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Chapter 23: Escape from the Hospital

I'm feeling a lot better after a quarter hour of relaxation exercises, mentally, though my shin is still hurting. I lever myself out of the chair using the crutches as a pry bar.

Me: Nurse, what's your name, Sally? I'm going to be out in the hall making phone calls.

The hospital has thoughtfully provided a little enclave across the hall from the intensive care unit with restrooms for non-patients, two pay phones, and a conference room where a doctor could privately give the family the bad news. I stick a prepaid card in one of the phones and dial home.

Mariposa: Simba and Tiger Leones, Mariposa speaking.

Me: Hi, it's Simba. It's not bad news. You want to get everyone together and put this on the speaker?

Mariposa: OK. Hey, kittens, come here and hear what Simba has to report. Bear, I think Emerald is dry enough now; bring him over. Quiet, Claude, or we won't be able to hear. Ready, Simba.

Me: Hi, people, Simba here. I'm still at the hospital. Attila probably told you, but I'll tell you again: a truck turned over and dumped a load of concrete blocks on all of us. Blocks like the wall is made of between the two townhouses. Tiger ended up at the bottom of the pile. She got hit in the head really hard, and one block got her right in the belly, and one leg is broken. And she's lost one arm.

Claude: How could she lose it? It's stuck on.

Me: Sorry, it isn't on any more. The truck landed on it. Now the head injury is the worst part. The bone of her head was broken. With my help, the doctors got it back together. Tiger is asleep now, and she's going to stay asleep for several days until her head gets better. I think it will take her longer to be able to talk to you, because the block hit right on the area you use to talk with. And another thing, on the broken leg they're using a contraption of ropes and weights to make it heal straight. Sometime you're going to be able to come in and visit her, and I want you to know what to expect. She won't be able to play with you.

Attila: I didn't see she was hit in the belly. If she got hit there, how's Fox?

Me: The block missed Fox, fortunately.

Attila: Can I tell them how her arm got off?

Me: Maybe I'd better. We had to take Tiger to the hospital to put her head back together; otherwise she'd die. But the truck was laying on her arm and it was too heavy to lift. I bit off her arm with my fangs.

I hear gasps from the audience.

Me: I didn't want to do it, but less I wanted her to die. A person has to do what's necessary.

Mariposa: You said something earlier about your leg.

Me: Yes, it's broken, and I'm on crutches. The break is a lot less bad than Tiger had. I just have to be patient and use the crutches and let it heal, and it will be as good as new. Attila, how are you doing? How's your arm?

Attila: It hurts.

Me: Very gently, try to turn your hand around all the way left, then all the way right.

Attila: It hurts more. Should I force it? If I were stretching, I wouldn't.

Me: Don't. I think I sent you home from the hospital too soon. But I had to get Emerald out of there, and a family member had to be with him at all times. I'm sorry, you did so well and you aren't getting your fair share of care. I'd like you to come back to the hospital. You and Mariposa find someone with a car. Mariposa, you want to write this down? Go to the emergency room; not you, Mariposa, I mean Attila and the person who takes her. Tell them your arm is broken, and have them call me; I'll be in intensive care. I have to give the authorization codes for you to be treated. Also, straightening your bone hurts; I know real well since I just had it done. You can put yourself to sleep and I'll wake you when it's over. OK?

Attila: OK. Do I have to go in an ambulance?

Me: No. It should be done this morning, but you don't have to come fast, as we did with Tiger. Attila, any more questions? No? Then, how's Emerald doing? Emerald, can you say hi to Simba?

Emerald: Yaaw.

Me: I miss you too. Did he drink anything?

Bear: He won't take milk. He hit the cup across the kitchen and he slashed me. He's lucky I didn't slash him back.

Me: Did he cut you through?

Bear: Partway, and he took off a bunch of fur.

Me: I'm sorry about that. Tiger isn't the only one having a rough time. Mariposa, I trust you're reviewing the appropriate lesson: stay well out of range of angry little kittens. Everybody hug him as much as you can, because he's feeling really insecure and alone, having gone in an instant from being a pocket kitten to being independent like you people. We got the rest of you used to not having the pocket and eating regular food, gradually, and when you were older. Did he say he was very hungry?

Bear: Well, he said uh.

Me: What time is it now? I've lost track of time.

Mariposa: About 11:30.

Me: So early? It seems like a year. OK, delay lunch as long as you can stand. When Emerald starts making serious hungry noises, eat, and everybody have a cup of milk, and be very obvious about drinking it. Sip, drink slowly so you can be doing it a long time. And don't give Emerald anything. Pretty quickly he should start screaming ``uh, uh'', and soon after that he'll climb on the table and start stealing someone's food. Let him have anything he wants. He has to have liquid, and he'll take the milk eventually. Then at dinner, give him his own chair and food and cup, with not much in it. And newspapers underneath, if you're smart. Just let him stand on the chair the way Diamond does. Someone will still have to help him eat and drink, but starting from then, try to keep him off the table and out of other people's food. When he empties the cup give him a little more milk, but only a little at one time because most of it will go on his fur and on the floor. Got that?

Mariposa: Got it.

Diamond: Come home, Simba, come home and bring Tiger.

Me: Sorry, Diamond, but Tiger is too badly hurt; she has to stay here, and I have to help take care of her for a while. I hope I can come home for dinner; I'll call and let you know my schedule when I know it. Bear, thanks for handling Emerald. Attila's arm is hurt so she can't do too much, particularly if it takes two hands. Mariposa, you want to start finding transportation for Attila? Oh, yes. I'm lost without my computer. Could you stick it in my big pack, with the wire and charger, and send the whole thing along with Attila?

Mariposa: OK, will do. I guess we'd better get going. Bye, Simba, and I hope Tiger gets well soon.

