Saturday, November 19, 2011


They don’t see her at the supermarket. Many neighbors have never seen her either. She’s not at multiple sclerosis patients’ support groups any more. Tina Su Cooper is almost the Invisible Woman.

Quadriplegic and nearly inseparable from her ventilator, Tina can be seen at various doctors’ offices a dozen times a year, and she goes to our polling place in November to vote. I help her make an “X.” The poll-workers greet her warmly, recognizing her, admiring her spirit. Born in China in 1944, Su Ting-ting became Tina Han Su and eventually Tina Su Cooper, my beloved wife. That story is told in our book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. Her patriotism is praised there, and part of her feeling for America is reflected in her determination to vote, when possible.

Tina is not quite invisible. She is also softly audible. Our nurses hold the phone for her when a call comes and dial for her when she wants to call out. Her most important statements are made to us at home:

“Thank you.”

“How are you? How are your children?”

“Have you eaten yet?”

“I love you.”

She is an inspiration to those who know her.

There must be many nearly invisible folk in America. One of our staff has a severely handicapped child whose usual day is: at home, on a bus, in a special school, back on the bus, and back home. On rare occasions he will visit other family members or they will visit him. If he goes with his mother to the supermarket, most people look away, producing another form of near-invisibility. The handicapped make some of us uncomfortable. What should we do? Should we help ? Should we give them the privacy of not staring at them? Do they remind us of a fate that could have been ours?

Unfortunately, the patients who most need help are often invisible to all but a very few. Tina cannot attend meetings. She cannot write articles, for several reasons. She can be the kindest, sweetest, dearest person I know. When she asked me to write about her, to write about us, I felt I had to. It would help make her much more visible.

No comments:

Post a Comment