Apr 22, 2011

May Day for Uma

I wrote in this space four years ago about the aneurysm and stroke suffered by Uma Nithapalian, a fierce actor whose work I'd admired on L.A. stages for some time. In the years since then, Uma--initially given little prospect of surviving the trauma at all--has made a lot of outward progress in speaking and walking. But the brain injury she suffered in 2007, still insufficiently treated, is threatening that progress, and she is currently undergoing some expensive neurological therapy. Her husband, composer John Ballinger, depicts her condition starkly:
She knows who she used to be. And she knows that she is not that person now. But her cognitive deficits prevent her from taking action independently to improve her life or even her mood or attitude...

At one of her speech therapist's offices I participated in a family assignment: tie my right hand to my pants and attempt to complete certain basic tasks....and the tasks were written on paper the way a person suffering from aphasia (alexia, agraphia) might see them....i.e. mixed-up letters, words where the ink fades midway through, directions in German, Mandarin, huge blank spots etc. After about 20 minutes of that it became much easier to imagine what Uma's constant level of frustration might be.
Uma's already in Texas at CORE Health, and apparently money to pay for a few months of her care has already been raised. More is needed, and to that end a benefit show is planned on May 1 at the Bootleg in L.A. (formerly the site of the Evidence Room, where I saw Uma play the Sri Lankan, Tunu, in Pentecost).

If you're there, I urge you to go and show your support; if you're not, do give what you can.

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