Steve has had a stroke. He was driven to St. Peters in an ambulance a few minutes ago. Lillian, Joel and Christine went with him. I am waiting at the cabins for Joe, who was due to arrive hours ago.
I’m operating on an hour’s worth of sleep because Audrey’s car broke down on the highway last night and Lillian and I drove five hours to Ellensburg and back, picking her up. Last night seems a distant memory. I know everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with Steve now. I will try to keep everyone updated on his condition.
UPDATE 3:17 PM: What happened this morning is that when Lillian went to wake Steve up at 5:30 AM, he answered with groaning. She went in to investigate and found him sprawled on the floor, unable to move, speaking (with great difficulty) of a ‘stroke’. She called 911 and woke me up. While she waited to direct the paramedics to Steve’s cabin, I stayed with him. He was frantic about something, which I came to understand as “billfold”. I located his wallet and found his emergency medical information in it. This seemed to make him very happy. The paramedics arrived and I gave them the info.
While several paramedics tried to talk to Steve to determine what had happened, one of them took Lillian and I outside to get what we knew of Steve’s medical history. His approximate age, when was the last we saw him, etc.
As the paramedics were taking him away, Joel and Christine arrived. They and Lillian followed Steve to the emergency room, while I stayed behind to watch for Joe. (Joe was due in last night. Yet another worry.) I found that the paramedics had left Steve’s medical info, so I called all the phone numbers.
I eventually got a doctor who was able to give me some of Steve’s prior medical history. While I was standing in the driveway trying to maintain a signal on the call, Joe drove up. I told him what had happened and he drove me to St. Peters.
We joined Lillian, Joel and Christine in the ER waiting room. The desk attendant (triage nurse?) told me I should give Steve’s info to the nurse in the ER and that she would let me know when he was out of surgery. When she did, I went back with Joe.
We comforted Steve as best we could while we waited for a nurse and then doctor to come. Steve was still speaking individual words and making eye contact when we first got back there. He gradually lost these abilities as we waited, although he was still able to move both sides of his body and squeeze a hand if asked. The doctor said the CT scan had come up negative and that we were in a “wait and see” situation.
Waiting sucks. Joe and I did what we could to comfort Steve, whose breathing was growing ever more labored. He started to sweat. I called Lillian to tell her the mixed prognosis and she said Steve’s daughter was on her way down from Seattle. Joe realized there was little more he could do. He had already talked with Joel about filming the day’s first scheduled scene, which takes place at the courthouse, a location with a narrow permit. While they went off to do this, I stayed in the ER with Steve. Lillian stayed in the ER waiting room to watch for Steve’s daughter.
At some point a new nurse appeared at the bedside and said something to me about Steve’s daughter. I think I nodded dumbly before it registered in my brain that she was wearing different scrubs than other St. Pete’s nurses. She was Steve’s daughter. (I was — and still am — operating on very little sleep.) Steve is a lucky guy that his daughter happens to be a nurse that deals often with stroke patients. I told her everything that had happened and all that the doctor had said.
I left them in privacy and went to find Lillian. We waited in the waiting area. She fell asleep on my leg. I passed time reading some ancient New Yorkers and snacking on some Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies that Lillian had brought. Joe and the crew came back, Joe still in his Dead Man costume. (That was quite a sight, a walking dead man in a hospital; I wish I’d had my camera.)
Joe went back to be with Stephanie, Steve’s daughter. Gail, the wonderful woman from whom we rent the cabins, had just heard the news and rushed over. Eventually both Joe and Stephanie came out and walked right past our group to go outside and smoke a cigarrette. Gail wasn’t afraid to hit them up for the latest news. She returned to us in tears. It did not look good, she said.
Joe decided to go at once back to Spokane to gather Steve’s friends and family. Joel and Christine drove him to his car and made sure he had enough petty cash for the journey. Lillian went to find a doctor to get the latest news.
Steve’s condition had stabilized enough that they decided to move him to the 11th floor. Once there, in perhaps the best hospital room in the complex, one with a full glass wall that frames a picture-postcard view of Mt. Rainier (I knew Steve would appreciate this because he went out of his way to visit Mt. Rainier on one of the days off), he began to improve. Stephanie drew up a board with the letters of the alphabet written on it. Finally Steve could communicate again, although one of his first messages — COME TO GOOD END — seemed to anticipate the outcome none of us dared think about.
Although he still couldn’t speak, he could laugh, which he did loudly and joyously. It was great to know the old Steve was still around, if disguised by paralysis. He was greatly concerned about the film. To Lillian and I, he spelled out GO MAKE MOVIE. We assured him we would.
Already Joel and Christine had been brainstorming how to alter the 19 unshot scenes based on various possibilities for Steve’s performance in them. No words? No movement? No Steve? Joel tapped away on his laptop, passing it occasionally to Christine for comment, in the only waiting area the 11th floor offered, the play room in the pediatric wing. It was quite a scene to see Steve’s adult fan club packed into a tiny room full of slim books and bright plastic toys.
The good news is that Steve happened to have his stroke about two blocks from the best heart and stroke hospital in the Pacific Northwest. He has some excellent nurses looking after him, including his own daughter. 90% of his scenes have been shot and Joel and Christine have vowed to finish the movie, especially to show Steve that his hard work, dedication and creativity have not been wasted. I hope Steve will be able to make further contributions. And I most hope that his signs of steady recovery continue. Get well Steve, we love you!
NEXT POST ON STEVE: Day Twenty-five of the Rain in the Mountains shoot.
SIX MONTHS LATER: Steve is back at home and at least sounds by phone completely recovered. We can’t wait to see him again when the film goes on the road. Keep reading the Making Rain in the Mountains diary to continue the tale of Steve’s recovery and the movie’s miraculous completion.