And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
My husband is talking to Matthew Perry.
Yes, you read that right. My world has become very surreal.
My husband Michael continues healing in the hospital. Three weeks ago, he was hit, and then run over, by a minivan. He has multiple skull fractures, a fracture of the T-10 vertebrae in his back, and traumatic brain injury.
Up until this past Tuesday, he was in and out. Sometimes making sense, most times not, almost constantly begging for help, asking that his “mittens” that keep him from pulling things out that can’t be pulled out, be removed, asking that the NG tube be removed from his nose, the cervical collar from his neck.
It’s been a very hard three weeks. When you have to say no to your husband, over and over and over again, when he asks for help and you can’t offer any, it’s just the most helpless feeling in the world. Especially when your husband doesn’t understand why you can’t help.
This past Tuesday, my day started with the hospital calling and saying Michael was being moved back to the ICU. They said he was wheezing and had a high whine in his upper respiratory system, and so they wanted the closer attention of the ICU staff to watch over him. I made it through my morning clients and then ran to the hospital. I went to the Neuro ICU, only to find he wasn’t there. There were no beds available, so he was moved down a floor to the Transplant ICU.
By the time I got there, Michael had had a breathing treatment and his breathing was fine. I got to his room, walked in, and he looked right at me. I mean, right at me!
“Kathie,” he said. “Where am I? What is going on? I don’t know what’s going on.”
He was there. HE WAS THERE. Awake, alert, making sense.
I tried to tell him what happened. I had to stop and start over several times, because he said, “Wait, I’m not understanding you.” All of his responses were appropriate.
But then…in between all coherent statements…
First, he asked for someone named Theresa. “Where did she go?” he asked. I messaged his sister and asked who Theresa is. “That’s a cousin, who died a while ago.”
Then, a little while later, he called, “Matthew! Matthew! Hey, Matt, buddy! Can you come help me? I need these mittens off.”
Matthew? I don’t know a Matthew. I asked who that was.
“It’s Matthew Perry,” he said.
I asked him how he knows Matthew Perry.
“I met him a few days ago.” He kept asking Matthew, “Matt, buddy!”, to come over. And then he sighed and said, “He just isn’t listening.”
So my husband knows Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing on the television show Friends. Matthew Perry died on October 28 of last year.
Throughout the afternoon, Michael continued to call for Matthew Perry in between normal conversation. He asked about his boss and about work. He asked what happened to him. He recognized the hospital. “I know Froedtert,” he said. “My doctor is there.”
It was nothing short of amazing. He was there. He was talking, having conversations, making observations, and then from time to time, drifting off to a land only he could see.
And Lord help me, I laughed. Every time he called for Matthew Perry, every time he called Matthew Perry “buddy”, I giggled.
And when Michael heard me laugh, he laughed too.
It’s been three weeks since Michael and I laughed together.
After I left the hospital, our daughter came in to see her father. He recognized her, called her every single one of the nicknames he has for her. And then, in between conversations, he asked for Monica, another character from Friends. He asked for other names, which we didn’t recognize, but we were told by a Friends fan that these were names from minor characters who made short appearances with the show. Characters he couldn’t possibly know.
Here’s the thing. Michael and I don’t typically watch Friends. If it was the only thing on when we were staying in a hotel, we’d watch an episode or two.
But here he was, talking about minor characters. Looking for them.
All the characters were called by their character names. Except for one. Matthew Perry. And the only one he asked for help, to come release him from the mittens, was Matthew Perry.
And to top it all off – his nurse’s name was Ross. The name of another character on Friends.
He also asked for his father. Michael’s father died when he was in college.
At one point, when I told Michael that Matthew Perry was not in the room, he said, “Yes, he is.” He pointed. “He’s standing right behind you.” he told me.
And I decided to believe him.
Let me tell you, if Matthew Perry is helping to bring my husband back, I’ll start watching Friends. And I will say thank you every time Matthew Perry steps onto the set.
Bring back the laughter, Matthew. Bring Michael back home.
We will watch Friends together.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.