I Never Had the Chance

I never had a chance to visit New York City prior to September 11, 2001. The only NYC I knew was what I saw in movies, on television, in photos, or through stories told by friends who had visited or lived there.

I never had a chance to visit New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina. The only New Orleans I knew was what I saw in movies, on television, in photos, or through stories told by friends who had visited or lived there.

As I sit here, physically and geographically sheltered from two of the cruelest tragedies to befall our nation in the last several years, I can't help but think of all those who haven't been spared.

Every September 11, since 2001, I think of my friend Tommy, a New York policeman. He was called to duty that day. A week later, he called to let me know he was okay. Many men and women he admired were not, though. Many others he never had the opportunity to know were not okay.

As time went by, the distance between Tommy and I grew. Physical distance had never mattered, but suddenly, it did. I couldn't bridge the geography that separated us to reach out and hold him, to help him through those dark days and nights that weighed so heavily on his heart. My only concern was that he had someone with him during those times. On the occasions we did talk, he assured me he wasn't alone, that he had friends and family to help him through. Our phones calls eventually tapered off, but he has never completely left my heart or mind. He is always there; my hero, my friend.

Perhaps we will someday meet. The odds are not in my favor though. With each day that passes, I know that it becomes more unlikely that we shall ever stand face to face. Time and distance are like that. In many ways, I'm okay with that. In many ways, I've accepted that our Jasmine live friendship served its great purpose in every moment that I worried and wondered if he, his coworkers, and his family were okay. I can't explain it any other way.

Hurricane Katrina robbed many of their homes and their lives. Like the events of September 11, 2001, the pain and fear brought on by Katrina will linger for a very long time.

Once again, it was a friend who gave this tragedy a very real face for me. A friend who was also my mentor died as a result of the force of nature we named Katrina.

My friend was one of many who were taken by the wind and waters of the hurricane and the aftermath. There will be names we'll never hear, faces we'll never see, stories that will remain untold.

The distance between California and Louisiana is great. But not so great that my heart doesn't hurt for the people I'll likely never meet.

Both of these events scarred cities, bodies, and minds. Both events gave all of us the opportunity to reach beyond ourselves and embrace those around us, thankful that our hurt was sympathetic in nature and not something we had to experience first hand.

I never had the chance to visit New York City or New Orleans prior to the events that have so greatly changed them. I'm not alone. But for those of us who fall into that group, we have the opportunity to do more than sit idly by while people struggle to put their lives back together. It would be foolish of us to say, years from now, that we had the chance to help but we didn't.

With Katrina, we found a sense of national community once again. Or rather, we are finding it. Slowly, we are rediscovering that spirit of American hearts and helping hands. We embraced it eagerly in the days following September 11, 2001. Now, it seems that there are many chasms too wide for us to easily bridge so that we might extend our hands and hearts to those in need. It's happening, though.

I had hoped, somehow, that the lessons we learned in 2001 would become habit. For many reasons, not everyone remembers how we all seemed to come together to help one another in a time of crisis. Katrina has served to remind us that we can never stop caring and reaching out.

As we focus on helping those in the Gulf Coast region, let us not forget the events that unfolded four years ago. And, let us remember the spirit of cooperation and giving that allowed us to work together to recover from the devastation. We can use the lessons we learned then to help those in need now. We can, we should, and we will. That's what we do in America.

For the cynics among us, please allow the rest of us to remember without criticism or consternation. Surely the harshness of your words and the coldness of your hearts can wait a day.

In every September 11th post I've written, I've included the words to a song that I love. This year will be no different.


Some of you have asked me, via email, why posting has been so minimal around here lately. Well, I've been busy.

I've been helping with photo editing for the Boobie-Thon and I've been cornering the market on all things Late Late Show- and Craig Ferguson-related over on BlogCritics.

A quick glance at Google News shows that my efforts are worth the time and energy I've put into the Ferguson posts. Hey, every girl needs a hobby, right?

Laughter is supposed to be the best medicine. Craig Ferguson is my dealer of choice.

