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Saving Susan

Susan O’Brien works on a painting at her home studio. The artist recently suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm.    - Photo courtesy of Kimmer Morris
Susan O’Brien works on a painting at her home studio. The artist recently suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Kimmer Morris

They were able to save your life.

On Sept. 26 they flew you to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where the neurosurgeons saved you from a ruptured brain aneurysm.

A miracle, considering that about half who suffer the same die.

But no one knows exactly what will happen now. It’s been eight weeks.

Luckily, you are the kind of person “who can manifest beauty out of anything,” as your sister said.

You are surrounded by a constant stream of loving family and friends in your hospital room. You receive hundreds of messages of love in the spirit that you will heal in your good time.

Maintaining your famous form for being able to do so many things well and with flair, you wow everyone with your daily milestones toward recovery.

You ramble poetically.

You mix things up. Memories fly in the face of the present and confound you. You feel like you need to be somewhere, but they all tell you to stay put.

“Where is my lovely island,” you want to say. “Who will see to things at the house, my studio? I have things to make, dancing to do.”

You plead with your eyes to those around you who you sometimes recognize. “Let’s go,” your eyes are saying. “Won’t you come with me? Let’s take the ferry back.”

You don’t like this at all, but they smile at your good nature and have faith in your famous strength.

They are puddled, as they always have been, by your beautiful smile that easily draws them into your heart.

You try to take the thing out of your nose, but they stop you. They put boxing gloves on your hands. Curious.

There is something missing on one side of your head. They have taken the bone away. You are vulnerable to the world. It is contrary to your personality.

You move forward.

They put the bone back and you no longer have to wear the helmet.

Recovery continues apace.

“Why can’t I remember anything?” you think.

Can you see?

You couldn’t for awhile.

Your eyes were bloody, but they’ve done one operation to fix that and you can see now out of one of them. The other eye will be fixed soon. You look like a radical pirate.

It’s a dream. Yes, that must be it. You are dreaming. Soon you will awaken and you will be back painting glass in the reverse. You will have your nose in your favorite box of buttons. You will weld something strong, you will build something unconventional.

Because you are an artist.

Perhaps the colors are still vivid in your mind.

The sharp yellow of the forsythia, the bluest blue of his eyes and, last winter, the way the snow covered every tree for miles and shed a white light so bright it made your eyes tear.

Back in your hospital room, you are out of the intensive-care unit.

“Susan is lovely to be with,” your friend said. All your friends and acquaintances have been sending their thoughts to you daily through an online journal.

“She actually seems happy, smiling quite a bit and chuckling, too. It’s hard to tell quite where she is in her cognition, but it seems kind of like waking up in the morning from a deep and muddled sleep, and needing time to bring the dreamworld and the waking world into their right relationship. Like narrowing a wide, wide angle view to one with more focus and clarity. It takes the time it takes.”

The doctors are optimistic. Your recovery is on track.

Later, perhaps you will have to focus on one thing at a time, not such a bad thing.

Perhaps you will leave part of your old self behind and discover a new one. You might have to dance more adagios and leave behind the quick step.

Better to slow down anyway, to be present.

But you will dance — never will you stop dancing.

Life is short and does not always go according to plan. Your goals may be changed. Perhaps they will be more simple and sweet.

The artist in you will understand.

“This road to recovery is not straight, but a curvy, hilly, potholed road that requires slow, steady navigating and lots of patience,” one friend wrote in the journal. “And this is a reminder to enjoy the ride, bumps and all.”

Now there is a gathering planned for your benefit.

Susan O’Brien’s recovery will take time and will incur expenses. Every donation large or small will ease her road ahead.

The “Susan O’Brien Benefit Dance & Silent Auction” is from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday,

Nov. 21 at Bayveiw Community Hall.

The silent auction will be from 6 to 9 p.m. (cash or checks only), and a dance featuring Ken Pickard and Zydeco Explosion is from 8 to 10:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 at the door. All proceeds will go toward the Susan O’Brien Medical Fund. Call 221-6932 for info.

Donations are also being taken at any Whidbey Island Bank. You can make donations at a branch, or mail them to Whidbey Island Bank, Susan O’Brien Fund, PO Box 211, Clinton, WA 98236.

To see O’Brien’s online journal, click here and her studio Web site, click here.

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