Colored drawing by Anthony Jensen

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hell Not Weird Enough for Leslie; Decides to Stay Put

"It's not what happens to you, it's what you do with it that counts." - Leslie Cochran

Two weeks ago today, Leslie fell in a parking lot in south Austin (S. 1st and Johanna St.) and was taken to the hospital. He regained consciousness briefly, then showed signs of brain hemorrhaging, and yet again (the 4th time in 30 years) underwent brain surgery - having a scar starting at the front of his hairline back down the ridge, swooping down around the back of his head almost at the neck, then darting forward towards his temple, ending above his ear - with approximately 100 staples suturing it closed.

His seizures since the Oct. 2009 incident have caused him not only neurological issues, but subsequent physical ones as well. The chances of falling and seriously injuring oneself are compounded.

Yesterday morning, Leslie's doctor relayed to his local legal proxy as well as his sister in Miami that things were looking pretty grim, in large part due to the length of time he had been semi-conscious, especially given his physical/neurological history. Other bodily ailments weigh in as well...those common to patients in such a sensitive state.

Several of his close friends, including myself, were summoned to the hospital believing they were about to be helping Leslie pass on. The doctors had opted to remove Leslie's respirator; which was merely supporting him as he was breathing on his own...but still a risky proposition in Leslie's situation. There's only so long a patient should remain in stasis; and so long that medical intervention can reasonably be provided. It was a "do or die" situation - and the outlook leaned towards the latter.

By 4:00pm, 10 of his friends (many not knowing the others previously) were packed tightly around his bed swapping Leslie stories and speaking to Leslie directly, simultaneously joking and relaying loving messages. "Hey, Leslie, can I bum a cigarette? Can I borrow $20??" "Hey Leslie, tell me a dirty joke!"..."Those are the only jokes he knows!" "Leslie, you have to wake up...who am I going to argue with?"

One close friend shared with us her appreciation for Leslie's lessons regarding what "home" means; when asked where his home was, he'd say "Austin." But Leslie is a philosopher. He'd teach others that the traditional idea of "home" is limited. He said people put up "walls" when thinking in these terms. Leslie helped many among us break down those walls a little.

He had already been stirring by this moment, responding to the many familiar voices in the room relaying their love. Lo and behold, he woke up.
After 13 consecutive unconscious days, he regained consciousness.

He responded with hand squeezes to questions. He looked at people as they spoke to him. He held our hands (with his right one, his left is still mostly asleep). Then when we explained they were preparing to take the breathing tube out, he lifted his arm and gave us a big "thumbs up!"

Tears turned to cautious smiles and the prospect of removing the tube became increasingly joyous instead of frightening.

While still awaiting the order by the doctor, another friend joined us: John Kelso (AA-S). Leslie was not only a fitting muse for Kelso, but a kindred "Keep Austin Weird" spirit. He sweetly thanked Leslie for all he has done for Austin; beautiful words which only he can adeptly relay in his column, if he so wishes.

Then the time came and we all held our breaths during the traumatic procedure of extracting tubes from deep within the body. Leslie clearly wanted it gone, though, and toughed it out...his face bright red by the end of it. After the nurses finished tending to him, he fell fast asleep... exhausted.

After celebrating and relaying more well wishes to him, we discussed the emotional roller coaster ride we were dizzily departing. Then we went for food and beer...raising a toast to one helluva guy!

He remained asleep into the night, waking periodically to cough up the residual fluid in his lungs and acknowledge nurses tending to him. He will be moved out of ICU to a regular room, but remains in critical condition, receiving "comfort care."

PROGNOSIS: There isn't one at this juncture. There are too many variables. It's up to Leslie in many respects. (I later got a text from my friend Jonathan Cronin who remarked, "Marching to his own beat to the end!")

SEND THE LOVE, Y’ALL! Keep him in your thoughts. Talk about him to friends. 10 friends in his room ushered him out of unconsciousness. 812,500 people in his city can do much more!

Join us at: “LOVE FOR LESLIE!” @ Facebook

is starting a donation collection for Leslie, Friday, March 2: $10 or more gets you Leslie refrigerator magnets!