Me: Me too. Bye, kittens.

Well, that's done. Poor Emerald. In the morning he was a pocket kitten, and then bang! an accident happens, and not only no pocket, but no parent. And I feel guilty about Attila. No, lions don't feel guilty, just as I don't feel guilty about chewing off Tiger's arm. I regret slamming Attila around, sending her home without treatment. But that's going to be resolved now. Next I should check in with the Lion Foundation. I dial the number.

Mr. Lewis: Lion Foundation, Lewis here.

Me: Hi, it's Simba again. Tiger is stable, in traction, but she has a lot of recovery to do. Has Dr. Newman arrived there yet?

Mr. Lewis: Good news on that: we called the state police and they caught him and turned him around. He phoned in. He should get back to Salt Lake about 11:30, like, about now.

Me: Great news! Could you transfer me to Mr. Rothko? I need to ask a favor.

Mr. Lewis: OK, ringing. Hi, Lewis here; Simba's on the line.

Mr. Rothko: Simba, we're so sorry to hear about Tiger.

Me: Thanks. Could you do me a favor? Use root access to edit her home page, and put a link to a file in my public directory. Title it ``Updates on Tiger's Condition'' or something like that, and in the file put a bare-bones description of what happened. When I get my machine I'll replace it with a more complete report, and I'll also notify the other lions, unless you've done that already.

Mr. Rothko: We did, but I think they'd like to hear from you too, if only to get the URL. I'll set up the link.

Me: Thanks. Everyone will appreciate that. I'd better get available for Dr. Newman, so I'll say goodbye now.

Mr. Lewis: Bye, and good luck.

Next step: who is going to be in charge of Tiger's case? I hobble back to the intensive care unit. Jeez, I could get my tail tangled in the crutches! And they pull on my fur, under my arms. A white coat is checking Tiger's chart. Perhaps I'm about to meet her doctor.

Me: Hello, I'm Simba Leones, Tiger's mate.

Doctor: I'm Hiyoshi Furukawa and I'll be dealing with Tiger's recovery. It looks like she was in a pretty bad accident.

Me: Yes, she was. Dr. Newman from the Lion Foundation is going to be arriving right about now, and I'd like you and him to coordinate on lion physiology and what our genotype gives us in the way of recovery potential. Also, lions such as myself have extensive training in lion medicine since few human doctors have that training.

Dr. Furukawa: Like only one or two, I imagine.

Me: Right. And I'm her attorney for health care purposes. If you need to know what happened in the operation, I saw the whole thing. I was handling the anesthesia and vital sign monitoring.

Dr. Furukawa: Did Dr. Sumner take care of the internal bleeding?

Me: Yes, he stapled two ruptured arteries. She has a bruised bowel and kidney, but he just left them alone.

Dr. Furukawa: They'll recover by themselves if we leave them alone. From her skull I can feel that the brain is swollen. I see her blood pressure has been going up gradually.

Me: Yes, Dr. Milstein thought it was better to raise the pressure so blood gets through the tissues, but we also didn't want to make the swelling worse, so we did it very gradually.

Dr. Furukawa: Did it how?

Me: From her shoulder control panel. Do you think it's time for another step up?

Dr. Furukawa: Let's try 100 over 70. I have to see this.

Me: You want to try it? Feel these four buttons under her arm. They control sweat, wakeup, shock, and sleep. Briefly press button two and watch the monitor. If you go too high, use button three. Give it another squirt. There, you got it. Resting normal for her is 110 over 75.

Dr. Furukawa: You just do a Vulcan nerve pinch? That's amazing.

Dr. Newman: Yes, the lion people are pretty amazing. If I do say so myself.

Me: Dr. Newman! You're here at last! I need a hug.

He gives me a good one.

Me: Dr. Newman, this is Dr. Furukawa, the staff neurologist, right? who's on Tiger's case. Dr. Furukawa, Dr. Newman is the Lion Foundation's medic, and one of our creators.

Dr. Furukawa: I'm happy to meet you, Dr. Newman.

Dr. Newman: Likewise. I think we're going to be working a lot together over Tiger, so why don't you just call me Phil.

Dr. Furukawa: And I'm Hi. How much have you been told about the case?

Dr. Furukawa and I bring Dr. Newman up to date on what happened to Tiger and what has been done for her so far. Dr. Newman looks grim.

Dr. Newman: This is really nasty. This is the first time any of the lion people have been really seriously injured, and a big problem with them is, we can never be sure how all the components of their genotypes will work together. Lion people are tough as nails, but they weren't designed to survive that kind of rough treatment. If I understand the accident, a human would have been pulped. As I see it, the major problem is in the brain, and on that we just have to wait. The bone breaks are less important, but we can start to treat those promptly. You've already done a good job stabilizing the fractures mechanically. The internal injuries have to be watched, but she'll repair them by herself without our help. I have a suggestion. Let's get some food and plan what to do together, while we eat.

Dr. Furukawa: Good idea; it's getting around to lunch time.

Me: There's a slight problem: I have Attila coming back to the hospital and I need to meet her in the emergency room. I'm pretty sure her arm is broken. Suppose you go on, and I'll have someone tell me how to get to the cafeteria when we're done with Attila.

Dr. Furukawa: If there's a noon crisis, the wait could be long. You stay there, and we'll pick you up when we're done eating. OK?

Dr. Newman: And you're staying off your right leg, I see. Any other injuries to you or Attila?

Me: Lots of bruises; I ache all over. But the broken bones are the only thing serious. I'll need osteoclasm antagonist hormones too, and so will Attila.

The doctors stride off to get fed, while I, hungry, struggle along the corridor on my crutches. A lion person does what he has to, and my duty lies in a foodless direction.