As well, I've been the Video Editor on BC for a while now. Betcha didn't know that, did you? Until two days ago, I didn't have an official assistant editor. I think I chose quite well when I picked the Legendary Monkey Girl to watch my back. She's smart, funny, and sharp as a tack. I felt extremely fortunate and honored to have been given the editor position. Now, that I have LM working with me, I feel doubly blessed.

There's also been some non-blog action in my life. GASP! It's true.

Yesterday, after picking Little Dude up from school, we were headed to the bank and then to run errands. As we were driving down the road, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, an elderly gentleman fall. One minute he was walking, the next minute he was down. Right into the bushes. I pulled over, waited for a few cars to pass, and then flipped an illegal u-turn. I maneuvered the car to the curb, grabbed my cell phone, and rushed to his side. Thankfully, he was conscious and able to tell me what had happened.

According to Dan (that's his name), he simply took a tumble. I tried to help him sit up. He was shaky. Very shaky. As I looked him over for cuts and bruises, two more kind strangers (Pam and Karen) came to lend a hand. Frankly, I was relieved. Being only 2 1/2 months post-op from back surgery, I couldn't begin to fathom how I was going to do more than sit with Dan until someone stronger arrived. The man was completely free of bruising for the moment. The only mark on him was the numbered tattoo on his arm, common to Holocaust survivors.

It took the three of us women to get him standing. He was unsteady. Wobbly, really. Just from getting him into sitting position, I could feel the strain in my back. The way I see it, the strain on the back is nothing compared to the strain on my conscience had I not gone to help. Still, knowing my limits, I allowed the other two to get him up to the medical center that was practically in front of us. Stupid me, I should have had them load Dan into my car. Instead, he shuffled up the little hill while I drove up and ran in to find a wheelchair.

Not a single chair to be found. Turns out, he wasn't headed to the medical center, but rather, the assisted living facility behind it. Luckily, a nice gentleman offered to drive Dan around (access to the facility was much further than it looked) and get him settled in.

Pam later asked me if I'd smelled alcohol on the old man's breath. I said I thought so. But I also pointed out that a diabetic's breath can take on a similar fruity odor if they're in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). It was either that or he'd had some wine over at Temple Adat Shalom. Regardless, he seemed okay. Weak, but okay.

Before Steve (the kindly gentleman who took Dan to the assisted living facility) left, I asked him to deliver Dan to a nurse, not just let him walk in and disappear. Steve promised and I believe he did exactly that.

Little Dude was so good during the whole event. He was calm, polite, helpful, and concerned. Before I dropped him off at his dad's last night, he asked if we could go check on Dan later today. He read my mind.

As we drove away, we had a couple detours due to a series of "right turn only" signs. The extra time we spent trying to get ourselves back on track was a bit frustrating, but as we headed down the road toward the bank once again, I happened to spy a man I'd met on Saturday at the Train Song Festival (where we went for LD's birthday). This guy is a photographer who spent a fair amount of time talking with me about possibly working on spec for the local papers and maybe even handling some editing work for him. Seeing him again reminded me that I needed to send him the adult webcams photos I'd taken that day.

For whatever reason, I believe that I was supposed to meet Dan, along with the rest of the people involved. I don't think I can whip up a neat little moral of this story, you know, about helping one another, etc. I don't think it's that simple. I think there's more to it than that. Exactly what remains to be seen. I'm rather looking forward to seeing what unfolds.

Matt's Day

Since it was Mrs. Matt's first day back at work, I went to the hospital to visit with Matt today and got there at the end of dialysis. His ICP was good, pulse was good, his BP was a little elevated but that's to be expected with the dialysis. His temperature was up and they had ice packs under both arms and an ice blanket covering him from neck to toe.

He opened his eyes a couple times while I was there and squeezed my hand a tiny bit while I talked with him. He also had a couple of weak coughs. All really good signs.

They've taken him completely off the Versed and they're now using only morphine to keep him sedated.

The doctors have given orders to slowly reduce the respiratory rate via the ventilator and he seems to have tolerated that well.

