Sunday, May 29, 2016

W;T, Pacific Theatre, May27, 2016

What a remarkable play!  Margaret Edson has really explored in depth the relationship between today’s experience of cancer and the Holy Sonnets of Donne.  Humour and Pathos.  I was moved by the realism of Katharine Venour’s portrayal of English professor, Vivian Bearing. The good, the bad and ugly of hospital and academia were captured in the script with superb direction by Angela Konrad.  I really did like Dan Amos’ portrayal of the medical resident, Jason Posner.  I fear there was a time I might well have followed him into research had I not become a clinician instead
Julie Casselman’s portrayal of Susie the nurse was true. Ron Reed played a most convincing Dr. Kelekian. Ella Faye Forsyth’s portrayal of Vivian’s old professor was touching to the core.  The whole ensemble, quite a cast indeed, worked well on the little stage which was a master piece of Set Designer John Webber.
In the middle of the play I noticed an older lady in the audience looking unwell as her own family were troubled by her sudden leaning left. I walked over to her as I’ve done for decades now and  said,  I am a doctor.  It’s always been more  comforting to those I’ve said it to than it has been for me to say it.    This wonderful man picked this lovely lady up and carried her to the wheel chair on the set.  We didn’t know how to exit the stage with stairs in every direction so it was critical that someone in the show took charge and said that we should carry the wheelchair up the stairs to the lobby.   So we lifted the wheelchair without hesitation and directed by this very smart woman carried the lady up the stairs.  It’s been decades since I’ve carried wheel chairs but this lovely lady was light as a feather..  Then family and friends lay her on the floor with just  the right pillows to satisfy me.  I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to correct the well intentioned from laying people out flat.  If a person’s vomitting or at risk to, lie them on their side. If there’s concern of stroke or heart attack or respiratory failure ensure they’re partially upright to allow the diaphragm to do it’s job.  
Her breathing was fine, no lateralization, pupils equal and reacting to light,  oriented, bilateral sensation in tact, all limbs moving,   pulse a bit willowy but steady and regular, good colour, good blood return from nail beds. She said she was tired and she seemed fatigued. She was a young 80 year old and sorry she’d upset the play. Someone handed me a phone to the 9-11 operator and I conveyed my findings while watching her.  I concluded she’d simply had a touch of vagal vasal ( a feint) with the closeness of the theatre and the passionate depth and tenseness of the play at the moment I saw her keel to the side.  One worries it’s a heart attack or a mini stroke but really those are just things we ‘rule out’ in emergencies to avoid surprises. In my northern medicine days I’d have given her a drink, asked family to watch her over night, waking her to confirm lucidity every few hours.
The fire department arrived with quite the fan fare.  One of the firemen was so truly caring he could have been her son.  Her daughter was there  so truly concerned and loving and I really do believe helping her mother along with silent prayer.   Everyone was so warm.
The paramedic arrived and really took charge. I thought he might have played football in another life. He reminded me of Jason Posner. Very efficient and professional moving things right along.  It was a reenactment of a real team so very similar to the one i’d just witnessed portrayed on stage. I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t part of the theatre. Did this happen night after night. Would candid camera suddenly appear?
Observation for me , is the real thing in emergencies, except the gun shot and knifing one’s I’ve had to deal with.   That was years ago and I was all caught up in inserting lines and putting in medications in ER’s and ICU”s. It’s been a decade since I resuscitated someone. I attended a syncope on Davis Street. I’m blessed to be able to recognize the full range of street drugs.  I really don’t like seizures but mostly one simply has to wait.   In all the emergencies I’ve attended in the community,  it’s just been important to stop people when they were scared and wanting to do things even if they’re wrong.
Everyone here tonight was present and caring. The ambulance and fire staff were downright professional. I felt sorry for the lady though. She said ‘she just like all the people to go away.”    I knew how she felt.  Feeling ill is a private affair but we live in community.
I’ve responded to countless emergencies in hospitals, clinics, trains and wilderness, though most recently it seemed I’ve been specializing in on plane emergencies, a half dozen as many years.  I’ve never attended one in a theatre. It was especially surreal to return to the theatre, a hospital room set,  where the ‘play must go on’.
It was a superb finale.
A standing ovation for sure.
What a cast and what a brilliant script and direction.
I was thankful too that a theatre manager informed everyone that the lady was at the hospital and appeared to be doing well.  
“Death be not proud though some have called thee, Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.”  John Donne
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