In the emergency room I mention to the triage nurse that my offspring Attila is being brought back in to have a probably broken arm looked at. I wait about fifteen minutes, during which time a triplet of accident victims are rushed to the trauma rooms. I know priorities in an emergency room, and I hope Attila has brought something to entertain herself. Finally Mrs. Fisher shows up with Attila, who is struggling to carry my pack over just her good shoulder; it almost drags on the ground. Mrs. Fisher is pretty spry for her age, but I can see that her arthritis is giving her trouble today in walking, and I doubt she could handle the pack. It's hard for me to get down to Attila's level with only one leg working, but she's busted her butt for me, and she deserves no less from me.

Me: Hi, Attila, put down that heavy pack and let me give you a great big one-sided hug. You're such a brave, strong lion and you're doing so much for everyone in the family. You're really a good kitten. How are you feeling?

Attila: Tired, and my arm hurts, and I'm hungry, and I hurt all over but my arm is the worst. And I'm scared for Tiger.

Me: You feel the same way I do. Let's get you checked in. We'll have to wait, but we'll get your arm straightened out. Thanks so much, Mrs. Fisher. This may take a while. If you want you could go home and I'll get Attila home another way.

Mrs. Fisher: Oh, no, I brought my knitting and something to read. I'll keep Attila company. I know you need to stay with Tiger.

Me: Thanks so much. You just have a seat here and I'll get Attila checked in. Now how am I going to stand up without falling over? Oof, I got it. Over here, Attila.

We've been waiting about ten minutes. Attila is entertaining herself on my computer by flying my simulator left-handed. She's better with the right hand. Aah, there's Dr. Newman and Dr. Furukawa.

Attila: Dr. Newman, Dr. Newman! Are you going to fix my arm?

Dr. Newman: Well, actually, that might be very good use of everyone's time. Hi, do you suppose we could borrow an examining room? I have an authorization on file to work on lion people here.

Dr. Furukawa checks with the triage nurse, who sends Attila in for x-rays, and then assigns a vacant room.

Me: OK, Attila, climb up on the table. This is the part that hurts. You can just put yourself to sleep and let us do all the work.

Attila lays back and reaches under her arm for button four. For evening up the two bones of her forearm, Dr. Newman holds her ulna in alignment, Dr. Furukawa lifts her into position, and I hold her hand against the examining table so it doesn't slide away, and pound hard on the back of her elbow, adding another bruise to my collection, and hers. Attila sleeps blissfully through all the action. I envy her. Dr. Furukawa sets her back on the table and Dr. Newman depresses button two.

Attila: Is it over? My arm is more sore, and now my elbow and wrist hurt.

Dr. Newman: I'm sorry, Attila, but your arm had already started to heal, and straightening it made it hurt again. We had to put a lot of force on your elbow and wrist to get the bone to go back to its right length, which is why they hurt. Tonight I'll give you and Tiger and Simba some shots to make the bone heal solidly. Both of you, I'd advise not being awake for that. With the shots you should be able to use your hand for light work, like typing, in a week, and normal exercises like climbing and running, in a month. Not before that, hear? I don't want you to break the bone again through the part that's trying to heal. Let's go out to the waiting area and talk a little about plans.

Attila: Should I play the game some more?

Me: You may if you want to. You might also be interested to find out what we're going to do about Tiger.

Dr. Newman: Hi, you're in charge here.

Dr. Furukawa: Phil expects that we can get her out of traction in about ten days. By then we should be able to do some neurological evaluation to see what function she's retained. Once she's out of traction I'd like to do a NMR scan, and then Phil suggests that we send her home, no matter what condition she's in. I agree, that she probably will recover a lot better with the stimulation of a loving family with active kids jumping. A big problem with neurological patients is that they get left out of activities and they lose stimulation.

Dr. Newman: I'm not optimistic how much function Tiger will have when she wakes up. However, lion people are tough, and we designed regenerative capacity into as much of the body as possible, including the central nervous system. She may regain some lost functions. But mostly what she needs, Attila, are you understanding this? She needs the help of her family to learn to live as she is, and to stay steady, not to give up. Attila, do you have any ideas how you kids can help Tiger live as she is?

Attila: I'm responsible for... for Tiger?

Me: We're all responsible for each other, all the time. It used to be that Tiger didn't need your help, so you never felt the responsibility, but that's changed now, for everyone in the family.

Attila: Maybe... We mustn't leave Tiger out. She used to play with us; now we have to play with her.

Me: Close, but people play together, not one directionally. The games will have to change, though. No two handed games from now on, for example. And I expect Tiger will have trouble to talk, so you can't play games with her that require talking. We'll have to find out what she can do, and work around it, and help her work around it.

Dr. Newman: Simba, as the attorney, do you approve this treatment plan?

Me: Yes, of course. I certainly can't think of anything better.

Dr. Newman: Now, I'm going to stay here with Tiger, and I'm going to have Mr. Ragland bring down a supply of osteoclastic antagonist, and shoot her up when he gets here. My prescription to you, Simba, is to go home with Attila and go to sleep. Tiger isn't going to do anything but lay there. I'll be here to watch her and train the nurses.

Me: I already showed Sally how to empty her bladder. Are you sure I should leave her? I really don't feel good about that.

Dr. Newman: Your family needs you healthy and ready to go tomorrow, and so does Tiger. You're not doing any good burning up your energy here doing nothing. So go get some rest now. And stay off the leg. Agreed?

Me: OK, agreed. But you're staying with us, right? And tell Mr. Ragland to come over to our place for dinner, and he can stay too unless he has to drive back in the evening. Coyote and Mariposa will cook, not me. It would comfort me to see him.

Dr. Newman: I'm tempted to say no, but I know the kids can handle the cooking without you. That's a hint. Now get out of here.

