Wednesday, April 18, 2012

All I kept hearing was: Quadriplegic

Definition of Quadriplegic 
noun. Complete paralysis of the body from the neck down.

It almost felt like I was going to faint.
 As I got close to the "gates of hell" (as I would like to call it) I felt myself getting lightheaded, I felt my heart racing and I felt my knees getting weak. I told myself "breath in and out" and I said "this is normal, you've felt this way before." Before I could get my last breath my partner opens the doors with his badge. 
A wave of heavy air hits me, heavy. The air isnt fresh , its humid. I see rooms guarded by tall glass windows and curtains to cover what ...or who is inside. Its dim inside, like a cave. Its generally quiet , all you can really hear are the life supporting machines (that sound triggers me) and no one has a smile on their face. Ive been here before, nothing has changed.
I see two women, one is sitting down in a chair with her hands clasped resting on her thighs and another one approaching us with a look of relief on her face. My partner shakes her hand and asks her how she is, I stick my arm out to shake her hand as well and I say "Hi im Caheri, are you Johns mom?" She tells me she isnt, that she is actually his grandmother. I felt my blood rush to my feet and think to myself "im such an idiot" I turn around and greet the other woman sitting in the chair ...Johns mom. 
Im there. Room 7 in the ICU. As my partner talks to the family, Im looking around.
 It was like my nightmare/dream come true. Everything was just as I remembered, I was able to identify several things in this unit.
 I find myself looking into the room and I see a pair of feet laying on the hospital bed. It is his , my Johnny's feet. I stepped in closer and get a glimpse of his face. I start to smile, all that anxiety I carried seemed to go away. I felt enlightened. I just kept starring at his face with a smile on hoping that his eyes would connect with mines. He sees me and my smile gets bigger and a start to wave. 
The grandmother ask me if i would like to get closer to see him, I nod and say yes at the same time.
As im walking into this glass room the nurse stops me and says with an attitude " excuse me , you cant be in here, you need a visitors pass! " I turn around and look at my partner and then to the family. The grandmother takes off her pass and gives it to me and she steps out of the ICU. 
I take a deep breath and walk towards the room once again, I turn into those glass doors and walk right to his bedside. "Johnny, Johnny boy" I thought. I smile and I just look at him in the eyes and I say "WASSUP!"
He has a long tube coming out of his throat connected to a machine. I knew exactly what that was .. it was like a tracheotomy tube, something very similar to what i had. 
He replied "wassup" but I could barely hear him.
"I said you look good Johnny" , "look at you , you cut your long hair off" 
I told him "hey Johnny ... this looks exactly like the room I was in when I got shot" ...He smiled. This smile wasnt the typical smile, It was like a depressed smile, a hopeless smile.
And then we both stayed quiet and looked at each other, he shook his head in a "no" motion. Its like he was saying ..."its all bad for me" 
As I looked at him a physical therapist and his mom came in the room. They started to massage his feet and move his legs, He didnt feel anything, he was paralyzed.
I told him that he was going to get better real soon, I couldnt really hear anything he would say. I tried to get as close to his mouth as I could but I still couldnt really understand. There was a moment where I almost told him " why dont you just write it" but I remembered and I bit my tongue. 
The physical therapist and his mom were conversating as they massaged his limbs, all i kept hearing was : quadriplegic.  They started to massage his upper body thats when I stepped away from him to give them room. But I still looked at his eyes and smiled. He started to say something to me and I quickly got closer to him. "Can you wipe my face with a cold wet towel" he said. After a couple of try's I was able to guess what he said. "A wet towel?! , Oh yeah of course!" 
It hit me again ... this re-experience. When I was in the ICU I always asked the people around me to wipe my face with a cold wet towel (the medicine makes you really hot and you feel like your face is burning , so a cold wet towel is like giving candy to a little kid.)
I happily looked for a towel in his room and everyone in there looked at my like I was a little crazy, I wet the towel and wiped his face. I told him that I knew how good that felt for him , I told him "Johnny , when I was hospitalized I always wanted people to wipe my face, the medicine makes you hot huh?" He shook his headed gesturing "yes" and he smiled.
Deep inside I was hurting to see him this way, I kept thinking about his young single mom , I kept thinking about the rest of his life, he was only 17.

Our visiting time was over. I said good bye to Johnny and told him I would be back to see him soon. He smiled again. We said good bye to his family , gave them our card and welcomed them to call us if anything was needed. We stepped out of the glass room and walked towards the exiting doors. That walk down that hall felt like the longest walk ever.

This story has its roots solidly in very real events, the names and some facts have been changed to protect identities. - C.G

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