My heart sank when I got the ESPN alert last Tuesday that Lamar Odom was found unconscious at a Las Vegas brothel. His post-NBA struggles with substances immediately came to mind, and while I hoped it was something less serious, deep down I knew.
As of this writing, his fight continues, though the most important hurdle has been cleared, as he has escaped with his life. He’s reportedly breathing on his own, speaking a little and has taken a few steps. He’s back in Los Angeles for rehabilitation and is surrounded by family. Those are all positive developments, but the extent of any brain damage and future impaired motor skills is not yet known.
Much has been written and said about Odom’s situation – from Lamar’s unique basketball talents that we may not see again to the potential negative influence of the Kardashians to the tragedies that have befallen L.O. throughout his life. This news has personally affected me greatly. As I read the details of his circumstances a profound sadness rooted in dark memories washed over me. I read that he was unresponsive, had been intoxicated and was intubated at a hospital.
I identified with all of it but the last detail is an especially sharp one. I’ve been intubated before, at a hospital, after being found unconscious. Waking up with a plastic tube shoved down your mouth is one of those moments you can’t prepare for. There’s a stinging, burning sensation in your throat. You can’t swallow. Every instinct tells you to clutch for the apparatus and rip it out, but your hands are tied down to prevent just that. You thus can’t communicate at all, leaving you plenty of time to think about your situation and feel the confusion over how you got there. At least I did.
This is a dark time. But beneath it all is a shred of hope. You’re alive and breathing, even if it’s machine-assisted. That’s the first tiny kernel of hope…the physical body’s resilience in the face of tremendous strain. The mental/emotional/spiritual self can be just as resilient, but that rehabilitation requires a lot more conscious effort.
My hope for L.O. is this is his bottom, and that the right person or people get him the help he needs. For me, it took one more hospitalization a month later and a friend at my bedside to show me a way out, before I finally said “Enough is enough.” (But I’m stubborn and a slow learner, while Odom briefly made University of Rhode Island basketball relevant, so he’s shown the ability to overcome tough odds in the past.)
That was three years ago and since then I’ve gotten married, enjoyed some professional success and created countless new memories with friends and family. He still has hope. It will always be a struggle. But the point is he is still a young man and the future can still be bright. First things first, let’s hope Odom gets right physically, and then the hard but unimaginably rewarding work can begin.