The family and friends of Ross Young are calling his recovery a marvel.
A comedic Twin Cities director, actor and writer best known for both staging “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” and playing the male lead, Young collapsed at home on Aug. 6. He was in a coma for a day and a half. After that, he underwent open-heart surgery and had a defibrillator put in.
On Monday, Aug. 24, Young left North Memorial Hospital for a six-month recovery regimen at home.
“There’s no other word but miracle, no matter your belief system, to describe the fact that he’s alive and is still himself,” said Deborah Will, his wife. “He was basically dead for an hour. They did the defibrillator on him nine times. After the chaplain walked me back, I was five feet from saying goodbye to him when the nurse said, ‘we have a pulse!’”
On Wednesday, Young was lucid and poignantly reflective. He had been to outpatient therapy earlier in the morning and was, by the afternoon, anticipating the arrival of his physical therapist at his Crystal, Minn., home.
“I also have occupational therapy, and I take 20 pills a day,” he said. “I’m learning to do things that I used to know how to do well, like walk, and count the number of legs I have. But other than that…” His voice trailed off.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he continued, “I’m the luckiest man in the world, to be alive, to be walking, talking and thinking like I used to. Of course, I don’t remember much about the episode. They say I was dead, for chrissakes. So I’m starting catch up on myself by reading the comments on CaringBridge.”
The overwhelming majority of patients on that site do not survive. They get to share their last bit of breath, through the web, with friends and family scattered far and wide. The site also is an organizing tool, and it was used to help Young’s family take care of things at home.
On Wednesday, Young marveled at the volume of support that had been shown to his family during this episode. Scores of supporters thronged the hospital daily during his stay, including repeat visits by close friends such as Jim Cunningham and actor-photographer Bonni Allen, both regular presences on the Twin Cities theater scene.
Young also got a visit from Warren Bowles, the actor who went into cardiac arrest onstage in 2011 during opening night of “Neighbors” at Mixed Blood Theatre.
“I said to him, ‘You’re famous as an actor but most famous for having that incident onstage,’” said Young. “And he said, ‘yes.’ But I wasn’t sure why he was visiting me. It took me a while to figure out that I was in dire shape. He gave me, and Deb, good advice, about what to expect over the next six months.”
Young makes a living entertaining people. He said that he’s trying to find the light side of this frightening health scare.
“I’m good humored most of the time, but it’s hard to find the humor in spending an evening trying to be able to have urine flow,” he said. “Suddenly it’s the most important thing in the world.”
He hopes that his “convalescence will not affect the adolescence” of his sons, one a high schooler and the other a student at the University of Minnesota. “When I thought that, I said to myself, write that down,” he said.
His recent near-death experience has given him an appreciation also for health-care works. “When Dave Letterman had his heart trouble, he brought the whole staff of the hospital team that saved him, over 100 people, onstage. I can’t thank the staff of North Memorial enough.”
The experience has helped him tweak the formula for comedy.
“Comedy is tragedy plus a catheter,” he said. And he hopes to do something onstage with it. “I’m not sure yet,” he said. “But laughing is a way to celebrate life. I have a lot to celebrate.”