A few of you already know that I had quite a scare two weeks ago.
On Sunday night, I was horrified to discover my daughter collapsed in the kitchen in a puddle of her own vomit. As I told a friend from this forum, once, there is nothing more terrifying that this simple sentence:
My child is sick.
So we rushed her to the emergency room, where it was discovered that she was severely dehydrated and anemic. She had a total of three infections, and with the onset of her menses it was a bit much for her body to handle. Her breathing was erratic, her heartbeat was well over a hundred, and she was resisting all efforts to stabilize her.
So the testing commenced. Bloodwork, bloodwork, and more bloodwork, two EKG's, and a chest xray. While they whisked her off to the various labs, I stepped outside to gather myself, because I didn't want my daughter to see me upset. I walked the obligatory fifty feet away from the entrance where the ashtray was, and I was musing on the difference in the emergency room--she was attended to right away, and there didn't seem to be many people there. Just two years ago, a visit to the emergency room was a two day ordeal, just to see a doctor! I naively thought that the acquisition of this particular hospital by Oschner had brought about the much needed radical changes that made for a much more efficient system. That's when I discovered that I wasn't the only person crying by the ashtray.
A woman, still wearing her hospital ID tags was standing there, in a state of total despair. Three hours ago, perhaps four, she'd just miscarried her baby. I expressed my sympathy, and gently suggested that it might be a bit soon for her to be up and about, and that perhaps she might request for counseling of some sort. (I really didn't know what to say, actually--I just felt pretty inadequate.) Then she told me that she had been released. I said that maybe she should wait inside for her ride, since there was no bench or seating outside.
She told me that she had no ride. She also had no money for a cab. She said she was thirsty, and I'm in the habit of carrying a small bottle of water with me, so I gave it to her. I didn't have much cash on me, but I had thought to bring a roll of quarters for the vending machine. So I told her that I was thirsty too--did she happen to know where a working vending machine was? The ones in the emergency waiting room were all "out of order".
We were stopped by security at the door. The security guard who had been so solicitous of me when I had walked out of there in tears was suddenly more than abrupt--he was downright rude and blocked the entrance in front of the woman. I was totally puzzled, and hey, I just get this look when I think someone's being mean, so he explained to me that he had warned her twice that his orders were to keep "visitors" from the waiting area. I told him that she was helping me to find a vending machine and a phone, so he relented.
As we walked the corridor, she told me she had no insurance. When she discovered that she was losing her baby, her little sister had just dropped her off at the emergency room door; and now she was concerned because her sister had a drug problem and was now on the loose with her car, her cellphone, and her wallet. (Her sister was supposed to go park the car and assist her, but apparently, the girl considered her sister's tragic misfortune her opportunity? I dunno.) But she hadn't returned.
Now this gets sadder by the second. At the vending machine, I gave her the roll of quarters, and told her to get herself something to eat and drink, and to use the phone inside of the hospital to call her cellphone or perhaps a friend. (Calls made on the inside phone are free.) Now I have some experience with addicts, being one myself, so I wasn't completely oblivious to the fact that perhaps assisting this woman would be the right thing to do, but could possibly be dangerous, and I had my own priorities. I needed to get back upstairs to be with my daughter.
It's two weeks later, and yes, I am deliriously happy because all of my daughter's tests came back just fine and dandy--and once they got some vitamins and electrolytes and fluids in her, her heart quit trying to compensate for the low blood pressure, and she's bouncing around the house again. The nurses congratulated me too, btw, because of course they tested my daughter for drugs, and it's apparently unusual for them to see a seventeen year old girl with blue black dyed hair and a nose ring that isn't in their care because of drugs. I told them to congratulate her--she's the one who just says no.
But I can't get that woman out of my mind...
Sure, it could very well be that she had provoked her miscarriage through drug abuse. And once upon a time, I had a zero tolerance policy toward crackheads, but then something happened that made me rethink that philosophy. So brace yourself for another sad but true story (and some of you all may have heard this story already) but I'm gonna type it again.
My home was looted after Katrina, and not by desperate water-ravaged people. My home was trashed by local crackheads--people we had grown up with, gone to school with, and even invited into our home for football games and barbecues. My "crack" policy then was if I didn't see it, then I didn't know, yanno? A live-and-let live, have-your-habit-of-choice, but keep it away from my kids and out of my home. Until of course, they trashed the very home that once granted them hospitality. Most of ya'll know that was when Karen went totally *snapped*.
I was enraged, and I was armed. Our home was still without electricity since a tree had taken out the electrical meter, and it was going to take some time to find a certified electrician to help us out. The street lights were still out, but most of my neighbors had gotten back on the grid, so our neighbor kindly ran an extension cord from his porch to my window. I was offered shelter, but um, no. I wasn't leaving our house for it to be robbed again. We were under martial law, so I checked in with the National Guard and let them know that I was spending nights there alone (with the loyal fierce dog Annie and Freddie the delusional alpha-dog terrier.) I didn't want to get shot if they saw me with flashlights around the house or my yard. I told my husband to take the kids at night, and please just leave me alone while I wept and raged through the mess. I gotta tell ya, folks, it was damned eerie, those nights. I hooked up my computer for company, and alternated between running my pc and my window unit. The weather was still damned hot and muggy, and oy, the mosquitoes. I do believe I lost my mind, and the proof of it is all right here in the blue pages as I ranted, raved and wept the long nights away, until morning, when my husband would come to take the "day shift". We were not leaving the house untended. I don't know how I tolerated the heat, the mess, the bugs, and the scary isolation, except that my blood had turned to ice, and I birthed a rage so savage that I feared I'd create a category SIX hurricane, by a sympathetic magick of pure fury.
