According to WordPress, it’s only been 18 days since my last blog. It seems like a lifetime has passed since then. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to blog. I have. And it wasn’t that I stopped writing. I didn’t. I’ve just been writing elsewhere. So I guess those of you who were keeping up want to know what’s been going on so I guess I will start there. My life since the beginning of August has consisted of calling people, writing letters, and praying. Lots and lots of praying. I have honestly never prayed so much in my life. I’ve had lots of despair in my life. Or at least at the time it felt like despair, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this. It’s not as bad now as it was in the beginning. I cried every morning and every night for almost a whole month. During the day, I would try with all my damn might to make it seem like I was ok, but I was so far from ok. I’m not convinced that I am ok now. I just know that it’s getting easier and I don’t cry every day. I still cry though and I get to see Joe every Sunday so I have a little bit more of a picture of how he is doing. So getting to that. Here’s how he’s doing. Joe came out of his coma. He was in a persistent vegetative state. I don’t think they are calling it that now although he’s still not terribly responsive, he is somewhat responsive now. Like I said, I get to see him every Sunday. I get to sit and talk to him and hold his hands. It’s a weird kind of thing, too. When I hold his hand and my fingers are wrapped in his, it’s like they were made to fit. It feels like we have held each others’ hands a million times before, but we haven’t. Well, I guess maybe we have but it was always in my mind. It’s crazy that it took us so long to actually come together and it just so happened it was in the worst possible circumstances, but it doesn’t even matter. When I go see him, the whole world melts away. I don’t know if he even remembers who I am, but I feel like he does. I don’t know if he will ever be the same guy who has become one of my best friends over the years, but maybe he will. But all in all, it doesn’t even matter. I love him with a love that sappy movies and books are made of. I love him with so much of my soul, I feel like I’m missing a limb. And even if he never got any better than he is today, I would spend the rest of my life taking care of him and loving him, because that’s what unconditional means. So now, instead of crying when I wake up, I say a prayer for his continued healing and for his furlough to be approved with lightning speed. And every time I want to cry, I pray instead. I know it is working, because things are moving in the direction that they need to be. Even if it is not moving as swiftly as I would like. But I don’t make the rules. I just have to follow them, which is not a great position to be in, but I will do whatever I have to. Other than that, my life has been pretty much the same. Work, work, and more work. But that’s a story for another day. For today, I just wanted to say I missed you all and I’m still around. I will be back to my daily writings. Let’s consider this the kickoff. Even if I only write three words, I will write every day from this point forward. I’m sorry I disappeared. I won’t do that again. I will give you my raw and unfiltered emotions when I have them to give and if I need to pretend that everything is fine, some days, I will do that, too. And if I just need to vent and cuss and cry, well, I guess that’ll happen here as well, but I won’t stop writing. I know it seems like this thing has consumed me and I guess in a way it has, but I can think of no other way I would rather be consumed right now, because honestly, this whole situation has made me realize that I really do still believe in love and I really do believe love can conquer all.
Today is the first day that I’ve woken up and not felt the anxiety and despair of the world. I actually woke up happy and feeling renewed. I got news yesterday that the prison is pushing the paperwork for Joe to get a medical furlough and to be sent to a facility in Knoxville, closer to family (me), to get the treatment he needs that the prison cannot provide. I haven’t felt such joy since I got the phone call from the doctor that he was awake. I never even knew I could love another person as much as I love this guy. I thought unconditional love was only meant for parents to love their children. I think it’s because he’s the only person in my life who I have loved as long as I’ve loved my children or maybe it’s because he’s the only person I’ve ever gotten to know mentally 100% before ever knowing him physically and he’s one of my best friends. I won’t attempt to try to explain it because some people will never understand why I would spend so much time on such a lost cause, but I’ve spent so much time and effort on people and things who mean nothing to me, so why wouldn’t I expend my effort on someone that I love? I guess you’re wondering how we got here, since I’ve been M.I.A. for the last two weeks. It went something like this: Joe was in the hospital. He came out of the coma and was sent to the medical prison. He was there for less than 24 hours before he was sent back to the ICU for pneumonia. I went to visit him at the hospital. He was hydrated and hooked up to every kind of monitor to make sure they knew what was going on. Fast forward a week, he was back at the medical prison and I went to visit him and he was dehydrated, he had lost what looked like at least ten pounds. He was a skeleton. He had thrush on his tongue and the most worrisome thing was that he was not hooked up to any monitors. There was not a breathing monitor or a heart monitor. He didn’t even have a button to push in the event of an emergency, not that he is able to push a button right now because is not able to do anything but lay there. When I left, I was terribly shaken up over it and called the “doctor” who is supposed to be monitoring his care. She assured me that they were giving him the “necessary nutrients” and the “necessary care” and that he