Did you see the movie Life is Beautiful? Roberto Benigni directed and starred in it. The one that he kept winning awards for, and when he received the awards he would step on the heads of the audience to get to the stage. It was a thing. Anyway, the movie always bothered me. It starts out as a very sweet romantic comedy where he is wooing and winning a woman. They marry, have a kid, and then, BAM! Holocaust. Then it becomes a tragedy, where you don't know if people are gong to survive or not, there's a bit of humor thrown in, but the backdrop is so awful that mostly you just hope you (and they) can make it to the end.
Our trip to New Orleans reminded me of that movie.
We flew out on Tuesday night, arriving in town a little after midnight. Got to the hotel and went to bed. The next morning we woke up in time to have breakfast in the hotel, and started bumping into people we knew (it was an "official" hotel for the party, so it was not surprising). The first people we saw were the Gaiman women: Mary, Holly, and Maddy who were accompanied by Hayley Campbell. We sat at a table next to them and had fun catching up. There weren't that many people in the restaurant, but every single one of them knew someone at one of the two tables. It was amusing. It also told us what kind of an event this was going to be.
After breakfast, Scott, the girls, and I went off to explore. Someone at breakfast had mentioned the aquarium, and we headed for it, stopping at shops on the way. We also stopped to say hi to people. (When talking to Neil later, we likened it to ComicCon without the fans. We couldn't go two feet without bumping into someone. I like Neil's friends. I know a lot of them. Many are our friends too. It was exciting.) At the aquarium it was just us, and we had a great time. We went to the Imax movie (I used to be an Omnimax projectionist, I always hit the shows if they are in the area). It was an especially good one, I highly recommend it (Hurricane on the Bayou, very appropriate for where we were seeing it). The aquarium had Jelly fish and sea horses! Life was good.
Afterwards we got candy apples and then spent money at the Lush store, in both places talking about the party that night with the workers, and bumping into people we knew in the streets. It was a good day.
Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the party and to catch the bus that was taking us there. The party started at 6pm, which is about when we caught the bus. It took about a half hour to get to the venue. We got there, and saw more people we knew. There were badges for the guests and we got ours. Servers came by with hors d'oeurves. Scott and I tried two of them. We got drinks. Scott looked at me, took my hand and said, "please, come here, I need to talk to you". We found a table that was away from everyone and sat down.
This is where everything fell apart. We had been at the party for less than ten minutes. Scott was in pain. Lots of pain. Doctor Dan, who is not only Neil's doctor, but also his friend, was at the party, and he came over to see what was up. After talking to him for awhile it was decided that the ambulance should indeed be called. It took a very long time for it to come (well, it felt like a long time anyway, I have no idea how long it really was). I stood with Dr. Dan while they put Scott in the ambulance and worked on him for awhile before driving away. Scott insisted that I stay at the party so that the girls weren't left there. I watched the ambulance drive off feeling numb, lost and alone. But I wasn't alone; Dr. Dan was there, the Fabulous Lorraine was there. They brought me back into the party.
I went to find Larry and Cory Marder. I really needed a close friend right then, and they qualify. I found them. They yelled at me. Told me I should be at the hospital and not the party. There were enough people that we knew there that could take care of the kids and make sure that they were okay.
Lorraine got me a ride to the hospital with one of the people that ran the venue. I found Scott in the emergency room, and spent the next several hours getting scared and trying to make sure Scott got what he needed. I stayed until the informed me that he was going to be admitted and he started drifting off from the morphine.
I went back to the party. It was now about 10 or 10:30, the party went until midnight. Neil found me and tried to stop me from shaking apart. Since I hadn't eaten since breakfast (except for half of a candy apple and the two hors d'oeurves before Scott got sick) Neil made me a plate of food. I tried to eat it, it looked really good, but my stomach wasn't up to it. Neil then asked who I wanted to see. I told him that I was upset I hadn't gotten to see Ellen Kushner (we had sort of said hi, but that was it) so Neil found her and brought her over. We chatted for a bit, but mostly I was a basket case. Then Neil asked if I'd like to meet Jonathan Coulton. I said, yes, but speaking of Johns, I thought I had seen John Hodgman, and I had really wanted to meet him as well. Neil went away and came back with John and Jonathan. They sat down and we chatted. They have no idea how much they helped me get through that night. Neil came back forty minutes later and was surprised that they were still there talking to me. Those forty minutes (give or take) were the only parts of that night where the panic was eased a bit. Thanks, guys!