Dr. Newman certainly makes some good points, and I am so tired. I stuff my light pack into the big one and wiggle into it while sitting. I guess I put Attila through the big struggle to carry it, for nothing. Well, at least she had something to occupy her while she waited to be treated. I let Mrs. Fisher lead me and Attila out to her car. We buckle up and she drives off.

At home I'm greeted by eeps of joy from all the kittens, including Mariposa. It takes some careful psychology to greet Emerald happily while keeping him out of my pocket. I can smell the spilled milk, and milk-soaked paper towels, and milk-smeared fur, from Emerald's various attempts to feed himself. After hugging everyone (sitting on a chair), and explaining the safety rules about my leg, and warning Mariposa that Dr. Newman and likely Mr. Ragland are coming to dinner, I figure out how to get myself safely up the stairs to my room. Oops, my bed is atop a ladder. I gingerly lay down on my exercise mat -- no flopping; I learned that lesson -- and finally relax. I'm very lonely. The one I really want, isn't here.

Quite a bit later...

Coyote: Hey, Simba, wake up! Wake up, buddy! It's almost time for dinner.

Me: Ummf. I was having a nightmare. Jeez, I'm stiff. Can I just lay a minute?

Coyote: Sure, no problem, take your time.

Me: Any news on Tiger?

Coyote: Dr. Newman says the swelling was maybe slightly less, when he left the hospital. He and Mr. Ragland are downstairs.

Me: OK, I've got my joints to bend. By the time I'm done with this I'm going to be rigid, like a mummy! Help me up; there has to be a better way. I know, if I lay near the ladder I can pull myself up on it in the morning. Thanks, Coyote. Now where are the stupid crutches?

The kittens have eaten already, and Bear is setting out plates for the older people while Attila puts knives and forks on the table, a one handed task if done with forethought. The kids have made curried soybean burritos, with shredded Chinese greens, extra carne and cheese, wrapped in real corn tortillas. I can tell that Mr. Ragland has his doubts, but once he tastes one he finishes the roll enthusiastically and takes several more. There's a bowl of raw prepackaged carrot sticks, everyone gets either real or non-lactose milk, and I can see fruit waiting on the kitchen counter for dessert. The meal gives balanced nutrition for humans (as well as lions), it has enough fiber and vegetable bits to keep our guts moving, and we in this family like the mix and variety of flavors. And an important factor when kids are involved who have other responsibilities, the food doesn't take a lot of labor to prepare.

While we eat we talk about non-threatening topics, such as the collaboration between the Lion Foundation and Dr. Chang's new company. Chang wisely quit as the president of Xylogen, being unsuited as a titan of industry, though he remains on the board of directors. All Dr. Newman can say is that the project is eukaryotic, it is not an intelligent life form, and if successful (by no means a sure thing) it will make Xylogen look like a mom and pop liquor store. No, it's not a sheep with polyterephthalate fleece. Xylogen has a stranglehold on that market.

The kittens drift in and out of range. Tiger and I have trained them carefully to take care of themselves in the area of entertainment, and to hug each other and to provide emotional support to any frustrated kitten. That doesn't mean that we ignore them; we make a point of hugging them whether they need it or not, and after an upset they can (and generally do) come to us after, not before, soliciting support from peers, and we initiate or join in with fun activities such as climbing on the cargo nets. But when we're doing non-kitten activities, like now, or activities too advanced for a particular kitten, they know to be polite and not demand our attention, and they have resources in each other so they don't need to demand our attention. Nonetheless they're curious what we're doing, a healthy interest, and they eavesdrop.

I've been doing more than stuffing my face. Over fruit I bring up a topic.

Me: I've been doing some financial simulations in my head. Tiger has disability insurance, and after ninety days it will start paying two thirds of her salary until she can go back to work. Also, Xylogen is just exploding, and while their dividend ratio isn't very high, we have so many shares after all the splits that the dividend is almost as much as our salaries combined. More, while Tiger is on disability. Feeding two teenagers and five kittens is expensive, but we have a lot more money than we need to survive. What we need is time. Mariposa and Coyote, you've done an outstanding job leading the kittens, and with my and Tiger's phased hours and work days we've managed to have at least one person covering the kittens at all times, while still leaving you two a reasonable amount of time to study and to have a life. But now Coyote is going to be going away every day to junior college, and Tiger is going to be in here mending, and it looks to me that unless changes are made, Mariposa is going to become a full time nurse and mother, I mean one adult shift of 40 hours a week, with me handling the evening shift. That's not what you signed up for, I don't think it's fair to you, and I don't think it's best for the kittens.

Coyote: I can postpone junior college. I can get a refund of my fees.

Me: Reasonable help is expected. Messing up your life is neither expected nor desired. We raised you to grow up, to be physically and psychologically strong, and to be self-supporting. We're not going to abandon that goal to get child care out of you, and you shouldn't either. Agreed?

Coyote: Well, I see your point.

Me: I'll take that as yes. My plan is to quit from Xylogen and start a business that I can do here at home. I'll be here to do my part caring for the kittens and for Tiger. Starting in a week, about when Tiger comes home, I'm going to take a leave of absence from Xylogen, telling them it's for one month. At the end of that time I'll know a lot better what business opportunities are feasible, and how much care Tiger will require, and whether this plan is the right one. Comments?

Coyote: You're sure about the finances? You've always eaten salary, and not all of that, but put investment income back into investments. What if the home business doesn't work out, or takes a long time to make a profit? You have negative cash flow.

Me: Good questions. When the policy doesn't match reality, we have to change the policy, and eat investment income if necessary. Or even eat reserves or sell some stock, though I really doubt that will be needed. Any business has risk, even Xylogen, or particularly Xylogen. Fortunately the kind of business I'm trained for doesn't take a lot of capital investment; the negative cash flow is for living expenses, and we know we can cover those. Your questions are good, but I think I've given good answers to them.

