Playwright Tom Poole still unconscious, stable


Tom Poole

Earlier this week I reported on the tragic news that Minnesota playwright Tom Poole was hit by a car and was in the ICU at Regions Hospital.

Today I spoke with George Roberts, Poole’s brother-in-law, about the latest. While Poole’s basic vital signs are stable, he has not regained consciousness. Here’s an excerpt of an update he posted to Tom’s Caring Bridge website:

The most challenging question which remains, Dr. McIver told us, is when will Tom wake up? All the tests they are doing – the command/response queries, the ear pinching, etc. – are designed to lead to an answer of that question. Encouraging Tom to become more active in his own recovery by changing the levels of support in his medicines and sedatives requires a delicate balance. Too much agitation might lead to elevated blood pressure which might invite new bleeding in Tom’s brain. Not enough reduction in medicines might not provoke the hoped for response. Dr. McIver reminded us the indications of progress they are looking for are small. They are the necessary first steps to further, larger recovery steps.

The goal in the ICU is to get Tom breathing on his own, able to protect his airway (cough, swallow), and to respond to commands. Tests will continue all weekend toward reaching these goals. We will look at the results with Dr. McIver again on Monday with an eye toward considering replacing the breathing tube in Tom’s mouth and throat with a tracheotomy and the feeding tube in his nose with one in his abdomen. These procedures would be done to make Tom more comfortable.

Roberts says good wishes and prayers have been flowing in; the most useful gestures have been those to help Poole’s family (wife Geanette, daughters Nora and Molly) get through daily life – cooking, laundry, dog-walking, the loan of freezer space for food that’s come in, etc.

Those efforts are being coordinated by a family friend at this website.

Meanwhile, playwright Alan Berks has compiled essays written by Poole for Minnesota Playlist, which give a great sense of Poole’s personality. Here’s an excerpt:

My secret conviction is that anything that’s “a good idea for a play” has absolutely no chance of ever becoming a play I’d want to watch. If you can tell me briefly about your play, and I can immediately grasp what you are up to and how it can be promoted, then we are probably sharing our recognition of a cliche that you hope to freshen for the market. On the other hand, if the description of a new play begins, “Well, it’s kind of complicated,” I find that promising, especially if I’m talking to the writer, the director, or a cast member two days before opening.

For me, the real test of my own new project is always whether I want to do the work required to turn a given idea into an actual play more than I want to eat kettle chips and watch reruns of Ultimate Cage Fighting. It’s a cruelly high standard, but you can’t write all the time.

I wrote a five act revenge tragi-comedy in verse based on Thomas Pynchon’s description of a fictional performance in his novel The Crying Of Lot 49. When the play was read at the Playwrights’ Center, Lee Blessing said it was the best five act revenge tragi-comedy in verse he’d ever seen there. Such are the rewards of new work.