Tuesday, September 27, 2011



I have two heroines at my house in Walden, NY. One is my wife, Tina Su Cooper. The other is Barbara Jasek George of Pine Bush.

Tina is my love of 48 years, my wife of 27 years, quadriplegic and ventilator -dependent for the past seven years. Barbara has helped take care of her for all seven of those years. I have written about Tina and me and our staff in my book Ting and I. Here, I focus on Pine Bush’s Barbara George. who has contributed substantially to the success we have had in keeping Tina alive, against medical expectations. Like Tina, Barbara is an inspiring woman, a heroine.

In January 2004, immediately following her father’s death from cancer, a shaken Barbara George joined us as Tina’s home health aide. Tina was, at the time, paraplegic from multiple sclerosis, bedridden. I took care of Tina on the week-ends. On week-days, Barbara gave Tina “custodial care,” the kind you would give a baby or a disabled child. She knew all too well how to do this. Her own child, Kyle, is afflicted with a rare genetic disorder, Angelman’s Syndrome, which leaves its victims barely able to walk, barely able to talk, terribly dependent. Despite this, Kyle is a cheerful child. Despite her continuing concern for Kyle, Barbara George is a cheerful aide. Despite her immobility, Tina is a cheerful woman. Amazing, these three.

Tina nearly died in the spring after Barbara joined us. Her multiple sclerosis led to an “exacerbation” that left Tina quadriplegic, on a ventilator, with nearly fatal pneumonia. A one-hundred day battle in the hospital ended with our being given the choice: home or a hospice? Tina came home to a re-creation of the Critical Care Unit at Orange Regional Medical Center. We hired nurses for the skilled nursing care that Tina required. We did not let go of Barbara. Her intelligent, well-organized, empathetic approach to problems and people was put to use in having her manage our nursing logistics: ordering, scheduling, expediting, following up on, the equipment, supplies, personnel involved in this operation. She has handled all with relative ease, with grace and warmth.

During the school the school year, Barbara drives a school bus, and we adjust her hours to make it all possible. After work and on week-ends, she and her husband, John George, care for Kyle, now fourteen years old. A family with less devotion to their son would have placed him in an institution well before this, and I respect them for not having done so. Similarly, Tina has not been placed in a nursing home.

“Work is love made real,” it has been said. Barbara George’s efforts on Tina’s behalf and on Kyle’s bring this saying to life. If you knew first-hand what Barbara and Tina endure to get from day to day, you would know why I say I have two heroines in my home, one living in Walden, the other in Pine Bush.

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