Seven grim weeks have passed since ex-Davenport mayor Charles “Chuck” Wright was battered in a Moline automobile accident.
Seven weeks later, he is hanging-in-there, managing a wan smile, but still a badly injured person.
For the first time, Connie, his wife of 14 years, talks about his head injuries, how he is doing, where he is at, how she thinks it happened, and what the future holds.
She talks hopefully, telling about some words fragilely spoken by her husband over the weekend.
"He's difficult to understand, but it shows he knows what's going on," Connie Wright says. What he said was five, muttering, one-syllable words. But they were words of hope for a family that has seen but slight hope for the past seven weeks.
"On Sunday, we could comprehend that he was saying, `Get me out of here.' That was something," says Connie.
The word "here" is the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Iowa City. He was ambulanced to Iowa City a few weeks ago from Trinity Medical Center, East, where he was taken — perhaps more dead than alive — after the accident on March 1.
"We thought that if he lived, and would wake up, he would be a vegetable. His head injuries were that bad." Connie talks frankly.
"We really didn't know what was going to happen. He was in a coma for a week. Nothing. Totally comatose. Then, he developed pneumonia. That was for two weeks. With all his problems, this could have been fatal."
The former Davenport mayor and ex-police chief has a tracheosotomy to assist his breathing. He gets no solid food. Feeding is through what is called a "peg" in his stomach.
I ask his wife bluntly, "How is his mind?"
She answers brightly: "He recognizes us. That is something to give confidence. I ask him all kinds of things, just to get a response. I know he doesn't like golf, but I asked him the other day if he wanted to play golf. He nodded his head. He shakes his head for responses."
Chuck Wright cannot raise he arms, but he can move his hands. He can't lift his left leg.
"But he is contented. That is comforting to us," his wife says. "And you know he is feeling better because he tried to get up the other day."
But Chuck Wright, age 60, has a long way to go.
"It is like someone learning all over again. While he responds to the visits of friends, he cannot, for example, identify numbers. But he is a tough guy, and will make it."
Having been in the U.S. Army in Korea qualifies him for care and treatment at VA hospitals.
"The bills were just getting too high. That's why we transferred him to the VA hospital. I cannot say enough for the wonderful care he is getting in Iowa City. After Iowa City, he will go to the VA rehabilitation hospital in Knoxville, Iowa."
Chuck looks good, almost normal, say those who have visited him. He can manage a weak smile and recognizes them, though real talking is not in him. It is difficult to imagine Chuck Wright, always the glad-handing, good-time-Charley, on his back in a hospital bed.
"He's lost some weight but still has his belly," laughs Connie, who drives daily to Iowa City to visit him.
She is confident that Chuck had a diabetic crash at the time of the accident, which brought two cars together in a grinding halt against a traffic light pole. Wright was extricated with the jaws of life.
"It's lucky he was driving a Cadillac. In a lighter car, he would have been instantly killed."
Visitors are to go to the VA Hospital, Seven East, Room 07. Should you wish to send a card or note, address it to him at 7E07, Veterans Administration Medical Center, 601 Highway 6 West, Iowa City, Iowa 52240. Just for the heck of it, why don't you address it to Mayor Wright.
"We thought that if he lived, and would wake up, he would be a vegetable. His head injuries were that bad."