Editor's note: Erin Brady Worsham originally wrote this piece in 2003, but she explains that it fits in nicely with National Family Caregivers Month (November). To learn more about Worsham's 21-year journey with ALS, read her blog post Coming of Age (October 5, 2015).
|Erin Brady Worsham
I first laid eyes on Curry Worsham in the fall of 1980 at a theater in Rock Island, Ill. He was playing Capt. Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” at night and I was the Ghost of Christmas Past in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” during the day. He was tall, handsome and very talented.
Being in different casts, it’s very possble we would never have gotten to know each other, had it not been for a mishap that befell me on my first night in Rock Island. I had flown in and gone right into rehearsals. “The Sound of Music” had already been up and running for some weeks. During our dinner break, I sat up in the unused balcony of the 1921 theater and watched the show.
It was only much later, after we’d finished rehearsing for the night, that I discovered my purse was missing. I was devastated! I had just gotten into town that day and everything of importance I possessed in the world was in that purse.
Some of the cast took me to the house where many of the actors lived during the run of the show. I’m sure I was very lackluster and preoccupied and made little impression on the other actors I met. But Curry Worsham made a big impression on me! There he sat watching TV in his sweatpants and robe, with a tray of supper he’d fixed for himself on his lap. He seemed terribly self-sufficient!
I sat down on a nearby couch and looked at the TV without really seeing it. Suddenly, it was all too much for me; the jetlag, a new town, so many new faces and my lost purse. I put my head down on my lap and cried. Silence. “It’ll be all right,” Curry said.
Moments later I remembered putting my purse under my seat in the balcony while I watched “The Sound of Music.” Some of us went to retrieve the purse and pick up goodies for an impromptu party. Actors are fond of impromptu parties!
In the space of 30 minutes, Curry witnessed my transformation from tragic despair to giddy elation. It’s a wonder we ever got together! I could not have seemed very stable.
Our seven-year courtship took place in Illinois, Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, Michigan, Texas, Nevada and California. Working actors have had to perfect long-distance “dating!” He finally got tired of running, and we married on October 3, 1987, and settled in Nashville, Tenn.
On September 7, 1994, our vows of fidelity “in sickness and in health” were severely tested when I was diagnosed with ALS and given three years to live. Overnight, Curry went from being my husband to being my potential caregiver as the disease progressed.
He took on yet another role nine months after my diagnosis, that of father. On June 12, 1995, Curry, along with my nurse-mentor, Stevie Potts, and our good friend, Dr. Margaret Stolz, helped me deliver Daniel Curry Worsham by natural childbirth. I will never forget the triumphant note in his voice as he called out, “It’s a boy!”
Six months after Daniel’s birth, Curry stopped working to be with Daniel and me full time. There was a changing of the guard as I gradually lost the ability to do things and he took them on. At times, I’m sure it was overwhelming for him.
In June of 1997 I got my feeding tube. In spite of our group feeding sessions, where Curry sat in the middle and fed me, while overseeing almost-2-year–old Daniel’s creative attempts to feed himself and somehow managing to get an occasional bite in his own mouth, I was losing weight. Now Curry became my nurse as he cared for my tube site and kept it working.
Five months later I went on the ventilator. Curry received some excellent respiratory therapy training from Robert Fox and his team of therapists at Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital. Curry gives me therapy twice a day. In five and a half years, I have never had pneumonia. Not to mention the major catastrophes he has averted when the ventilator went nuts!
Actor, singer, husband, father, caregiver, nurse, respiratory therapist, … saint? No, Curry Worsham is not a saint. He’s human, he gets frustrated, he yells! Daniel gets frustrated, he yells! I get frustrated, I TRY to yell!
Twenty-three years ago, Curry told me it would be all right. He was right then, and he’s been making it all right ever since.