"I can do anything now that I’ve done this."
Actress Lucy Roucis (shown at right as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), was calling me from Cleveland after her surgery last Monday for Parkinson’s, a procedure that involved implanting electrodes into her brain. Three days later, pacemakers were placed under her collarbone to connect to the electrodes and help control her movements. Lucy had been avoiding this surgery for years, but "I was up against the wall," she said.
Before the procedure, Lucy had to be off her medication for many hours, and she said she could feel "my feet and my hands just going nuts. I looked at the nurse I felt closest to, Debbie, and said, 'Just let me go. I can’t do this.' She says, 'No, no, you’re doing fine.'"
The hardest part was having the halo placed on her head before surgery to keep her skull steady. "They shaved my head," Lucy told me. "I thought of the Holocaust. I felt like I was Hannibal Lecter. They come in and they have this clank-clank-clank halo and they have a tool kit and you’re saying, 'You’re not going to put that on my head.' They do."
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As the medical staff worked, Lucy found herself weeping: "I want my dad. I just want my dad." Her father, a dentist, had died two years ago. "I felt like he came to me and said, 'Toughen up. Get through this.' I felt like he was holding my hand.
"I got through it, and I’m glad the doctors didn’t give up. I would never have gone back," she said, and laughed. "So now I have a bald head and I have sutures that look like elegant cornrows at the top of my head."
As a side effect of the procedure, Lucy’s Parkinson’s symptoms have lessened about 30 percent -- but she says that isn’t permanent. She’s now out of the hospital, staying at a nearby hotel and sleeping a great deal. Her mother, sister and boyfriend are with her; she's slated to return to Colorado this week.
In the meantime, she’s thinking a lot about something her father routinely told his patients: "He used to say, ‘I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m trying to help you.’ I know they’re trying to help me here, and thank God there’s something they can do—as crude as it is, and as weird as it is." -- Juliet Wittman