Mariposa: I don't mind helping with the kittens; they're fun. But they do cut into my study time. I really hope Tiger gets better. I wish we could be like we always have been.

Me: I don't want to change either, but people always have to change, for one reason or another. I hate to be brutal about this, but don't plan on getting the old Tiger back. It's going to be a new Tiger, and how much she can do, I just don't know. I'd really like it, and I'm sure she would prefer it, if she could go back to being an ace chip designer for Whinx, but whatever we get, she's ours and we love her, right?

Attila: Right. When a toy gets broken and you fix it, it isn't really like it was. That makes me sad, but I'm not going to ruin my life over it.

Me: Good Attila, smart Attila! Come around here and get a hug. You too, Claude.

Dr. Newman: Attila, that's a good attitude. Simba, there's one thing that worries me about your plan. If you're cooped up in the house all the time you're going to lose the stimulation of outsiders.

Me: I had a thought on that. The ideal would be to keep some kind of consultant relation with Xylogen, so I could go in maybe once a week and do something useful. I'm going to have to be creative to come up with a relation that puts me at home most of the time, but is still beneficial to the company. There are alternatives, such as a client-centered business, or volunteer work in addition to business. For example, Diana was an income tax preparer before she got her CPA license. That's a job I could handle easily, at home. Assuming I'd enjoy straightening out other people's so-called financial records. Coyote tried out a number of jobs before picking silviculture and investing major time in his junior college studies, and I expect I'll have to do the same.

Mr. Ragland: We brought you kids up right, and you know how to figure things out. Be steady, that's what they always say at the Lion Foundation. You're going to do all right by Tiger, and you're going to do all right by yourself.

Me: Thanks, Mr. Ragland. I'll be steady, and I won't give up, and we'll all help Tiger remember to do the same.

It's just over a week since the accident, in the evening. My leg is a lot better, thanks to lion regulatory sequences instructed by Dr. Newman's hormone gel that he injected into the break, and I can walk now without the crutches if I'm gentle about it, and I can drive. I've arranged my schedule to check on Tiger before work, at lunch, and after dinner, taking one or two family members along at that time. Poor Tiger was moved out of intensive care on the morning of the second day, and now she's in a regular ward. She just lays there in traction. Her roommate also just lays there. Today I brought Bear.

Me: Tiger, it's Simba and Bear. Can you hear us?

Bear: Hi, Tiger, when are you going to get better?

I hold Tiger's hand and stroke her fur. Bear pulls up the chair and stands on it, the better to stroke her parent, gently, remembering the broken ribs. Tiger's tail is caught under her leg and Bear pulls it free. I feel something. I stroke Tiger's arm again. Ever so faintly, she squeezes my hand.

Me: Tiger, Tiger, I felt that!

I stroke more vigorously, but the squeeze is not repeated.

Bear: Simba, what was that?

Me: Tiger squeezed my hand, just once. She might wake up in the next few days.

The next morning Tiger's roommate is gone; where, I don't know and don't care to speculate. Mike, my boss at Xylogen, isn't very happy about my leave of absence, but there's not much he can do about it. At noon I get another isolated squeeze. I'm going to bring the whole family in after dinner.

After dinner, though, I think things through.

Attila: But why can't we go? I want to talk to Tiger!

Me: I suspect she's about to wake up, and I know you all want her back so much, so I made a bad judgment, telling you we'd all visit tonight. Think of it from her point of view. She's been out for so long, and her head still isn't going to feel good, and I think she'll have a lot of trouble to talk and will be very frustrated by that. Let's add in seven kittens all going Tiger, Tiger all at once, and she'll be upset, not happy to see you. How should I have judged it? Bear?

Bear: Just you go, because you know the inside of a lion person the best.

Me: Very good answer. Until she's awake and used to me, I'm going to go in alone from now on. I hope that will be only a day or two. Then I'm going to go back to taking one person at a time, but there will be more chances for you since I won't be working. When Tiger comes home we'll make a space for her, likely down here or possibly in our room upstairs, and I'd like you to talk to her enough, but not too much. Understand what I mean? Like with my leg and Attila's arm, it takes time for it to get stronger, and Tiger's brain is hurt worse, and needs more time to heal, and you need to do your part so it gets exercised, but not so much that Tiger gets hurt. OK, kittens? Now I'm going over to the hospital.

When I arrive and check in at the nurse's station, Nancy, the night nurse, has good news for me.

Nancy: Simba, Tiger seems to be conscious! About six when I emptied her bladder, I saw she was trying to open her eyes, and later I saw her doing something with her hand.

I smile broadly and hurry to Tiger's room, forgetting the effect a lion's broad smile has on humans.

Me: Hi, Tiger, it's me, Simba!

Her eyes are open, but there is no response to my greeting. When I come close her eyes, not her head, turn to follow my movement, but when I stop moving they lose the target and drift slowly around the room, blinking occasionally. Not good. I take her hand and stroke her fur. This time I get a fierce grip back, but shaky, and she can't hold it long. My urge is to give her a frizzy rub with my free hand, but I have to be steady for her. I rub her chest and belly with long, calm strokes. After the sixth or seventh stroke I notice that she's squeezing, more gently, in time with my motion. I insert random pauses between strokes. She misses the first one, but after that she waits for each stroke and then squeezes. It's not as if I have a millisecond timer in my head, but my impression is that her reaction time is about 300 milliseconds. Dr. Furukawa will want to know that. I want to try something different; this will be the last stroke. I bring my hand to a stop resting on her chest.

Me: Hi, Tiger, how are you feeling?

No response.

Me: Eep. Eep. Eep.