Mrs. Matt arrived and we spent some time with him together, talking and teasing him, hoping he'd open his eyes more, but he was tired and continued to sleep. The nurse came in to turn him and noticed he'd pooped. Yay! You really have to know how hard that is for a patient to do when they've not eaten for two weeks and everything has been at a standstill.

So, we stepped out of the room to give the nurses a chance to clean him up and get him settled. We went outside for a breath of fresh air. When we came back in we saw Mrs. Smash standing outside the doors to the ICU.

"Where's Smash?" we asked.

"He's inside. The doors opened and he just walked in. I thought I'd wait and go in after it was cleared by the nurses."

We laughed. Smash is so by-the-book most of the time. He must have been really anxious to see Matt if he chucked the rules.

The double doors opened again and we saw him standing there, waving Mrs. Smash in. As soon as he saw us live on Jasminlive.mobi, he came out and said hello. We talked for a while and then the Smashes went in to see Matt while Mrs. Matt and I went to sit down and chat.

The Smashes came out.

"He was sleeping the whole time. He seemed really tired. He's not as yellow, either," they said.

Smash added, "well, his eyes popped open at the end when Mrs. Smash said she'd cooked dinner..."

Trust me when I say that this surprised us all and fully explained Matt's response. It's not that Mrs. Smash can't cook, it's just that she doesn't do it often unless it's absolutely necessary. I admire that. A lot.

"I'm so blogging that!" I said. And we laughed again.

One can never underestimate the power of laughter when your life has been full of so much tension and concern. It felt good. More than anything, it was wonderful to see Mrs. Matt laughing and smiling -- and seeing that in her eyes. If we've accomplished nothing else, we've helped to raise her spirits and that means the world to me. She's a wonderful lady and it's totally apparent why Matt loves her so much.

After all that talking, the Smashes excused themselves and headed home for dinner. Mrs. Matt and I went back in to see our patient. We each took a side of the bed and held his hands.

At one point, Matt heard his beloved's voice, opened his eyes, turned his head, and looked at her. Absolute connection there! His brow wrinkled a bit, as if to say "what the hell is going on?" and his mouth started to move. I couldn't tell if he was trying to talk or if he was hoping to kiss her, but he was trying something!

It was beautiful.

The nurses came back in to perform their hourly checks. Respiratory was in to check his cough response and check the vent settings.

The more Respiratory fiddled, the more Matt raised his hand like he wanted to bat her away.

Then the nurse started with, "Matt, open your eyes for me." The eyes opened.

"Matt, blink for me." He blinked.

"Matt, squeeze my hand." There was a squeeze, a weak squeeze. "Squeeze again, Matt." Weaker attempt. And again. Still weaker.

"Matt, squeeze my other hand." A twitch.

"Wiggle your toes for me, Matt." Nothing.

Even unconscious, Matt's stubborn. He can do all of it, but he seems to wear out quickly after just a few commands. I could almost imagine him saying "shut the hell up! I'm trying to sleep!"

Mrs. Matt and I stood at the foot of the bed, hugging each other, smiling, and cheering him on.

That was the first time I'd witnessed with my own two eyes what he was capable of doing. It was overwhelming and wonderful.

Matt also achieved his goals on the ventilator today! They've reduced the number of respirations via machine and he's maintained adequate perfusion without stressing his system on his own. Each day will be another step toward weaning him off completely.

His jaundice continues to resolve. The swelling has gone down, but isn't gone yet -- they only took off 1.6 kg with the dialysis today. Awareness continues to improve and it will only be a matter of time before he's back among us.

Hanging With Matt

Little Dude and I went down to the hospital yesterday to see Matt. This is the first time in a week that I'd been able to go and I was anxious to see him since it had been so long.

Mrs. Matt was running back and forth between hospitals (one of her dearest friends has been hospitalized - at a different facility - with a serious illness) and during a phone call, I let her know we were on our way.

At the hospital, Matt was undergoing a "procedure". That's code for deep suctioning for secretions by the respiratory therapist/doc to keep the fluid from overwhelming our favorite guy. Since he was otherwise occupied, Little Dude and I headed down to the waiting room. Eventually, the Smashes and Gracie arrived. We sat and talked and began a round of 20 Questions. It's amazing what you'll find to keep busy when you have to be patient. No pun intended.

