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Praying The Third Time Will Be The Charm!

One more time will I try to get tickets to the 7pm free showing at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD tomorrow night.  We may actually know how this works now.  The American Film Institute (AFI) teamed with the National Institute of Health (NIH) to offer a series of movies about health care concerns and/or issues.  The past two weeks they showed "Away From Her" about Alzheimer's Disease and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" concerning Locked-in Syndrome.  We didn't get tickets to either show, but we did enjoy drinks and dinner in Silver Spring before driving home.  Since then, I've seen both movies, but realize my loss was missing the post-movie Q&A sessions with experts from NIH on the specific medical topics. 

Today I watched "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and it.  BLEW.  ME.  AWAY.  It's about Jean-Dominique Bauby, a editor of a french fashion magazine who had planned to write a book.  A book remarkably is written, but its not the story he intended to pen.  Rather it is his memoir of suffering a massive stroke at age 43, and living the remainder of his life in a condition called "lock-in syndrome".  He was completely paralyzed, except for his left eye by which he learned to communicate.  At one point, he 'says' his imagination and memory are the two other things not paralyzed beside his eye.  He had been left "rigid and mute".  Most of the movie is told from his perspective which makes it both interesting and troubling at times.  It is also subtitled in French, but that was fine.  I wish I could tell you I'd learned the french alphabet from watching this, but no such luck.  

Anyway, a few things struck me while I watched today:

1)  I recalled how awkward it can be to try to communicate with someone when the other cannot speak.  A long while ago, my sister had a relapse of brain tumors, and part of her treatment involved radiation.  A poorly administered dose of radiation left her unable to speak in coherent sentences.  It was like the radiation had literally "fried her brain".  Lyn would tell us much later it was as if words floated around in her mind and she had to wait for a word to stop in front of her eyes in order to attempt to say it.  Over time, we learned she could prompt us with names or places or things using one word and then we could respond back to her with what she wanted to know.  The blinking at alphabet manner of communicating in 'Diving Bell' was truly amazing, and they learned through trial and error just like we did!   

2)  After both "Away From Her" and "The Diving Bell..", I felt a flood of emotions, remembered some learning lessons, and reflected upon my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) experience.  It reminded me that when visiting someone who seems less than able to communicate with you does not mean you should offer any less of yourself in being with them.  Be present in the here and now.  Be fully present.  It is important to speak to the individual.  Do not act as though they are not there.  Do not talk as if they cannot hear you - because they can.  Many times, hearing is the last sense that a person will lose.  So be with them.  Silence is okay.  But speaking 'as if' or reading or even singing are all ways 'to be with' people.

These are all good things to remember.  "Canvas" is about Schizophrenia.  I hope we get tickets.  The movie will be fascinating, but I really want to the hear from the NIH folks.  There's more to learn.  Always.  I'm hoping and praying the third time is the charm!