Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Continuation.

It's been several years since Robin Brumett has heard her husband's rich broadcaster voice. Even longer since she's felt his embrace.

The last communication came a few years ago, when she knelt to help put on his socks and shoes and Bert scratched out a note: "If this was reversed, I would be doing this for you. I love you forever."

Bert, 65, has Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which affects the motor nerves of the body, causing the muscles to atrophy without impairing brain function. As the disease spreads, it ultimately affects the muscles of the respiratory system, dooming most people with ALS to death by respiratory failure.

Although Bert can no longer talk, move, eat or even breathe on his own, Robin, 64, knows her husband of 40 years still lives inside the withered body. A downward blink tells her "yes," but her intuition tells her everything, from his mood to his opinions.

Knowing that Bert's keen intellect is alive and well, Robin decided if he couldn't go out into the world, she'd bring the world to him.

Not long ago she placed an ad on craigslist, the classified-advertising Web site, seeking people who would come to their home and spend an hour or so talking with Bert about any topic of mutual interest: travel, history, gambling strategies or medicine, to name a few. No rules, no pay, just an hour of conversation — or monologue, really.

To ready more of Nancy Bartley's Story:

The photos below are taken while spending time with the Brumett family, Bert's caregivers and their vistors.

Caregiver Maurice Lekea secures tubes after putting Bert Brumett to bed. Brumett, 65, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and cannot talk, move, eat or breathe on his own. His wife, Robin, knows that his keen intellect is alive and well, however.

Nadine Joy said she saw Robin Brumett's ad to visit Bert while searching Craig's List for a part-time job. "I read it and was moved by her love for her husband, her faith in people to reach out and the wonder of the brain and spirit in general," she said.

Robin Brumett said she hopes that one day there will be a medical breakthrough that would help alleviate her husband's symptoms.

Maurice Lekea, one of Bert Brummett's caregivers, helps him from his chair into bed after a Brumett U storytelling session. It was Bert's oldest daughter's idea to move him from one of the bedrooms into the living room.

Robin Brumett gives Richard Swanson, a former civil rights worker, a hug after he paid her husband a visit at their home.

Robin Brumett reads "The Diving Bell and The Butterfly" to her husband late one evening. The book's author, Jean-Dominique Bauby, a former editor of Elle magazine, wrote it through a system of blinks after he suffered a severe stroke.

Bert Brumett peers into the mirror by his bed while Danielle Scroggs, 23, uses massage therapy to improve his circulation and decrease muscle tension. Bert often watches television and movies via the mirror.


Elwa River

Fremont Fair

Richard Clark, 27, skateboards Monday evening at the Marginal Way Skatepark, located in the SODO industrial district. Local volunteers started building the park October 2004 as a response to the closure of different skateboarding sites in the Seattle. Since then, skateboarders have transformed a former transient camp into a concrete park, giving people of all ages a legal venue to recreate. There is a continuing effort to improve the facility. More information about the park can be found at


Vantage, Washington

British Columbia

Steven Nghiem, 9, sits with former members of the South Vietnamese military during a celebration honoring South Vietnamese and American Vietnam War veterans.





Last December—staff writer David Bowermaster and I visited Luke Sommer, a 20-year-old Army Ranger, who was charged in connection with the Aug. 7 robbery at the Bank of America branch in Tacoma. Sommer was under house arrest at his mother's home in Peachland, British Columbia, where he was trying to fight extradition to the United States. At the date of publication in February, Sommer was charged with armed bank robbery, conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, brandishing a machine gun during a crime of violence, possession of a machine gun, three counts of possession of a hand grenade and one count of possession of an explosive bomb.
According to a U.S. grand jury, Sommer, while stationed at Fort Lewis, persuaded five friends — including three fellow Rangers — to rob the bank.
Sommer said it was his intention to get caught. He said he hoped to use the incident to create a platform inform the public of the was war crimes commited by U.S. troops in the Middle East.
These images were created during our time in his home with his family.

To read David's story:


andrei said...

So you really did set this one up yesterday. I first thought you set it up a while ago and only updated yesterday.

Very nice stuff!

Ken said...

Every image brings a smile to my face, I'm very proud. Miss you.

~Ken Sweet

mariah said...

im glad to see the new stuff. it just gets better and better....its been awesome to see the evolution of your pictures. you've come such a long way since freshman year! i love the angle you capture....
amazing gift you have...

Hassan said...

Very impressive shots. I've never worked with wide angle. It really makes you feel like part of the action. I feel like I'm there.

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All images copyright Erika Schultz or The Seattle Times