No response. Keeping holding her hand I move my face around her visual field, and the creepy eyes follow me again, but I get no response to that either. Wrong! She squeezes, and I freeze and stroke her fur. Then I move again until I get a squeeze, which comes faster. I wait a moment and she squeezes; instead of stoking her arm I open my hand for just an instant, then take hers again. I wait -- no squeeze -- then I start moving again and a squeeze comes promptly. This time I give her a big stroke. New game: speech. I sit down out of her view.

Me: Hi, Tiger, what's going on in there?

I chatter nonsense until she squeezes, then stroke her and shut up. Getting her to respond to my voice takes a lot more patience than the other modes did, but gradually she seems to understand what I want her to do. Wrong: she's obviously having trouble recognizing my voice as the unconditioned stimulus, and is gradually getting better at it. After about fifty trials she's gotten her response time down to about a second, but suddenly she writhes her hand out of my grip, then starts frantically wriggling her fingers and hand like a drowning person grasping at a rescuer. The IV tube from her arm rattles against the pole. Should I take her hand? No, she broke contact so she should remake it, but I move my hand so she can't miss crashing into it. She grabs on again, but as I start to squeeze she slides her hand up my wrist, losing contact. We repeat the performance, with calmer hunting behavior on her part, until she's able to slide her hand up and down my forearm. She's trying to stroke me! I stand up to get both hands on her and we trade strokes in a conversation.

Nancy: Excuse me, Simba. How is Tiger? You've been there for over an hour.

Me: Oh! She's communicating! Come over beside me where you're in her field of vision, and stroke her. I think she's having trouble making her eyes work, but she's definitely in there.

Nancy does as told, and Tiger breaks contact and starts reaching around. I guide her hand to touch Nancy, where Nancy is touching her. Tiger gives her a few strokes, then finger walks down her chest to where my hand is, and resumes stroking me on that hand.

Nancy: That's very good progress. The doctor will be pleased to see it; I'll put a note on the chart. But Tiger is still weak and I think she needs to rest. You could do more tomorrow.

Me: I get the hint. She's pretty tough, and I don't want to let her go just when I get her back. But you could be right. How do I ask her? She's always making decisions for other people and getting snapped at; I don't want to get in the habit of making decisions for her. I have an idea.

I put her hand down on the bed, holding it, and pass my hands over her eyes to get her to close them, and squeeze a reward when she does so. Then I slowly pull my hand away off her fingertips. I put it back. She waits, and I do it again. This time when I take her hand, she semi-imitates the gesture on me.

Me: Good-bye, Tiger. I'll see you again tomorrow, maybe with one of the kittens.

Outside I borrow a pen and paper from Nancy, and write up Tiger's results for Dr. Furukawa to see. Nancy is suitably impressed. Tomorrow will be a good day. I hope.

It's morning again and I'm anxious to get started with Tiger. Susie, the morning nurse, says she's been raising and lowering her arm all morning, as well as turning her good leg from side to side and moving her toes. Through her door I can see her doing it. It looks like exercises. That's something Tiger would resume as soon as possible. I go in.

Me: Hi, Tiger, it's me again, Simba.

No response, of course. I wonder... I get into her field of view, she stops moving, and I bend over so she can smell my shoulder. She seems to jump. I'm necessarily leaning over her arm, and very carefully she disentangles it; then she pulls me down and hugs me tight, breathing in my scent. I hug back.

We do the stroke conversation again. But then Tiger starts an odd pattern of motion. She touches her ribs where they were broken, sort of points, and makes a circle around the injury. She repeats for her head, though she points from a distance, not actually touching. Then for her other arm and her broken leg, and then she does the touch and circle around the deep bruise on her belly. Finally she pauses, then does it unmistakably over her uterus. Is she saying Fox is in trouble? I immediately listen, as I've done many times before. I can hear his heartbeat clearly, very fast since he's still so small, and he exercises vigorously on feeling my weight. The doctors said he was fine, and I can't recognize anything wrong.

Me: Susie, could you come here please? Tiger is saying, or possibly asking, that Fox is injured. Fox is our kitten, inside her. Could you listen with your stethoscope and tell me what you think?

Susie: OK, let's check it out. How old is the baby?

Me: Sixteen weeks. Our kittens grow similarly to human babies.

Susie: It's moving around a lot for sixteen weeks, but otherwise sounds fine. We should run some tests to make sure, though.

Me: The problem is, it would be logical for her to ask how Fox was doing, but the way she communicated it could equally well be a statement. I'm going to assert that Fox is OK. Hmm, how do I do that? Well...

I do a touch and circle on Tiger's good arm, her cheek, her chest, her right hip, her good leg, and finally over her uterus. Immediately Tiger reaches down and takes my hand, and squeezes, then reaches in random directions. I guide Susie's hand into Tiger's, and Susie gets a squeeze too. Then Tiger puts her arm around my waist.

Susie: That's sweet! I think she was asking, and she likes the answer, don't you? But there's something that puzzles me. She never once moved her head, through all that reaching around I saw her doing. She must have tried to keep it still. I wonder what that means, and if Dr. Furukawa should be notified?

Me: Let me try something.

I put my hand on Tiger's forehead and begin to extend my spirit to make her gently turn. But as soon as I begin, she extends her claws from the hand on my back, and I feel her spirit symbolizing those claws piercing my kidney. I back off, and so does she. I try some tentative strokes on her chest. She gives me a vigorous rub on my back, then pokes me, not entirely gently, with a single claw.

Me: Translation: don't you dare try that. She really doesn't want her head to turn. I wonder...

Tiger unwraps her arm from me and makes some kind of hand sign, in which her amputated arm flips across her chest. She stops. Her stump flops back to the bed. Clearly her powerful shoulder muscles are overdriving what's left of her arm. With her right arm she finger-walks down her left arm and off the end.

