The Week From Hell

Greetings, squadlings.

Let me just start off by saying, this is not a post I am looking forward to making.  In fact, I wasn’t even going to make it, but something in me made me do it. I don’t know why, nor do I know what that thing was, but alas, here we are.

My mom’s best friend, let’s call her Annie*, has a son, and we’ll call him David*. David is 18 years old, just seven months younger than me. David has had brain surgery five times now.

It started when David was twelve; a large tumor was found in his brain. We were scared, we didn’t know what to think. No one saw it coming. The tumor was eventually removed, but there was a little piece of it that couldn’t be reached. I’ll save you the long story by saying it grew back. 

Fast forward to June 2016, and David has just had his brain surgery for the fifth time. Every other time, through my understanding, there have been no complications. Hell, David FaceTimed me two hours after surgery one night. He’s a fighter, and we’re proud of him. Although, this time, something was different.

David’s doctors realized that David’s motor skills were a bit slower than they had been after past surgeries. To their horror, they realized David couldn’t move the left side of his body. They rushed him off to get a ton of tests done. I don’t really understand this part, bear with my crappy writing for a minute, here.

A test revealed that David had a stroke during surgery. He’s eighteen years old. His mother told my mother that she prayed he would live.

My mother and I, after I returned from work that day, booked a hotel room in Chicago, where David was in the ICU at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital. We left the next afternoon, again, when I got home from work.

Annie, David’s mother, is my mother’s best friend. They’ve known each other since they were in sixth grade. My mom has her diary from sixth grade, and the day where she met Annie on the playground is documented in it. My mother went to the Catholic elementary school, while Annie went to the public school. It wasn’t until they were in high school, working at the public library in town, that both Annie and my mother realized they were talking to the same girl they had met on the playground in sixth grade. They went to college together, and the friendship stuck through all these years.

That being said, Annie’s children and my brother and I became friends over the years. Annie has a son a few months younger than my older brother, David, and a daughter who is about my younger sister’s age. We got along pretty well throughout the years. That is, until I decided to be a piece of shit.

I won’t get into the full story, because BELIEVE ME, it’s ridiculous. Basically, there was a time when David and I didn’t get along, and we went probably a year without talking. Don’t ask me about it, believe me, the entire story is pathetic and I was being an immature little turd. I realize that now.

Anyway, back to the point.

The next day, my mom and I made our way to Chicago to visit David and Annie in the ICU. After making our way through the confusing-as-hell children’s hospital (Why you need so many elevators just to get to one floor, Lurie’s?), we reached the check-in desk at the ICU. We signed in, and in we went. Through the gates of hell.

I don’t know if any of you have been in the ICU. I don’t know if any of you have so much as set foot in the ICU. But once you walk through the ICU of a children’s hospital, your entire perspective on everything you’ve ever learned changes. It truly was like we had walked into hell.

There were little kids. BABIES, even. Little kids with no hair who were wrapping up chemotherapy treatments seemed to be the ones who had the most rooms down there. I don’t know what happened to this poor kid, but there was a BABY, younger than my two-year-old baby brother, with a tube down her throat. I can’t even write about this, because no words will EVER describe how horrible that place was.

We saw David and Annie, and David looked good! He had moved his left side a bit that day, which was a great sign! He was doing well. We talked to them for a long time (we joke that we overstayed our welcome to the point of poor David throwing up, which he did as we were leaving), and then we left. We walked back out into hell.

Leaving was worse than coming in the Children’s ICU. When you walked in, you saw a few rooms, but when you were leaving, you saw ALL of the rooms. Unfortunately for us, David was at the end of the hall, so we saw EVERYTHING.

My mom began to pray out loud for God to help the poor children, and I fast-walked the hell out of there, like an old lady when there’s a sale at Bloomingdale’s and she has to be first in line.

As soon as we got to the lobby, I started bawling.

