Fortitude, Equanimity and Amazing Grace

Fortitude and equanimity… these are the words that have been echoing in my mind for over a week.

That’s how long it’s been since my son Ben was admitted to the University Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a rare bone disease, fibrous dysplasia and has had a series of health issues over the last two years which have kept him wheelchair bound. Last Friday he was on his way to work, which conveniently is at the same hospital, anxious to get to Starbuck’s before catching the train up to the University, when his wheelchair skidded on the ice. He flew out of the wheelchair onto the railroad tracks and broke his tibia. There were some people there waiting for the train who lifted him onto the platform- one man put his briefcase under Ben’s leg to support it and someone else got his wheelchair off the tracks just minutes before the train came. Angels all around, so it would seem.

He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and called me shortly after he got there, told me quite calmly “My tibia is toast. I’m waiting for the doctor and for them to bring me some morphine.” The doctor came, the meds came, and that evening he was taken down for surgery. The plan was to put a rod in his tibia to stabilize it. I talked to the doctor before the surgery and he seemed quite confident that it would be simple enough- basically a routine surgery for the orthopedic department. They had already done five of the same that week. Except those patients most likely didn’t have fibrous dysplasia- they had normal bones and probably fractured them skiing or snowboarding. Four hours later they finally called me. They were done. unable to do the rod although they tried for a long time. His tibia was too bowed for them to do it. They ended up having to do a plate which the doc said was less than ideal but would hold the bone in place until it heals.

So now it’s been just over a week. I talk to Ben every day, several times a day, usually for a half hour or more. I have been consistently astounded by his attitude, calm and accepting. He seems to be healing well except that he has had a fluctuating fever every day, the cause of which is still undetermined. He has blood tests and cultures and nothing has shown up positive. No other signs of infection and they have done several CT scans now to see if there is a possible blood clot.

Through it all Ben remains calm. He doesn’t get upset with his nurses or doctors, he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. Being a mathematician and a scientist he is clear and methodical and able to advocate for himself when necessary. He gets tired. I know there’s some frustration but more than that, bafflement. just trying to figure out what the hell is going on. And he just keeps on keeping on.

Wondering how I tie this all in with my general theme of music and sound healing I decided to post a video of one of Ben’s favorite recordings- Debussey’s Le Cathedral Engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral). I remember my music teacher Carl Thorpe playing it in a concert when I was 16. It brought me to tears and I have never forgotten the experience. I confess that I did not post Ben’s favorite recording of the piece- it moved too fast for me and did not have the atmospheric quality that I connect with it so I chose this one instead, which is followed by an orchestral interpretation of the piece- I think Ben will approve!