Gulp! This is obviously a new discovery. She must have thought her arm was in traction or something. She traces the scab where the end was closed. She walks off the end and back, several times. She feels the end of the bone through the skin. Then she reaches up with claws extended and slashes hard at an invisible enemy. Susie jumps back. The IV tube's needle pulls out of its connector. To keep her from slamming her claws into her own belly I guide the strike horizontally and try to hold her hand firmly but calmly, risking getting tendons cut if she decides to turn on me. Instead she jabs her claws in the air, then flops her hand on the bed, claws retracted. Throughout this whole response she hasn't made a sound. I stroke her; I carefully take her hand; but she refuses to respond.

The nonresponse continues for about ten minutes, while I stroke her arm -- her right arm, the good one - and her chest in what I hope is a soothing pattern. Susie replaces the IV transfer tube, which is now non-sterile. Finally Tiger kind of kicks her foot sideways, puts her arm around me and gives me a gentle stroke. Then she places my hand on her chest. She makes the point and circle close to her injured skull, then places her hand next to mine and rubs their edges together roughly and uncomfortably. Aha!

Me: Susie, I think the reason she won't move her head is that her brain sloshes against the bone plate, and it makes the edges grind together, which bothers her, which I certainly can understand.

Susie: Right, that makes a lot of sense. I'll note it on the chart as a patient complaint. Tiger has had kind of a rough morning, hasn't she?

Me: Yes, she has. Why do I get the impression you're going to tell me to get out of here?

Susie: Because you know as well as I do that my patient is very tired.

Me: OK, a couple of hugs and I'll leave.

Tiger chooses that moment to touch the stump of her arm and make her circle. She slashes again, but this time symbolically and without real violence, and she immediately puts her good arm around my waist and hugs. I hug back, and stroke her stump, which I haven't touched before. It's a creepy feeling, but I have to be as brave as she is.

Me: Susie, I think she's saying she's angry about losing her arm, but she's going to accept it.

At noon I bring in Attila and after dinner Mariposa visits Tiger. We're all disappointed that Tiger can't see, hear or talk. Actually she can see; Mariposa and I do an experiment and after a moderate amount of training Tiger can distinguish visually whether Mariposa's hands are touching or apart, and then Mariposa's fingers, and then the tips of two pens. Thus her visual acuity is fine, but she has to work hard to interpret what she sees, where normal people ``just see it''. Probably the same is true for sounds. We haven't had a good opportunity to check out infrared. But it's clear that within her severe limitations Tiger is trying patiently and steadily to communicate, and to make decisions about what activities we do with her.

This morning, for example, Bear and I were doing a long and ultimately fruitless exercise in vision with Tiger, and she sawed it off and, by squeezing as soon as I started talking, indicated that she wanted to change to work on speech. Which was also fruitless, unfortunately, but I'm not going to get discouraged. She eventually cut that one off too and just stroked, then when she seemed to be tiring, she said goodbye all by herself. Good Tiger, tough Tiger. I really shouldn't use that tone with her even in my mind, should I?

Tomorrow Tiger is supposed to go home, and today we're doing the preparation for it. During the morning after I left, Dr. Freeman took Tiger down from the traction, removing the hooks, and there's a note on the chart that x-rays were taken and a NMR scan was done of her brain. At noon Tiger showed me how she could now move both legs, very gently to keep from jiggling her head. I was pleased, but I hadn't come for my regular visit but to help Dr. Furukawa fasten her skull plate more securely in place. The gurney ride to the operating room was scary and jiggly for her, but I hope I previously conveyed an idea to her of what we wanted to do. She knocked herself out with button four when I told her to, and the incisions, new pins and hormone gel injection were accomplished without major drama. The operation is over and I've just awakened her.

Me: Look, Dr. Furukawa, she's testing if she can move her head. She likes it!

Indeed, Tiger does a full roll right and left, then lifts her head twice gingerly off the hard operating table to see how it feels. And then, to everyone's surprise, she sits right up and experiments with putting her foot off the edge of the table.

Dr. Furukawa: Well that's impressive, but patients don't walk out of the operating room. Simba, would you get her down flat please? We're supposed to be getting her onto the gurney, not the floor.

I do my best to comply, including a rub followed by a claw jab on the chest that's supposed to mean, ``we love you but you'd better do as you're told''. Tiger compromises by maneuvering onto the gurney under her own power, by feel, and doing a few leg lifts before the orderly and I roll her out.

Once we return to Tiger's room we're able to keep her laying down for about ten seconds before she's got her torso up again. I trace out for her the IV line, and she touches it on the pole, signifying that she knows it's there. Then she's got her good leg off the bed and reaching for the ground. Susie is all aflutter.

Susie: She has no orders for walking, and if she's going to try it she should sit first! Can you get her to sit? With her legs hanging off the bed?

I grab her hips and plant them on the bed; she stops her impromptu experimentation. I pull her legs around and push her hips back farther from the edge, and she figures out what's wanted; she sits there prim and proper, with her one hand on her knee. Susie listens to her heart rate; I think she's stalling.

Me: If she were going to faint I think she would have done it by now, don't you? Let's let her go all the way down.

Susie: I'm not the one advising this. We'll stand on either side, and get ready to catch her because she may not have good balance. Watch out for the IV.

I hold Tiger and give her the signal to slide forward. She very tentatively moves her butt to the edge of the mattress and reaches... and finds the floor. She's down, on her own two feet. She gives me a big hug, and then she enfolds a surprised Susie. She's not the only one surprised: Dr. Furukawa shows up.

Dr. Furukawa: Well, well, this is faster progress than I'd expected. How's Tiger doing? I wouldn't want to overstress her.

Me: She seems to be handling standing just fine. I think she can tell you're a third person. Come up and hug her, and maybe she'll recognize you.

