Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Silent...

I walked in through the double doors, not knowing what to expect... It was quiet... eerily so, even with people, some were standing, some were sitting, I see a child... Fussy... Unsure... He wants to be up in his Grandmother's lap... No, down... He to is oddly silent...
A quiet voice on my right... May I help you?... Umm, Hi... Yes, I'm here to see Jerry in 251... Are you Family?... Friend?... Unsure of how to answer... I stated who I was and my purpose for being there... I'm the Hairdresser, and Jerry is getting a haircut today... She smiled... Okay, Have a seat someone will be right with you...
I take a seat amidst the crowd of silent people, taking in my surroundings... I feel under dressed and out of place... I've just come from swim class... I've got on cargo shorts, a sleeveless T-Shirt, my hat on backwards (covering my crazy wet hair), and I reek of chlorine... I should have taken a shower, worn something nice, done my hair... Did I lock the car?... Did I pack what I needed to bring with me?... I forgot product... I should get a magazine... My mind is offering distractions... I decide to ignore it and focus on why I'm here...
I think back to a few days prior... My friends Jay and Derrick had called to let me know that their other roommate and good friend Jerry had been hospitalized, and wasn't doing well... Jay then got on the phone and asked me would I mind coming to the hospital to cut Jerry's hair... Of course... No worries... Let me know when and where... He's in Neuro ICU at Emory...
Let me back up a little... I met both Jay and Jerry through Derrick, he and I had gone out a couple of times a few years ago, believe it or not I asked him out, it didn't work out (sketchy), we remained casual friends... Jay and Jerry are complete pranksters, and have been best friends for years... Poor Derrick... I can't tell you how many picture messages my phone has gotten of him in compromising positions LOL... He takes it in stride... Those boys crack me up...
So... of course it came as a big shock when they called to tell me Jerry was in the hospital... Jerry is a little taller than I am, mouthy, intelligent, and quick with jab or slam (all in fun)... He's an attractive man... the kind of face that always has the perfect amount of scruff, eyes that keep just enough back, you can't help but hang on every word, and a smile that is wicked and sweet all at the same time... He looks like a baseball player... I'm not sure what that means, probably that damn baseball hat he wears, even after I cut his hair...
The other set of double doors open, I turn... Michael?... Hi, Are you Michael?... Yes... Come with me... I walk with the nurse through the double doors, alot of the conversation is a blur... I get the key points though... Don't get upset when you see him... Keep it positive... If you need a break, step outside... DO NOT let him see you break down...
The nurse walks me to Jerry's room, I see the number, 251... Standing in the doorway... I feel it coming, the ache, my heart clenches, it's building... I press it down, push it as far back as I can, I will not let it show... He's laying in bed, machines whirring and beeping all around him... One checking his vitals, one helping him breathe, all these tubes... A woman is standing over him with a board, letters in different rows and colors on one side, and pictures in squares on the other... She's helping him spell something out... The nurse that walked me to the room explains to me that Jerry can't speak, he has to use his fingers to answer yes or no questions... They finish spelling the word... Bitch... The other nurse giggles, evidently its not the first time...
I walk in, put my stuff down... Standing in his line of sight, I see it in his eyes, the spark of recognition... I walk over to the bed, put his hand in mine, lean in and kiss him on the cheek, he squeezes... Damn boy, your hair is long... We doin' the usual? One finger goes up (Yes)... I unpack my stuff, prep, and start cutting... Do you have any cute doctors? Two fingers go up (No)... Cute Nurses? Two fingers go up... Want me to go search one out for you, drag them up back here? One finger goes up... We should do highlights, He flips me the bird... So goes our conversation for the next 4 hours... He gets tired and we take breaks, I can't finish his haircut, unable to get to the back of his head... I tell him he is rockin' a mullet... I get the finger again... I am getting ready to leave, Jerry is really tired and doesn't want to cut anymore... I ask him if he wants me to come back... One finger (the good one)... Jay walks in... He had gone to the airport, Jay's Mom was flying in to see Jerry... Hes been up there night and day, he looks tired... Jay tells Jerry that he will be right back, He's going to walk me down...
Jay tells me that Jerry has PML (I'm attaching a link, I can't even pronounce some of the words), He explains more in layman's terms that Jerry's nervous system is shutting down... The doctors have given him about 45 days, at most... Jay is a big guy, huge, muscular, about one and a half of me wide, solid, with a killer smile and piercing eyes... I've never seen him like this... I'm not sure of what to say... Nothing I say will comfort him or bring him peace... I give him a hug, he breaks down... Folds in on me... He's shaking... I feel a wave coming... Push it down... Not now... We stand in the hallway, I don't know how long... It's silent again... He lifts his head and whispers thank you... He wants to pay me... I tell him no, I just need you to get some rest... You look like shit... I get a half smile... Keep me updated, and if you need anything please call me... We go in opposite directions...
I walk out of the hospital... My pace quickens... I'm practically running to my car... Unlock... Sit, and allow myself to feel it all... The flood gates are open... No holding back now... Sobbing uncontrolabley...
As I sit here writing this entry, I realize... I'm not mourning his life or death... I mourn his loss of freedom... He is a man trapped... Limited mobility and time... It breaks my heart...

As always, Be Kind To Yourselves...

12 comments:

Donnie v2.0 said...

Unbelievable post. Made me cry.

Donnie said...

I just have to reiterate what Donnie v2.0 said. This post hit me like a ton of bricks and made me well up.

*big virtual hug*

Gina Bruce said...

M - you're the kind of man I'd want at my bedside to make me smile in the face of something shitty like this.

XOXO
GBoogs

Kelly said...

Man, that must have been tough... Kudos to you for making his day... you are a wonderful person... I hope if I am ever in that situation I have a sassy fun person like you to visit me and make me happy...NICE!

dirk.mancuso said...

Amazing post.

Big hugs to you for being there for Jerry and brightening his day. You're a good man.

Ed said...

My eyes seem to be leaking fluids. You are such a good friend. Jerry will always live as long as he has friends who remember him. He's not gone yet and he sounds like a fighter. May he find peace and happiness in this life or the next. Is he surrounded by those who love him? One finger, the good one, goes up.

Sue said...

Oh my god. PML. Been a long time since I heard any body had that. I've been out of the biz soooo long. That is just horrible for Jerry. HORRIBLE. So sad, sad, sad. At least you were there to offer comfort. What kindness you showed. You are a wonderful person. You really are. I hope his suffering ends soon.

franck said...

I don't know what to say. You did an amazing thing.

vincent said...

That was hard to read, it took a good heart and a man of love and true compassion to do all you did for him. I do know what you are dealing with...take care of yourself too, and always celebrate a life lived well.

Jerry has a challenge ahead, made much less desperate by having friends like you guys.

XXOOXXOOXX

JoAnna Ashbourne said...

UGH, honey I know relieving that all over again is so tough. You are amazing and I love you!!!

A Single Man said...

Thank you for visiting your friend and just interacting with him like you always would.

My partner was diagnosed with PML about 3 years ago (in his case from long-time HIV infection). The best that they've been able to do for him is to (barely) control his viral load. Other than that, there is nothing really that they can do for PML.

Yes, he has lost his freedom, his mobility, part of his mind, his career and on and on.

The only thing that I can do for him is to love him.

And that is what you did for Jerry. Bless you.

John said...

Your story moved me in a very deep way. I am struggling with my tears at this moment, but I believe that I need to stay strong for Jerry. Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy symptoms are debilitating and I know that it can change the life of not only the patient but of the friends, loved ones around him also.

Be strong and be there for Jerry, he will need it.

Best regards,
John.