I had beer. I had tequila. I had guns. I was damned dangerous.
But we go through our trials one day at a time, and once we finally got hooked back up to the grid, things around the Metro New Orleans area fell into routine insanity. I had dug an emotional moat around my house, my family and myself, and I didn't care if I ever saw any of my "friends" again. Family only, and if I suspected that any of them were on crack or meth, I considered them excommunicated.
Zero tolerance. Much transpired in the following two years, and maybe someday I can knit those stories together into a more orderly narrative, but I'm trying to stay focused on the point for now. You have heard what brought about my zero-tolerance-one-person-war on this drug-mennace, and now I will relate on how some seeds of compassion for even the crack addict came to be planted in my little emotional garden over here.*Karen taps her head*.
I'd ceased seeing old friends, rarely went out except to see doctors. I had an outbreak of shingles, and some other problems that required surgeries, so much of my time was spent checking off the list of procedures required for the renovation of Karen. Then one day, I chanced to meet up with a couple from two decades ago. Well, I didn't exactly "meet" them--I'd simply turned on the tv and they were on the six o'clock news. Let's just call them...Dan and Laura.
They were on the news because their eighteen year old son was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. Their son had fallen victim to the crack, and one night while he was high, he was apparently desperate to get home (or so his sister reported.) They had run out of gas and were stranded at a convenience store, so when an off-duty police officer left his car running, with his kids in the back seat, the boy had jumped in to steal the car, while the cop's kids screamed for their father from the back seat. The cop took the gamble of shooting the boy--and I say the "gamble" because the boy was scrambling around the car trying to get out the other side via the back seat, where the two innocent kids were sitting.
The cop successfully pumped four bullets into our friend's son, terminating his life.
Now this story too, seems to be an easy call. The kid screwed up, and yes it was tragic, but the difference for me was that I knew this family. They had tried to get their son into rehab--but no beds were available in the cheaper state run facilities. They had found a place in Florida that would try to help him, but they had no insurance, and they simply didn't have the thirty thousand dollars that was required by the facility. Like many families do, during desperate times, they had joined a church for emotional support, hoping that their faith was strong enough to save their son.
So it was on the six o'clock news that I heard my old friend read the letter that her deceased son had written to Jesus, apologizing for losing his way, and begging Jesus to help him win the battle with his addiction.
So you see, I couldn't help but reconsider how harsh I had been previously, and how ignorant and ungrateful I had been regarding my own good luck with my own children. I felt ashamed that I had invited trouble into their lives via the company we had kept, and just by being the people that my husband and I happen to be--people with a "history".
And I just wrote all of this to express my dismay that our Governor, Bobby Jindall, has plans to put the axe to a program that is one of the few recourses for families without health insurance to receive help for adolescents in need of drug rehabilition as well as mental disorders. The program is called NOAH--New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, and that is just the beginning of Bobby Jindall's master plan of budget cuts. I never dreamed I would be supportive of Mayor Ray Nagin on anything, but if I learned nothing from the past, I should have learned to never say never.
You can read Mayor Nagin's letter to Governor Jindall at this link--
I feel betrayed by Bobby Jindall. The people of the New Orleans Metro Area deserve better than this. We have worked hard toward recovery, we gambled with our lives and finances with obstinate hope that we would and could not just rebuild New Orleans, but rebuild it BETTER. I understand the need for a firm hand regarding budget--but I'm rapidly losing respect for this man. I actually celebrated his victory, and had total faith in him.
There's a lot of talk these days regarding Ayn Rand's philosophies regarding rational self-interest. But to neglect the people of New Orleans, yet again, is simply not in the best interest of the state of Louisiana. It's not just that New Orleans is a fun place to be--and it can be, I promise you that. But if you want to talk dollars and common sense, consider that New Orleans is so rich in cultural arts of all sorts, that ART is second only to the medical field in the economy of our state. And if I may address Governor Jindall directly? Those arts are nutured and prospering not so much in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, or even Lafayette, but in New Orleans.
So I'd like to say to Governor Jindall, that you can't discard the health and welfare of the people of New Orleans without risking the second ranking commodity of our state. (Oil happens to be THIRD, for those who are wondering.)
Bobby? If you are truly considering hammering these economic nails in the coffin of New Orleans, consider that you may very well be hammering nails in that not-so-secret ambition of yours to be the Republican candidate for the presidency.
That seems to be your only priority of late.
And just for the record--I'm still happy, folks. Me and my people have lived through much, and we'll live through another stupid politician--AGAIN.
Or maybe Bobby Jindall has plans for massive faith healing?
Okay, that was a cheap shot that I couldn't resist. *smile* I'm referring to Governor Jindall's not so well-publicized account of an exorcism he performed on a "possessed" fellow classmate while he was in college...
Bobby? Come see me. Bring a couple of priests. Or maybe if you prefer the Biblical method, I'm sure you can find a herd of swine amongst your colleagues.