That's it for the party for me. I saw lots of people that I would have loved to catch up with, and I later found out that there were people I would have loved to have seen or met. Every conversation I did have (other than the one with John and Jonathan) was about Scott and how he was doing. People who didn't know me, or didn't know me well, did not see me at my best. I have no idea what kind of an impression I made. I think I was a bit shock-ey.
Then came the night. We got back to the hotel, I said good night to the girls (who had stayed at the party while I was at the hospital, had met all sorts of people, had a great time, and then went back to their own room) and I tried to figure out what was going on with Scott. I was on the phone with him and the hospital several times that night. I think the last call was around 4am. When I left him, the thought was that it was some sort of gastric something. After the party when I was alone and dealing, they thought that it was an aneurysm and were talking surgery, then it became a dissected artery, which was the final diagnosis.
What was to be done about it, changed constantly. Over the next few days there was talk of surgery, stents for the artery and/or the kidney stones, and lots of drugs; to control blood pressure, infection, pain, etc.
Our original plan had been to go home on Thursday evening so that the girls could be back in time for school. Scott was not going anywhere. He was in the ICU. You needed to put gloves and a gown on just to visit. It was off-putting.
Everyone was amazing. So many people offered help and moral support. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me. And how much it helped knowing that if I needed something I just had to ask. I tried not to ask for too much. Lorraine worked it so that the girls went home on Thursday without us. Scott wanted me to go with them, but I'd learned my lesson and just laughed in his face. My answer was, "tell me, honestly, if I were the one in the hospital, would you be going home with the kids, or staying with me?" I know there is no way he would have left me, and he knew it too. I stayed.
Thursday morning/afternoon There was a brunch in Neil's honor, the kids were taken there by someone, and Neil insisted I go as well. He sat me next to him and commanded me to eat. I only mention this because I realized, after everything was all over, that, from the time Scott started hurting, until he came out of the hospital, the ONLY time I ate was when Neil made me. I didn't seem to be able to do it on my own. I tried a time or two, but wound up skipping meals instead.
Thursday, after the brunch, I found my kids (they had gone off with Martha Thomases and her family - who are all securely on my list of people who made my life so much better this week) and took them to the hospital so that they could see Scott before leaving. Dr. Dan was there, and he helped us understand what was going on (that list, that I mentioned in the last parenthetical thought? Dr. Dan was near or at the top). After the visit I wandered with the girls for a bit, then got us back to the hotel to meet up with Cat (Neil's LA PA) who came with us to the airport and rescued me from myself. Again, I can't thank people enough for all the help.
After the kids were off, I went back to the hospital to await visiting hours, and then stayed with Scott until I was kicked out. The cab going back to the hotel (the hospital was picked for its nearness to the party venue, not where we were staying) let me off a few blocks from the hotel (the French Quarter is all one way streets, and it takes a while to get from around the corner to in front of the hotel). It was a lovely night and I really enjoyed walking down Bourbon Street listening to music pouring out of the storefronts. Well, I enjoyed it up until I realized that I didn't know where I was going, my phone didn't recognize the name of the hotel or the address, and then some guy grabbed my breasts as I was looking down. Then things started closing in on me and it all started to feel sinister and dark. Just as I was getting nervous, the street I wanted appeared as if by magic, and there was my hotel. Decided that food was not going to happen, and went to bed. It was around midnight. Good thing I went to the brunch that morning, as it was the only food I ate that day.
Friday I was alone. The kids were gone. Wonderful friends had picked them up at the airport and seen them safely home. They even had rides to school for Friday. I called Scott to see how he was doing, and he was okay. Not great. But not awful. I asked if he was ready for visitors, he said he would love to see me. I let slip that I'd not eaten, and he told me to do so before I came out. I decided that I would take the trolly to the hospital since it was cheaper, and something I'd not done yet. I asked a hotel doorman how to get to the trolly stop and he gave me directions. My plan was that if I saw something that looked like I could eat it on the way I would stop and get food, but otherwise I'd get to the trolly and find my way to the hospital. I figured worse came to worse, there was probably a cafeteria in the hospital so I could get food there (okay, if I'm totally honest here, I figured that I'd get to the hospital and get a candy bar from the machine to tide me over until whenever). Just as the doorman was finishing his directions, I looked over, and there was Neil and Amanda walking up the street in my direction. Neil asked when I was going to visit Scott, I told him I was headed there now, that I was supposed to be eating, but...