I can’t describe what I saw in the Children’s ICU. I could try to tell you, but no words I could ever say would be enough to emphasize the pain and suffering I walked through that night. I knew David would be ok, but I also knew that some of those poor kids wouldn’t. And that feeling made me sick.

When we went to visit David the next day, I remember saying to my mother as we walked through the lobby to get our visitor’s passes, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to go here again. I don’t want to go back to that place.” Yes, I wanted to see David, but I didn’t want to have to make the walk to see him again.

It takes a strong kind of person to work in a Children’s hospital, let alone an ICU. Because of that, I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to the entire staff at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and all staff at every children’s hospital, for all that you do. That cannot be an easy job, and we thank you for doing all you can for those children. A special thank you to the staff at Lurie’s for all you did for David.

lurietm

 

Oh, how I wish the story ended here.

But unfortunately, it doesn’t.

When I returned home, I was hit with more bad news. A favorite teacher of mine from middle school, the father of one of my friends, has Stage 4 brain cancer.

 

Last week was rough. I don’t really know how to describe it, other than a really shitty week. I learned a lot about myself while walking through the children’s ICU. Walking through that place took everything I had ever learned away from me. I remember walking through those halls wondering to myself, “If there is a God, why does he let this happen to innocent kids?

David’s faith in God is one of the things that got him through. He’s in an in-patient rehab facility now to get his strength back. He’s out of the ICU. I’m happy about that, but I can’t stop thinking of those other kids. On the other hand, I’m so incredibly thankful that David is going to be ok.

 

I don’t really know how to feel, squadlings. It’s going to take a while for me to figure everything out.

 

Thanks for reading. In the words of Alice Sebold, “I wish you all a long and happy life.” 

Godspeed, my friends.

*All names have been changed out of privacy and respect for the family.

Questions About Books, Because I’m A Dork.

Greetings squadlings!

Pretty much everyone who knows me, knows that I’m a major book nerd. Every birthday and Christmas, I stock up on Barnes and Noble gift cards, then blow all of them in one sitting. It’s slightly depressing really, but hey, at least I’m not smokin’ crack.

That being said, I decided to look up a so-called “book tag” and answer some questions about books, authors, etc. This was inspired by many conversations I’ve had with my friend Sara, who is also a book nerd. Hi, Sara.

 

1. What was the last book you read?

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

2. Was it a good one?

Meh.

3. What made it good?

Um…?

4. Would you recommend it to other people?

Meh.

5. How often do you read?

In the summer, every day. In the school year…let’s put it this way: I bought a book in October and finished it in May.

6. Do you like to read?

No. Not at all. WHY IS THIS A QUESTION?

7.What was the last bad book you read?

Asylum, probably. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.

8. What made you dislike it?

Before I read it, I guess I thought it would be better than it was. The twist ending was pretty lame.

9. Do you wish to be a writer?

I have a feeling my mom’s family will get mad at me if I say no to this. So…Maybe?

10. Has any book every influenced you greatly?

Not…really…I don’t know…?

11. Do you read fan fiction?

GROSS. Fan fiction creeps me out.

12. Do you write fan fiction?

Never. Ever.

13. What’s your favorite book?

Standalone: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Yes LORD.

14. What’s your least favorite book?

I’ve read quite a few bad books, but I would say probably Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Sorry, Sara.

15. Do you prefer physical books or ready on a device (like a kindle)?

Physical. Always.

16. When did you learn to read?

I don’t know…When I was probably five?

17. What is your favorite book you had to read in school?

Night by Elie Wiesel. I didn’t read any of the other books assigned in high school. Oops.

18. What is your favorite book series?

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

19. Who is your favorite author?

Rick Riordan, Markus Zusak, J.K. Rowling…

20. What is your favorite genre?

Fantasy

21. Who is your favorite character in a book series?

Percy Jackson from Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief.

22. Has a book ever transported you somewhere else?

Physically? No. Mentally? Sure.

23.Which book do you wish had a sequel?

I need the Percy Jackson series and all of it’s spinoffs to live on forever.

