A week and a half after being rushed to a Vegas hospital, Lamar Odom is still in critical condition. Despite the optimistic sighs of relief last week, Odom is still battling kidney failure. He has been moved to a Los Angeles hospital but his health remains in crises; that has not changed even as he no longer needs artificial means in order to breathe. But the developments of last week that caused great expressions of hope, have become the sobering reality of this week as Odom is still struggling to overcome the damage to his body that was self-inflicted. It is going to take a long time for Lamar Odom to be normal again; the definition of normal may change from month to month.
Lamar Odom cannot stand and he cannot walk and his speech is acutely impaired. His gross motor functions were damaged by the 12 strokes he had early on in his emergency, discovered when he had a brain scan.
Strokes deny oxygen to the brain and have devastating effects on motor and cognitive functioning long term; often the damage is irreversible, sometimes it is not. Odom’s major organs survived the consequences of the multiple strokes which is one bit of positive news. They were not harmed. But the ability to walk and stand upright, products of the motor cortex of the brain sending signals to the muscles, has been damaged.
Is this long term brain damage? At this point it’s unclear if the damage is long term or if it can be reversed by the months of physical therapy that Odom must submit to in order to regain his independence and health. Yes, Odom cheated death, he fought it off, he beat the odds in such a way he is considered a miracle. But the question must be asked: at what cost? What will be the lasting effects of his drug induced strokes? Who will Lamar Odom be from now on?
Running, jumping, leaping, dunking- that was a good part of the Lamar Odom narrative. He loved the NBA and the NBA loved him back. But life can change on a dime so don’t take anything for granted. Odom’s inability to stand or for that matter to walk seems incomprehensible, almost unthinkable when juxtaposed against the memory of Odom on the court.
Odom lived the dreams of many. He was a high functioning professional athlete dependent on his body and getting compensated for his unique talent. Sadly, all of what preceded the moment of his collapse is now a closed chapter with Odom’s survival hanging by a thread, at the mercy of doctor’s and divine intervention. Odom being independent again is so far removed from the current reality it feels like a dream: Odom sitting up, getting out of his hospital bed and walking down the hall.
While Odom’s motor functions are of concern to his medical team, the most pressing matter are the state of his kidneys. They are in total failure. Odom is on dialysis for six hours a day to rid his body of toxins, since his kidneys have shut down. If the kidneys show no ability to recover then Odom will need a transplant to survive but would he be strong enough to make it through transplant surgery?
Odom once said, “We’re all products of our environment. The key is not to fall.”
Or, the key is the ability to survive the fall which in Lamar Odom’s case is the biggest unknown of all.
photo via llananba