was being “adequately monitored” and then she assured me that he did not have thrush and they were doing everything to “keep him comfortable” as if they were just waiting for him to die. I didn’t even have the energy to argue with her so I just thanked her for the information and hung up. I cried all the way back to Knoxville not knowing if that would be the last time I would see him alive because they were starving him. So Monday rolled around and I called the doctor back. I was more composed and not at all comfortable with her answers from the day before. She did not like that I was questioning her and was actually really unpleasant to me and accused me of recording our conversation because I was asking for clarification of yesterday’s conversation. After I got off the phone with her, I called the advocacy lawyer to tell her what was happening. She told me she would send an email to the Medical Director or someone with some such title to do an investigation of his care. The basically runs the medical parts of the prisons. She said he would go see Joe and determine if he was, in fact, getting the necessary care. The next day, however, I got a call from the social worker at the prison who informed me that they have started the paperwork to give Joe a medical furlough because he needs more care than they are able to give him. In my head, I’m thinking, “no shit, that’s what I was saying to the good doctor yesterday!” But out loud, I just said, “thank you so much.” And then he said something that made me laugh. He said, “because you are the only one listed on his emergency contact form, it’s clear that Mr. Bennett trusted you to make decisions for him so you are going to be our point of contact through this whole process and you will be the one making all the decisions and knowing everything from this point forward.” Again, I’m thinking, “that’s what I have been trying to tell you guys all along, but the good doctor wanted to act like it was a state secret!” So, the paperwork is started. I have to find a rehab facility out here that will take him. Well, I don’t have to. They said they would find one, but I offered to find one close to me so I can be there daily, which he said would be great if I looked too. So now I’m waiting on the paperwork that he said he was going to email me and I’m trying my hardest not to get my hopes up too high, but it’s hard not to when it’s starting to look like our prayers have been answered.
Also, I have to find another job, but I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow. Today, we celebrate.
I guess it’s true. I guess it has been almost two weeks since I’ve blogged. I just haven’t been able to get my thoughts together in a way that is coherent and makes any sense. I’ve been working day and night. I took on a project to re-pay for this car I’ve been driving, but I seem to have bitten off more than I can chew. So I’m working, working, working and by time I get home at night, I’ve missed seeing my kid all day and I’m literally so tired I can barely hold my eyes open and as soon as they close, it seems my alarm is going off for me to get up. And then it starts all over. In the midst of all that, I am still trying to find out what happened to Joe. It’s been a roller coaster of events since the beginning of the month. He woke up from his coma, but is in a persistent vegetative state. I was able to see him last Sunday. He was in the ICU with pneumonia but he was awake. When I walked in and talked to him, he opened his eyes and looked at me. And I talked and talked and talked to him for three and a half hours. I sang to him. I rubbed his hands and his arms and his feet and his hair. And I know he knew I was there. It was actually a beautiful afternoon and even though he was not himself, even though he couldn’t talk and couldn’t communicate with me, I was happy and hopeful that things were getting better. Fast forward to this week. I was given a special visit to see Joe. He’s back at the medical prison. He just got out of ICU on Wednesday. Sunday, I drove to Nashville to see him. When I spoke with the doctor days earlier, she said he was responding to stimuli and made it seem like it was a good thing. When I got there, I waited to go to his cell for a bedside visit. I was checked in and escorted to his room. I guess I was expecting a hospital room inside a prison, but instead it was a prison room with a first aid kit. Joe looks like he is slowly dying. He has lost a ton of weight just since last week. There’s a respirator hose going to his trach, but I think that’s just for moisture or something. There was no nurse there for me to ask, but the most disturbing thing was that he was not hooked up to any machines aside from the one that was pushing his food through the feeding tube. There was nothing monitoring his heart rate, his blood pressure, or his breathing. If he stops breathing or aspirates, nobody will know until they go to check on him and he could be dead by then. I called the “doctor” when I left and asked her about it and she assured me that they were doing everything the doctor felt “necessary.” She said he was getting the “necessary nutrients” and weight loss was to be expected. I told her he had thrush on his tongue. She told me he didn’t as if I don’t know what the white stuff caked up on his tongue is. She told me they were doing everything “necessary” to keep him comfortable, as if they are just waiting for him to peacefully fade away. And I couldn’t say anything. All I could do was act stupid like her explanation was all I needed because I didn’t want to lose my visit next week. I’m at a complete loss and I feel completely helpless. Joe’s brother Michael reminded me that when we’ve done all we can do, the only thing left is to “let go and let God.” I’ve been faithful up to this point so I’m not going to start wavering now, but I feel like we need miracle. We need prayers. And what we also need is someone in the system who will listen. If you happen to be friends with Governor Haslem, that’d work too. Because right now, I am defeated. And deflated.