buss. (You can always tell when a celebrity is in residence by the network news trucks that are camped out front.)
Okay, I’m rambling. Charlie just fell asleep and it was a pretty difficult day, but I feel guilty for even thinking that because the challenges had nothing to do with his medical condition. We’re still on for the surgery on Monday and his CSF cultures are still negative, thank God, but I think the cumulative effect of not being able to get out of bed for so long is finally getting to him (and us!). He lost it a bunch of times today and who can blame him—it’s beyond remarkable how cooperative Charlie is most of the time with everything that’s happening. He has devices connected to every limb and a huge tube coming out of his brain that keeps falling in front of his face no matter how many gauze hats or taping set-ups are attempted and we jump out of our skin every time he so much as reaches upwards with his hand because it would be very bad news if he yanked that EVD out of his head. Oy. After a blissful day yesterday my nerves seem shot again today. Is this the pattern I’ve been following—a simple good, bad, good, bad? That means tomorrow should be smooth sailing which would be great since it’s (please God) the last full day with that device coming out of his head. I dream of that post-op moment on Monday when Charlie can move his head however he wants, sit up in bed, and begin to get back to normal even though he’ll probably still be connected to machines for a few more days.
Am I allowed to kvetch on what I feel I should be calling a good day because it was free of physical trauma? I think I still have a little PTSD from the other night because every time Charlie starts to lose it (which would be completely understandable for ANYONE in his situation), I notice that I’m worrying about what’s going on in his brain—is something off-kilter with his intracranial pressure or the amount of cerebrospinal fluid he’s producing? Breathe.
I’m watching Charlie (finally) sleep right now as “The Harder They Fall” plays on TCM—Humphrey Bogart’s last film. He already had esophageal cancer when he made the movie and died shortly afterwards. I wonder if it was at Cedars of Lebanon. The morning started with “Bye Bye Birdie” which Charlie enjoyed (especially Ann-Margret—he’s no fool!) but the only other film I can even remember from today in my jittery state is “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” which is one of my favorites (speaking of actors who were already sick and died right after filming—in that case, Spencer Tracy). Not that Charlie pays too much attention to our silent TCM films (occasionally a musical number will come on that will make me crank up the sound!)—he’s too busy watching his ENDLESS garbage truck videos. I worry a little about weaning him off those when we get home. He never watched TV or videos until this hospital stay and I’m very grateful for that diversion but with the amount of screen time he’s had for the past 12 days, he may need to enter the toddler division of the Betty Ford Clinic.
I may go downstairs and see if the Purim megillah reading is still happening in the chapel in the Swifty Lazar lobby. I want to see a few wheelchair-bound patients in funny costumes, is that wrong? I’ve been going home after Charlie goes to bed (except for our recent Hell Night) and coming back at dawn but Kendall has slept here every night since we got here. Her razor-sharp focus on Charlie is amazing and one of the endless things that makes her such a fantastic mom. Not that I’m not paying attention to him, but my personality-type tends to go for, shall we day, a wider focus. During that miserable night I was on every medical person like white on rice trying to get more information and answers while Kendall never budged from Charlie’s side. And in calmer times, I’m the one who ends up knowing all of the interpersonal dynamics of the PICU.
I can’t even believe that the Oscars are tomorrow. Today would have been the day that I dragged Charlie to Hollywood & Highland to watch them setting up and I would have been snarking about the awards and my predictions for the past two weeks. This year I just can’t get into it—but don’t worry, I’ll be back!
For now, I just want the next few days to go smoothly and for us to get the hell out of here, as much as I’m grateful for everything that’s being done for Charlie and that we’re in such a world-class hospital. I realize that two weeks is not very long—hell, it sure beats the five months we were here in 2009—but on some days it seems like an eternity. Oh well, here’s to a Sunday that is full of grace, serenity, and embarrassing Oscar speeches!