Neil, being Neil, said, "Right. This way" And he, Amanda and I went to where they were meeting bunches of people for breakfast. So I ate. Roger Avary let me steal a beignet from him and I got a crawfish omelette because I was in New Orleans. Food was good. Very good. After we ate, I trailed Neil around for awhile saying hi to people. We picked up Olga Nunes on the way, who I hadn't met before but who is adorable and sweet, and the three of us went to the hospital. One of the things that we talked about while they were there was my long held desire to go on a cruise. Something I had hoped to do for this coming birthday (I've been trying to go on one since before I was 16, I'm about to turn 50, still waiting). Neil and Olga told me about this cruise. Sounds so cool. With Scott's health and our finances (especially after two hospital encounters this month) don't know that it will happen, but just in case there are others of you that might be interested, I thought I'd mention it here. Doesn't it sound like fun! Neil and Olga stayed exactly the right amount of time, leaving just as it was starting to tax Scott. They left, I stayed.
A few hours later we were joined by Dr. Dan who stayed until they kicked us out because...excitement excitement!... they were moving Scott around the corner to a regular ward. Once he got there he was allowed his laptop, so I took a cab back to the hotel had it wait, and got Scott his computer so that if I didn't show up super early the next day, he wouldn't be too bored (we had brought it to him on Thursday, but they wouldn't let it in the room). Visiting hours in the regular unit ended earlier than in ICU, so at 8:30 I had to leave.
Neil had wanted me to come to see the Dresden Dolls show that was happening that night. I asked the nurses if I could walk it (according to my phone it was an 18 minute walk) They were adamant that I not walk. Not to the venue, and not to any food near the hospital. I was trying to figure out if it was possible to eat and see the show and if I would do either, when Neil called to see what was up. I told him my dilemma and he told me to get a cab to the venue, that he was there and there was food. I got there, Holly came and brought me backstage where Neil insisted I just sit there while he got me food. I felt very embarrassed, but flattered. I ate (see, I told you, that was the last meal I ate before Scott was released). Hanging backstage and talking to everyone (especially Roger Avary and his daughter) and the concert after, are likely to be memories that I'll hold onto for a long time to come. Knowing the Scott was probably being released the next day allowed me to enjoy myself far more than I would have otherwise.
The concert was wonderful, but the place was sold out and I'm short. I couldn't see a thing. Neil happened by, and got permission for me to stand on the raised platform that was the sound booth. Lo and behold; I could see! The Doll's didn't go on until midnight and then they played a two hour set. It was the first time I'd seen them play as themselves (I've seen Amanda several times, and we saw Amanda and Brian play together, but it was officially an Amanda gig, so they didn't do any of their music). Except for the getting out at 2am part, it was fantastic. Jason Webley was the second act and I loved his show as well. Took a cab back with Farley (who I wish I'd seen more of) and Dr. Dan, and this time, the couple of blocks walk to the hotel held no fear.
Saturday started with official word that Scott was being released. Most of the party guests that stayed longer were either gone or going, so New Orleans was almost back to pre-Neil. I skipped breakfast figuring I could eat with Scott. Just missed saying good-bye to everyone that was leaving. Got to the hotel and then waited far longer than I thought we would have to, but eventually Scott was released.
While Scott was in the hospital people called, texted, IM'd, tweeted, posted, sought us out in whatever way they had available to them, got in touch with one or both of us to offer well wishes and aid if needed. Our kids were a couple of thousand miles away, but I knew they were okay because several people were watching out for them, and there were more available if I needed them. Many of them I didn't answer, but knowing that they were there, lending their support and love, got me through an ordeal that I don't know if I could have faced otherwise. I had no idea we had so many friends. I thank you all for being in our life.
On our last day in New Orleans, we got back to the hotel, packed up, checked out, and met up with Cory Doctorow who was getting a plane out around the same time we were. The three of us got Scott's prescriptions filled, we ate food, and we wandered the city talking. We would stop and listen to people playing music in the street, or watch the human statues. We got lost a bit, and we laughed a lot. And Scott was there. He was alive. He was mostly okay (it's all not over yet, there are specialists to see, and tests to be done and decisions to be made, but he's alive and mostly okay). And you know something? Life. It's beautiful. It wasn't the party we thought it was going to be, but I did meet some cool people, saw some cool things, spent some time with people I really like, and was reminded just how fragile life can be. It could have been a much worse time. The artery that has the dissection is his celiac artery, which is not nearly as bad as if it had been his aorta. He's in pretty good shape, and if they had to operate, the prognosis would be good. But, mostly, they didn't have to do any of that. He's still here.
Life is beautiful.