Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Strand rallies around Alan Dunham after brain injury

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

The Strand Theatre in Hudson Falls again rallies ’round — this time to aid one of its own, musician and recording engineer Alan Dunham, who suffered a heart attack in December. A concert on Sunday, March 5, will raise funds to help pay medical bills and other life expenses.

“The Concert for Alan” will feature Rich Ortiz at 2 p.m., Beatles tribute band Across The Pond at 3, The Stony Creek Band at 4 and The Strand House Band at 5. Suggested donation: $20.

Expect Alan, himself, on stage — he’s recovered enough to be back playing music. The heart attack diminished his short term memory and cognitive skills.

He doesn’t remember much, but he now can talk about it. “I’m excellent,” he says. “I’m very good compared to before.”

Elizabeth Winge, Alan’s long-time musical partner and life partner of 27 years, recounts what happened in more detail.

Mr. Dunham, an active athlete, was just finishing a 3 mile loop on the Betar Byway in South Glens Falls, when he suffered cardiac arrest. A person on the path found him and called 911, but Ms. Winge said medical personnel believe he was without oxygen for at least six minutes.

He suffered what is called an anoxic (complete lack of oxygen) brain injury.

Ms. Winge says the doctors suggest Mr. Dunham was in such good shape that, there was enough oxygen in his system to sustain him.

He was in a coma for several days at Glens Falls Hospital, followed by two stints at rehabilitation centers, acute rehab at Sunnyview in Schenectady, followed by a non-acute facility in Kingston.

His difficulties now, Ms. Winge lists: “Loss of memory, particularly short term memory. Day-to-day function, like dressing. The ability to sequence events, do things in order.”

He can’t drive, or work in his Lylac Recording Studio, where he’s self-employed.

Ms. Winge took a leave from her work to care for her partner full-time. She says friends from the Strand — particularly founder-director Jonathan Newell and fellow guitarist Marc Clayton — are helping out “tremendously.”

Alan Dunham & Elizabeth Winge, musical and life partners for 27 years. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

Ms. Wing says she and Mr. Dunham “found the Strand early” after its renovation and reopening. They were at one of the first open mics, back when Mr. Newell launched the project as the Hudson River Music Hall at the former Washington County Courthouse, on the other side of Juckett Park from the current Strand.

“It was a community we didn’t know we were missing,” Mr. Dunham told this reporter years ago, at the first anniversary celebration.

Mr. Newell and Mr. Clayton were at the hospital playing music — Beatles especially — for Mr. Dunham before he even regained consciousness.

And he was singing along as soon as he woke, Ms. Winge reported on the outreach site Caring Bridge.com, where supporters are following his progress. Didn’t take long for him to add air guitar, and then an actual guitar.

Was back on stage Friday

Mr. Dunham is back on his feet.

Friday night he was on the Strand stage with the Dirty Harri Band — their 12th annual such show that now includes a nine-member band, including Mr. Newell on keys, guitar and vocals, and an emotional Mr. Clayton on vocals, guitar and slide guitar. Mr. Dunham took the lead on “Tax Man,” and was a grinning, engaged presence throughout the concert.

“That’s just how he is,” Ms. Winge will say. She also noted, “tomorrow he may ask if it even happened yet.”

She says she’s learned that the first two months are the most critical after a brain injury, “but it’s still very new even then. The problem is, because brain injuries are so touchy, the doctors won’t say what they think about how much he will get back.”

“We should know better in May,” she says she was told.

“The time frame of what he will recover — or how much,” she ventures, “it’s very unknown.”

Mr. Dunham is doing outpatient speech therapy, occupational therapy and cardio rehab, all through Glens Falls Hospital.

Ms. Winge says she, or someone, is with him 24/7. “He’s not unsafe, but he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing,” she says. “He gets confused.
“But he’s still his core self. He doesn’t get depressed, angry or mad. There are the constant questions about what’s happening or going on. It’s a challenge.”

How to help

Ms. Winge said they hope to raise $10,000 through the March 5 concert, and on a Go Fund Me page, to pay for medical expenses and loss of income.

The Strand will also do raffles, including an “Ex-Strand-aganza” raffle for two Strand tickets each month for a year.

Info: mystrandtheater.org, or search for “Alan Dunham” on Caring Bridge for updates, and “Giving Back to Alan” on GoFundMe.com to make a donation.

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