In what I am now referring to as an astonishing turn of events, I have found myself in yet another hospital. This marks the fifth one in six months. If I count it out, actually I have been to five hospitals for 8 different people in under 6 months. Holy shit. Getting old sucks.
This time is a doosey. I am here in New Jersey visiting my dear, closest cousin TJ. Last December, totally out of the blue, he got a backache, And two days later was sent to the hospital. The next morning they told us he would not make it thru the night. They didn’t’ know why, but his system was shutting down and he was dying.
As it would turn out TJ had contracted a staph infection, and, as luck would have it- it was MRSA, which stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Methicillin is a family of antibiotics. So MRSA means that this particular strand of Staph is non responsive to antibiotics. Charming. His MRSA led to Pneumonia, which led to blood poisoning, which led to Bacterial Spinal Meningitis.
Which, basically means he was totally fucked.
He was put on life support and had machines breathing for him for 6 weeks. He was in a medically induced coma for 5 weeks. Slowly but surely he started to come back- both of his collapsed lungs regained their former glory, his once racing heart found it’s beat once more, and his blood found it’s balance. However, because of the meningitis his spine was damaged so badly, that he cannot walk or use the lower half of his body.
But, by some miracle he has full use of his upper body, he has no paralysis, his arms function normally and his there is no brain damage… it isn’t all “shitted up” (a particularly articulate way to explain brain damage that I heard last night from a fellow spinal cord patient- fantastic).
And so here I am. Flew in for a week to give my Aunt Lois a break. Imagine- she lost her sister and 2 months later, was told her son might die. Jesus.
But TJ is a fucking champ- no Joke. He now can stand, and walk on the parallel bars, and he is in good spirits and is super positive, and we’re making cripple jokes and we all know THAT HE IS GOING TO BE OK. The doctors expect him to recover fully. They are thinking that he will check out in a few weeks- he will have to use a walker for a little while but they do expect a full recovery.
Today he got approved to go in a car so tomorrow we are steeling him out of here to go home for the first time since before Christmas…
And even though this is awful. It’s amazing too. What is most surprising about this place is the sheer undeterred amount of hope that is simply palpable here. And we are dealing with some pretty hardcore shit here. Perched on a hill in West Haverstraw New York, overlooking the Hudson: people who were simply going along when in one split second everything is different. Mike had finally dumped his (and I quote) bitch of a girlfriend- finally bought that motorcycle he wanted. A 90 year old man pulled out in front of him 4 years ago and now he lives life from a wheelchair. Ron was an undercover cop who got rammed in a high speed pursuit, boom. Now in a wheel chair. Cathy was taking a walk with her two kids, she bent over to pick up a pinecone. Her 18 year old neighbor came screaming down the street and here she is, away from her family, all alone in the hospital with only the very littlest use of her limbs. Yesterday she cut a piece of melon with a knife and fork. It was a triumph for us all.
The brutal truth about life is staggering. The world is a harsh brutal place. Things happen that fucking suck. I MEAN SUCK. People get sick, people die, people survive… people shit their pants and have to learn to walk, or eat , or cut their food.
I could look for some reason for why I have had to bear witness to all of this lately- why I have had to push not one, but now two family members in a wheel chair in the last few months- but I don’t think that there’s a reason. And even if I knew that reason it wouldn’t change the fact that I keep having to wipe family members asses….
But hope is a hell of a thing.
And resilience is a motherfucker.
And I’m proud of TJ for surviving and not dying on us. And I’m grateful. And I’m proud to be here and help him and it’s good therapy for me to be in a rehab situation where TJ is going to learn to walk again, and NOT walk to his grave, like mom. He is gonna stand up and do a lot of things, and win more Grammies, and walk down an aisle, and walk on beaches, and foreign soils… and it’s a fucking miracle.
And so when I feel like life is all shitted up, I don’t really dwell, cuz it all feels pretty precious, and inspired, and powerful.
And then I slap myself and tell myself to snap the fuck out of it and not to be such a fucking sap.