In mid-October, Lamar Odom was given four hours to live. 85 days later, he has cheated death. His hospitalization is over (finally) because Khloe Kardashian has moved Odom to a rehabilitation center near her home. At the rehab facility Odom, with the help of therapists, will continue his ischemic stroke recovery.
The drug-induced stroke damaged Odom’s physiological and neurological functions, perhaps long term. Back in October, the goal was overly simplistic: save the body. The heart, the lungs, the kidneys- took precedence over everything else as Las Vegas doctors furiously worked at saving Lamar Odom’s life. By all accounts, it was a grim diagnosis and prognosis for the future. But Odom’s response to the treatment, his body healing, his kidney’s beginning to function, his breathing on his own, his will to live and fight through the damage that was self-inflicted, was seen as a miracle.
In Los Angeles these past two months, Odom has been treated for neurological damage. The goal was always to get Odom out of the hospital and home. While he is not ready to return home yet, his leaving the hospital and the ability to walk without a walker (according to US Weekly) are huge victories in Odom leading an independent life.
That had always been the fear once it was clear he was going to survive. Would he be damaged permanently? Would he have an independent life where he could take care of himself and not depend on aides to help him do the simple things we all take for granted: feeding himself, going to the bathroom, getting dressed, walking down the hall. Would his gross motor functions return to the same level as before the stroke?
The family did not update his progress so it is unclear if Odom can speak and how fluent he is with language. Speech is the first thing to get lost in the brain after a stroke. It can take months of speech therapy to regain the ability to string sentences together.
That Odom is walking without a walker, as reports suggest, is a sign that with the help of therapists, he has retrained his brain for muscle stimulation, balance and nerve reactivity.
His cognitive skills are still the question mark. How much can he comprehend? What is his level of understanding? What part of his memory was affected? Odom suffered through 12 strokes. The brain was deprived of oxygen on 12 separate occassions. There’s going to be damage to the parts of the brain that reason and the parts of the brain that are grounded in emotion and impulse control. The treatment plan has always included a long term therapy approach. But how long? Another few months? Another year?
As miraculous as it is that Odom’s hospital stay has come to an end, the entire episode was triggered by an overdose. Odom has had difficulty managing his post-Lakers life. His unraveling began when he was included as one of the movable pieces in the Chris Paul trade. Even though the trade was rescinded, Odom couldn’t get over the fact that the Lakers had no qualms dealing him elsewhere, despite his importance on two championship team rosters.
Odom loved the Lakers and expected reciprocity. But business is business. Sensitive, to a fault, Odom asked to be traded and the Lakers sent him to Dallas which was a disaster. Odom was sitll grieving his Lakers divorce.
After retirement, life become more complicated. He had a friend die of an overdose. He was in a car when a freak accident killed a child. Add those tragedies to ones that he still nursed: he moured a son and a grandmother. Coping often meant substance use- to mitigate the pain- and substance abuse which is how it all came full circle in that Nevada brothel when he collapsed, was rushed to the hospital, was given a grave prognosis.
Famously, Odom once said, “I’m weak.”
He was talking about his psyche, his inability to handle suffering. But there is a bit of irony in his self-diagnosis as we assess Odom today. It is Odom’s strength, not his weakness, that is partly responsible for this miracle. He had to want to live, he had to fight for it, he had to overcome a myriad of obstacles to live past the four hours that was predicted. Perhaps, at times, when Odom’s emotions take over he can be weak. But his body, in this fight to live, was like that Game 7 against the Celtics in 2010. Odom refused to lose. He beat the odds.
Lamar Odom is alive.
photo via llananba