This is the second essay of a two-part narrative account. B. Allen’s wife, Rebecca Bratspies, contributed her own personal thoughts about Allen’s composing life. Click here to read Rebecca’s heartfelt story entitled “We Are Not Alone.”
NEW YORK CITY | In March, 2014, I suffered an anoxic brain injury, after a cardiac arrest. I fell into a coma, which lasted 29 days.
On April 29, 2014, I came out of the coma. The hard work of recovery began. All the doctors told me and my partner, Rebecca, that it was not a good idea to expect too much.
World premiere performance of "Aspects of a Singularity" for Viol Consort (Treble, Tenor, Bass, Bass) Composed by B. Allen Schulz. From a live performance on November 8, 2013 at DiMenna Center for Classical Music in NYC. Presented by Random Access Music composers' collective. Performed by PARTHENIA - Beverly Au, Lawrence Lipnik, Rosamund Morley and Lisa Terry, viols (http://www.parthenia.org)
In the last year and a half, several doctors told us:
He may die
He may never come out of the coma.
He may never recover or survive from his acute respiratory syndrome or ARDS (often fatal) — a pneumonia-like virus that attacks the respiratory system
He may never see again.
He may never walk again.
He may have to use a cane forever.
He may never be able to read.
He may never be able to be left alone.
He should not be allowed to take a shower by himself.
He may never be able to go anywhere alone.
He may never be able to write again.
He may never be able to cook a meal again.
He may never be able to have sex again.
He may have to take anti-seizure medication forever.
Having been in “status epilepticus,” he will have seizures forever.
He may never compose music again.
About the doctors who “gave me back my life”
These are words some of my doctors used, but I want to be clear. My therapists — particularly my physical therapist Nehal Patel and my cognitive therapists — NEVER said such things.
And a few of my doctors — particularly Drs. Anne Ambrose and Sabrina Breed — never even suggested such things.
They gave me back my life. Every single one of these people gave me hope and encouragement, and even love. I have recovered so well, only because of their help and kindness.
The first time I met Dr. Ambrose, she told me: “Mr. Schulz, I do not usually take patients from nursing homes, but I took you.” She then added something that went along the line of “Don’t make me regret my decision.”
I pray that I have not done so — that she is happy and proud that she took a chance on me, my partner Rebecca and my daughter Naomi.
I would not be where I am without Dr. Ambrose and all the amazing people at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
I want to mention one other doctor who cared about my situation and gave me Hope. She is Dr. Yoo, a neurologist. When I last spoke with her, she said, “Mr. Schulz, you are showing me what ‘recovery’ means.”
I have kept her words in the front of my mind. It has been my mantra for myself these last few months.
One final doctor: Dr. Mathew Maur. He has been one of my doctors since I had a heart attack a few years back. He was particularly there for Rebecca when I was in a coma, and he has been there for my whole family during my long recovery — talking with Rebecca over the phone, answering her questions, and giving advice and encouragement throughout.
On September 27, 2014 Dr. Ambrose released me from her care at Mt. Sinai, and I retuned to my own home and began the real hard work of piecing my life back together
I would not be where I am without them.
A will to live. A strong will to return to life.
Having a brain injury is not the end — as many doctors and others will try to tell you. But it is a difficult road to travel. People and many doctors have pre-conceptions about you and your brain, opinions that are based on their experiences, of course, but they often do not look at the human being sitting right in front of their faces — they have no idea of your will to live or your will to return to your life. They know only of your broken body and injured brain.
They will never know you.
The doctors were wrong in each of the comments I listed above.
Some have told me even more things I may never do again.
We shall see if they know better by now.
Signed, B. Allen Schulz
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | B. Allen Schulz (b. 1964) is the great grandson of the famous vaudevillian and Chicago jazzman, Ollie Powers. Allen is the founder of Random Access Music, a consortium of New York City-based composers who manage and present performances of their own music in collaboration with new music performance ensembles. His awards include the The John Cage Prize in Experimental Music and high honors in the University of Oregon Waging Peace Through Singing choral competition. Allen lives in Astoria, Queens, with his daughter, Naomi; and his partner, Rebecca.
Allen is presently at work composing new works for Counter(Induction and for the Iktus Percussion Ensemble. Visit his official websites at www.allenschulz.net and www.ram-nyc.org for soon-to-be-announced performance dates and to hear sound clips from Allen’s music compositions.