24. Which book do you wish DIDNT have a sequel?

Asylum. Like, why?

25. How long does it take you to read a book?

Depends on if I like it or not.

26. Do you like when books become movies?

Sometimes.

27. Which book was ruined by its movie adaptation?

PERCY JACKSON PERCY JACKSON PERCY JACKSON

28. Which movie has done a book justice?

Harry Potter. Basic answer.

29. Do you read newspapers?

Do the comics count?

30: Do you read magazines?

No, there are no good ones.

31. Do you prefer newspapers or magazines?

Newspapers.

32. Do you read while in bed?

Sometimes. I usually fall asleep before I can finish.

33. Do you read while on the toilet?

No. That’s weird. I don’t like this question. Make it stop.

34. Do you read while in the car?

I wish I could, but I get sick. My sister can and I hate her for it.

35. Do you read while in the bath?

I don’t take baths…I am a grown ass woman.

36. Are you a fast reader?

Sometimes too fast.

37. Are you a slow reader?

See 36. Duh.

38. Where is your favorite place to read?

My back porch, but only in the warm weather. I live in Wisconsin, which is basically Antarctica from October to April.

39. Is it hard for you to concentrate while you read?

I have ADHD, it’s hard for me to concentrate on anything.

40.Do you need a room to be silent while you read?

Not dead silent. That’s just creepy.

41. Who gave you your love for reading?

Probably my dad.

42. What book is next on your list to read?

Not sure yet.

43. When did you start to read chapter books?

I don’t remember.

44. Who is your favorite children’s book author?

Barbara Park. (Junie B. Jones)

45. Which author would you most want to interview?

Rick Riordan and Markus Zusak.

46. Which author do you think you’d be friends with?

Rick Riordan. MY KING.

47.What book have you reread the most?

I don’t really re-read books.

48. Which books do you consider “classics”?

Harry Potter isn’t technically a classic yet, but it will be.

49. Which books do you think should be taught in every school?

The Percy Jackson series! That’s where my sister and I learned all about Greek mythology.

50. Which books should be banned from all schools?

Textbooks. Especially math textbooks.

 

Well, there’s an obnoxiously long post for you all. My wrist hurts.

To The Woman I’ll Never Know

I don’t know what your voice sounded like. I don’t know how your body worked-how you moved, your mannerisms, if you spoke with your hands. Frankly, I don’t know who you were.

I have a slightly-edited version of your name: my mother turned “Jean” into “Jenna.” You don’t even know me, you never did, and I walk around with your name.

I should know you. You should know me. Honestly, I find myself thinking sometimes about how angry I am because we never will know each other.

She still talks about you. Constantly. It’s been 25 years, but my brother and I hear the stories. We’ve known about you always; talking about you as if you were still here. In a way, you were a part of my childhood, even though, in reality, you weren’t. You didn’t know me, and I didn’t know you.

She says you were kind. You always looked out for other people. You listened to what everyone had to say, and you put others before yourself. I wish I could have learned from you.

I’ve heard the story of how you left. You were only 26. I’m 19, and you’ve been gone for 25 years. You’ve been gone almost as long as you were here, and I wasn’t around for any of it.

I find myself wondering who you would have been to me. Would you have lived in the same town? Would you have come over for Sunday lunch, with my brother and I running to the door to greet our “cool Aunt Jeanie”? Would I have gone to you to complain about school?

There are pictures of you on the walls. Both at Grandma’s house and at mine. I find myself looking at them from time to time. You were pretty. I can see how you and my mother are sisters. I don’t see much of a resemblance between you and I, but truthfully, I see some of you in my brother. I don’t know why, but I do.

I see how your death affected them. They still mention you. I can hear the grief in their voices even now, 25 years later.

25 years. 25 years, you’ve been gone. I’ve only been around for 19, and though I didn’t really know you, you’ll always be a part of my life. You always have been, and you always will be.

Hope everything’s going well up there. Say hi to Grandpa for me.