I'm right. She gives Dr. Furukawa a demure hug, then takes his hand and makes the goodbye sign. She does it again for emphasis.

Me: She told you goodbye. She wants to get out of here.

Dr. Furukawa: Right after surgery? No way! Besides, she's still on IV.

Me: Well, let's think this through. There's no residual anesthesia as there would be in humans, right? And the reason she's on IV is that she hasn't been eating or drinking. Let's do this. I'll go down to the cafeteria and get a bagel, a banana and some juice or soft drink. That's a normal lunch for a lion person. If she can get those down, I'd say she's ready to go home. Wouldn't you?

Dr. Furukawa: Well, I won't be too dogmatic on lion people. That means I won't say no immediately. Go get the food, and let's see what happens.

Me: Can I get either of you anything? I didn't have lunch, and I'm getting food for myself too.

Dr. Furukawa: No, I ate before the operation. Could you get her to at least sit down? I'd like to do some tests.

I slowly back Tiger up to the chair next to the bed, and on colliding with it she gets the idea and sits, feeling with her hand for the seat. I say goodbye, at which Tiger seems not too happy. On returning with the food I find Susie tending to another patient and Dr. Furukawa doing what looks like an action-reaction game with Tiger.

Me: Lunch is here. Hi, Tiger.

Dr. Furukawa moves out of the way, and I let Tiger smell my scent gland, getting a hug from her. I give her a raisin bagel, her favorite. She wolfs it down, shredding the tough dough with her fangs, while I munch my sesame bagel and try to keep the seeds off the floor. She holds out her hand for more food. I open the banana and give it to her; she polishes it off, neatly using her teeth to pull the skin away. She returns the skin and holds out her hand again. I give the juice, with a straw. Tiger nearly sticks it in her eye, but figures out what she's got and starts sucking. She drains the box of juice, returns it, and holds out her hand. I press it against my tummy: I ate the rest.

Tiger then stands up, sticks out one finger with the opal claw extended, and wiggles it so everyone will watch. Then she hooks the claw around the IV transfer tube coming across from the pole. She has the politeness to not actually cut it, but the message is obvious, that she doesn't think it's needed and she wants it gone. She then extends her hand.

Me: Dr. Furukawa, you're supposed to take her hand and I think she's going to say goodbye again. What do you think?

Indeed, Tiger does make the goodbye sign, and then practically sticks her wrist in Dr. Furukawa's face, as if he's supposed to bite off the IV needle. He gently lowers her hand and thinks a moment.

Dr. Furukawa: I think you and she are right; she's ready to go home. I wish all my patients could recover that dramatically. I'll just un-tape her IV. I really would like to go over her NMR scans with you, while Susie takes care of the paperwork and calls an escort. Susie, when you're done with your patient there, could you set up Tiger's release for me? Now Simba, I have the NMR's here; I brought them up for you to see. Tiger could sit down again.

Me: I don't think she can see them, but let's pretend she can, so she can feel she's being included. The gray area in these four slices: that's damage, isn't it?

Dr. Furukawa: It certainly is. You've already noticed that her speech is essentially absent, and her hearing and vision are impaired partially. Speech is handled here, in the middle of the damaged area, and these areas control hearing and vision: a lot of hearing was wiped out, and a smaller section of the visual cortex. The zone of damage also extends forward to the edge of an area that influences emotions, so you should be prepared for possible changes there. I wouldn't expect a big change, but you may notice something, and if so, please bring it to my attention. Your reports have been very helpful. Dr. Newman indicated that lion people have more capacity for CNS repair than humans do, and so we may see some improvement in the damaged functions over a period of months or years, but Tiger's recovery is going to be long and frustrating. She's going to need a lot of support and love.

Me: We, our family know that, and we intend to take care of her.

Dr. Furukawa: I'm sure you will. I'd like to see her in one week. For this week her job is just to learn to live as normal a life as she can, with that degree of brain damage. Feeding herself, she seems to have that down cold; getting around the house, toilet, washing. Tiger is very independent and forceful, and I'm sure she'd prefer to do as much for herself as she's able. But! She has to learn that she has limitations now, and if she can't do something safely, like taking a shower, she has to accept your help. Right? She should have moderate stimulation, enough but not excessive. The exercises you've been doing on vision and hearing are excellent; keep them up. I think you said your house is two stories; whenever she's on the stairs she should be attended by someone strong enough to catch her when she falls. Outdoor walking is good, but only short distances at first, meaning fifty or a hundred meters, until her fractures are healed more, and she must never go out alone; she should be accompanied by a responsible adult who can get her out of trouble and who can insist that she go home when she's had enough. Now, what arrangements are you making for home care?

Me: I'm going to be working at home, so I'll be caring for her actively. We're the guardians of two human teenagers, so I have backup. I don't remember if you met Mariposa and Coyote.

Dr. Furukawa: No, I didn't. That's a surprising relation, for a lion person to be guardian to humans. Maybe you can tell me sometime how it came about. How are you doing financially?

Me: Through her disability and health insurance, and our good planning and a certain amount of luck connected with stocks, we're going to be OK financially.

Dr. Furukawa: That's good; you're very fortunate. You have my card. The URL on it is to a page for my patients. There are links to many support groups, and a search facility that will help answer many common questions that come up, and there's a forum I manage. Post non-urgent questions there. People who have been through your experience will post how they dealt with it, and you're encouraged to read the forum and post your advice, and I'll try to post an answer to all questions so everyone can learn from it. Of course if the question isn't for public posting, send mail, or for any urgent matter use the phone number. But it looks like you two are going to be just fine. Goodbye, and I'll see you in a week.

Dr. Furukawa hugs Tiger, takes her hand, and at last makes the goodbye sign. Right on cue, a patient escort worker appears with a wheelchair, and we get out of there.

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