Vital Signs

Recently, my mother misjudged the last step in her garage as she navigated the path to her car in limited lighting.  Attempting to catch herself, she spun around striking the back of her head on the cement floor.  My son and I heard the fall from her living room and rushed to help.  My mother hates hospitals, so when she agreed to an ambulance transport my concern grew.  She asked that someone go with her, so I quickly ran inside, changing into the only clothes that weren’t in the laundry: Marty’s well-worn, hand-me-down red and black checkered flannel shirt; black dress slacks; gray athletic socks; a man’s thickly lined black hoody; and black dress shoes.  My unbrushed wet hair from a recent shower was taking on a life of its own as a gnarled rat’s nest developed on the back of my head as I rode to the hospital.  But my only concern at the time was the health and well-being of my mother.

As my disoriented mother was hooked up to a monitor to record her vital signs, the emergency room attendant asked me if I was her daughter or her bodyguard?  This strange remark brought memories of my late father’s near death almost fifteen years ago when the hospital staff put him in a medically induced coma before hooking him up to a respirator.  For a number of long nights after this near deadly mistake, I was my father’s bodyguard in the intensive care unit, monitoring everything closely and questioning his care.  It was a roller coaster ride as a surgeon almost rushed him into surgery from the results of one test, but luckily realized the test was faulty before opening him up.  His kidneys began to shut down and the nurse warned that the end might be imminent.  But I sat wide-awake night after night willing him to live and he did.  The anger in his eyes as he was brought out of the coma was intense and I understood that too.

Thirty years ago, I was in a coma.  My blood alcohol level of .63 broke the hospital record.  But when I came out of the coma there was this miraculous sense of peace and faith.  The fleeting knowledge that everything is as it should be.  The debilitating pain prior to my self-induced coma was gone.  So I empathized with my father’s rage at coming back to reality.  After all, we both had embodied the lifestyle of chronic alcoholics, the all-consuming daily goal of escaping reality, whatever the cost.

My thoughts drifted back to my suffering mother, her eyes either closed or barely open as she stoically fought the pain. She apologized to the nurses for getting physically ill due to the dizziness and pain.  She instructed me to find a magazine or something else to read.  But my job as bodyguard precluded me from seeking venues for personal entertainment.   The minutes ticked by as my mind assessed the frailty of life.  Why do some people survive, while others are lost?  The ambulance attendants thanked my mother for being so petite more than once.  But she communicated her regret of the need to be lifted and carried. This five-foot tall, spunky woman continues to inspire me, well, to live.  There is no excuse for giving up on life.  Jobs come and go; good people die; bad people thrive; fortunes are made and lost; whatever life hands you, accept it and work hard to change it.  The only worthy regrets in life are the things left undone.

The Exit Plan for the War on Drugs is one of my things left undone.  So much time and work goes into dealing with the casualties of this failed war and, although we have won some battles, Marty and I struggle with a great deal of discouragement.  There seems to be unending attempts to pass laws and policies aimed to deter people from abusing drugs and alcohol.  All this approach seems to have achieved is overflowing jails and prisons.  It is time to refocus the plan of attack.  The Exit Plan has been dusted off and will be finished.  After all, my mother has survived her unfortunate fall, but somewhere there may be a rickety, old step with my name on it.

© Copyright 2012.  Fawkes-Lee & Ryan.  All rights reserved.


This entry was posted in Substance Abuse and Alcoholism/War on Drugs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Vital Signs

  1. Brian Scott says:

    Touching stuff…..and for the other, CO leading the way these days in injecting sense and sensibility into the wasteful mix.

  2. Lee Fawkes says:

    Brilliant piece! Well-considered and beautifully written. Ellen and I are both very impressed at your success in marshaling your life’s experiences and challenges into a personal agenda of meaningful public policy advocacy. Keep up the good work!

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