Finally, Mrs. Matt and their daughter arrived. She led Gracie and me down the hall and into ICU to see Matt while the occupied themselves under the watchful eye of the Smashes.

Bedside, I held his hand and started talking to him, his heart rate went up, and the monitors started to go off. I had to tease him! I told him I knew he was happy to see me but that he needed to contain his excitement since he's a married man and his wife was standing right there. Everyone laughed and his heart rate went back to normal. He's in there. Definitely. Matt's fighting hard and I have no doubt that he's going to pull through this.

I also mentioned that I had considered napping Debra Messing (Will and Grace) and bringing her in to see him, to talk him into recovering. However, I had nixed that plan since I didn't think her family nor the police would be real thrilled with the idea. I have no idea what Matt thinks of her, but she was at the zoo today while Little Dude and I were there. We were all hanging with the pandas.

Matt's still in a coma, but he has moments of great responsiveness. The medical team was finally able to perform the angiogram. There is no evidence of an aneurysm nor of any abnormal blood vessel anatomy.

He's receiving feedings through a nasojejunal tube, which is placed down the nose, passes through the stomach, and sits in the upper part of the intestines - the jejunum. This prevents the stomach from filling with contents that could potentially be aspirated into the lungs. Naturally, no one wants that to happen. The fact that the doctors have chosen a minimally invasive method for feeds is good. No surgery is required for the tube placement. And better still, the fact that Matt's being given any sort of feedings at all is FANTASTIC!

The CT and other tests show that the damage from the stroke was confined to a section of the right frontal lobe. Personality should not be drastically altered. He may experience some decreased ability to mentally focus, but that's a better outcome than what might have been. Ultimately, the only real way to determine the extent of the damage will come once Matt has regained consciousness.

In addition to the feedings, Matt is moderately jaundiced. Shock, medications, feeds, and many other factors play a role in how the body functions, especially the liver. Apparently, the bilirubin levels have been steadily decreasing, which is more good news. Bilirubin is a product of hemoglobin breakdown. Normally, our liver will help with processing the old blood cells and they will passed from our system via urine and stool. When the amount of heme and globin becomes greater than the amount the liver and gall bladder can process, bilirubin begins to accumulate in the blood stream and thus, the yellowing of skin and sclera (the whites of the eyes). Matt was yellow, but not a horrible yellow. I've worked with so many icteric patients that I can pretty much gauge what the lab results will be just by looking at them. Matt has a fight on his hands, but he's on his way.

He's also very edematous (swollen). The nurse said they took off quite a bit of fluid during dialysis yesterday and that's to be expected. 4 kg is significant. It's important to remove the excess fluid to improve blood pressure as well as to keep the lungs from becoming congested.

The ICP remained under 10 the whole time I was there. Yay! The blood pressure was good. Yay! And, Matt was in a deep "sleep". Friday had been a particularly arduous day for him - the angiogram was done, a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter as opposed to a standard IV) was placed, and he has those extra special suctionings throughout the day. That's a lot stress on the body. He deserved to sleep.

Next week I'll be spending a little more time down at the hospital since his wife has to go back to work (short days for now) and nobody wants him to be alone all the time.

I'll be taking in comments to read to him. I'm taking a new biography that I can read to him as I keep him company. And, we've all teased him that we're going to bring in music that will force him awake, if only to complain.

There's still a long, hard road ahead of Matt and his family, but we're all confident that current test results are indicating that things are going to be okay.

Don't forget to donate, even if it's only a dollar or two. Every bit helps.

Not So Current News...But Still.... News

Sorry for the lack of updates. I was without a voice for several days and couldn't even call to ask what was going on with Matt.

However, since I hadn't heard anything from Mrs. M, I assumed that no news was good news.

The last call from Mrs. Matt confirmed that our friend was holding steady and had managed to come through the septic shock, although he still has far to go with the damage from the stroke and surgery.

Now that I'm well again (another damn sinus infection), I can actually go to the hospital to check on Matt and his family. I'll report back then.

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