Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I just looked in on my wife, Tina Su Cooper, as I do often during the day. It’s shortly after noon, and she is asleep. Her breathing is regular, with the help of her ventilator. The baby monitor brings this reassuring sound to the kitchen where her feedings and medications are prepared, and I can hear her rhythm through the open door of my office next to the kitchen.

The good news is that she rests peacefully, briefly unaware of the limitations her quadriplegia has imposed upon her. Slowly, very slowly, neurological repair is occurring while she rests. Where there is life, there is hope that someday her life will be enhanced by a medical breakthrough for multiple sclerosis. Meanwhile, we make the best of our half-full glasses of life.

The bad news is that this is yet another period when Tina and I cannot communicate. At times, her thinking and mine are clear, and we can talk as we once did, understanding each other as few, if any, others understand us. Her intellect, when intact, and our shared experience, produce conversations rivaling those we had when first falling in love at Cornell University in 1963, almost fifty years ago. She quickly grasps my meanings, laughs easily at my puns, speaks carefully so as to hurt no feelings. She was “Tina Han Su” before marriage --- her given middle name, “Han,” means “reserved,” as in “quiet.” Still waters run deep, and she can be profound. At other times when she is awake MS steals some of that mental acuity, and our interchanges are less satisfying. Fortunately, mercifully, she rarely seems aware of these cognitive losses so common to those with advanced cases of multiple sclerosis such as hers.

The phone just rang, and I hustled to get it before Tina was awakened. Sleep is good for her, but I miss her when she is asleep. Still, Tina’s sleep is a mixed blessing --- a time to catch up on other things that need attention, like writing this for the National MS Society. I’ll tell her about it when she wakes. She’s sleeping now.


Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., a retired environmental physicist, lives in southern New York State with his beloved wife, Tina Su Cooper, a former editor at the Encyclopedia Britannica and mother of two. Tina was first diagnosed with MS in 1981 at the age of 37, and she has been quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent at home for almost eight years. Tina is the central figure in Dr. Cooper’s book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, available from Amazon. Barnes and Noble, or their website,

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