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Canadian-Maple-Leaf-Flag

I blame Canada for our first two fights as a married couple.

The first fight occurred at the base of the Canadian Rockies when my brand new husband decided that yes, even I, a born and raised flat lander from Chicago, could tackle the “bunny hill” at the Banff ski resort we had just arrived at. Let me put this in proper perspective: we had to take a 25-minute gondola ride up to the base of the mountain just to get to said bunny hill, which we had to take another ten-minute rope tow up to in order to ski back down. Gravity, thou art a wicked bitch.

But this post isn’t about my fight against gravity. This post is about what happened the very last night of our Canadian honeymoon. Our first BIG fight as a married couple. It involves Lord Stanley, several Royal Canadian Mounties, a N.A.T.O. meeting (yes, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), heavy snow and a near-shooting from an M-16. I kid you not.

When my husband and I decided we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, everything we did from that point to actually getting married took place in reverse order: we planned our honeymoon destination first (Canada), then decided on the best time of year to go (May), then reserved our wedding reception location, then the church, then we got engaged. It seems strange, I know, but at the time my husband-to-be was being transferred from Chicago to Tucson. Our lives were so up in the air and unpredictable that we had to keep our plans open and flexible. We both knew, however, we wanted a Canadian honeymoon. Hence, we started from there and worked backwards with the plans as everything started to come together. It worked out well that way.

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Our First Honeymoon Spot: The Banff Springs Hotel

We began our honeymoon in Banff, which was beautiful, but had the ski resort I mentioned earlier. After two days in Banff, we spent a day or two in Lake Louise, then headed up to Jasper for a night. Then, for our final night, ended up in Kananaskis. And that’s when things got weird.

Being the lovey dovey, oblivious newlyweds we were, we didn’t really notice all the national flags lining our hotel’s entrance when we pulled up in our rental car. Nor did we think much about it when the bell hop comes running out to our car, waving his arms and screaming, “Stop! Who are you? What are you doing here?” I just figured that was how Canadians greeted their guests: friendly, but suspicious. Still basking in the afterglow of a romantic honeymoon, we get out of the car and begin to unload our luggage for the final night of love and romance. Hah.

Kananaskis_yes_noThe bell hop, however, put aside his friendly greeting and, upon rushing up to greet us face to face, asked again, “Who are you? What are you doing here? How were you able to get in here?” My husband and I looked at each other, a little perplexed, a little pissed off and said, “Um, we have reservations, we’re on our honeymoon…?” The bell hop relaxed a little bit (because we’re newlyweds, after all) and added one final statement that should have clued us in as to what we had just drove into: “Well, hi, but I’m just really shocked the hotel is allowing you two civilians to stay here”. What the hell? I know we’re not Canadians, but did he have to refer to us as “civilians”?

The reason for the bell hop’s somewhat rude behavior became abundantly clear when, upon walking through the hotel lobby’s door, we saw military personnel. Everywhere. And not just Canadian military, but Russian, Polish, German too (we could only surmise this by the snippets of dialogues that were going on throughout the main floor of the hotel.) It looked like the place had just been invaded by…every country.

We approached the hotel clerk and, somewhat tentatively, announced who we were and that we had a reservation. Her response was just as unnerving, “Welcome. You’re the last two civilians we’re allowing to stay here. The rest of the hotel has been taken over by NATO, so we’re going to have to ask you to go right to your room, and do not, under any circumstances, go onto the second floor. It has been secured for military operations only.” Whoa -we just wanted a quiet, romantic night in a hotel overlooking beautiful mountain scenery. Somehow, we ended up at the very same hotel, during the very same week, that NATO scheduled their annual meeting. Ironically, they chose that location for the same purpose we did -because it has limited access in and out, and its pretty well hidden in the Canadian mountains. Plus, it was a Howard Johnson’s, so…there’s that.

Over 10 NATO members oppose Syria war

As if ending up in a hotel with thirteen defense ministers from around the world wasn’t weird enough, things got much weirder that evening. My husband and I went downstairs for a bite to eat and a drink in the bar. And, as I had mentioned earlier in this post, a chance to watch one of the hockey games on TV. Let’s think about this for a second: it was May. In Canada. What major sporting event takes place every year around this time, which turns Canadians into rabid sports freaks? Yeah, the fight for Lord Stanley’s cup. And it appeared to be taking place right there in the bar as two Canadian teams were in the finals and two rival groups of fans were in the bar, eyes glued to the set. My husband, not Canadian, just fell right into place, plopped his ass down on an empty bar stool, and was “good to go” for the night. I, however, was feeling amorous and headed back to our hotel room. I asked him to come join me in about fifteen minutes. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

What happened next is still something we argue about — almost twenty-five years later. About four hours later–and by now I’m steaming mad–my new husband comes stumbling into the hotel room, drunk off his ass and giggling uncontrollably. Of course he wakes me up, and the fight begins. However, it’s really hard to fight with a drunken idiot, who is too busy laughing at everything that had happened in those last four hours. So, I just kept quiet and let him ramble on until he passed out on the bed.

Apparently, after I had gone to the hotel room, he was invited to join a big group of men sitting at a large table to watch the hockey game with them. It turned out they were all off-duty Royal Canadian mounted police officers, enjoying some down time before their next security shift started. And boy could they drink. A lot. He had lost count of how many shots of whiskey they had bought him but, as international relations requires, he felt it was his American duty to drink every shot they bought him. Plus, he really likes hockey.

But, his story continued into the night and the clear, Canadian air and snow. After stumbling out of the bar around 11:00, he decided to go for a walk in the freshly fallen, sparkling snow. Knowing we were heading back to the Arizona desert the following day, I could understand how he wanted to spend one last night in the cold and snow. Who knew when we’d see it next.

images (2)As he walked along a freshly cleared path of beautiful, sparkling snow, right around midnight, he turned onto a pathway and was immediately met by a military guard brandishing an M-16, which he was pointing directly at my husband’s face. “HALT! Who goes there? Who are you? Where’s your hotel security badge?” the guard started peppering him with questions. My husband, still somewhat drunk and wobbly, just threw his hands up in the air as best he could, and muttered something about being “just married” and “honeymoon” and “angry new wife” and “please don’t shoot me in the face”. Apparently, the guard understood “drunkenese” and lowered his rifle, then told my husband to turn around and “get back to your wife”. A quick glance over the guard’s shoulder showed a huge lot filled with all sorts of military choppers and vehicles. He had wandered into the secured area where all the transportation vehicles had been parked.

And that was the last night of the first half of our honeymoon. The second half was to take place in Las Vegas three days later. Nothing too exciting happened there, unless you count the time I was caught sneaking out of our hotel room at 3 am to go shoot some craps.

Because, it isn’t a true adventure until somebody or something gets shot.

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I live in a very middle-of-the-road, middle-class neighborhood, own a middle-class sized house and drive a middle-class car. I guess my car could even be considered lower middle-class. It is a bottom of the line, drab gray Nissan Sentra, after all.

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My Brand of Car

 

But even though I live the very middle class lifestyle, I do have some “HMG” possessions. What’s HMG, you ask? It’s code for: “High Maintenance Girl.” Perhaps I need to put this in clearer perspective.

I live next to, or nearby a neighborhood where upper-middle to obscenely wealthy people live. These are the folks who live in McMansions, drive luxury cars (when their Hummers are in the shop, of course) and have nannies to help raise their private-school going kids. Most of the moms are stay-at-homes, who spend a lot of time out and about showing the world how “HMG” they truly are.

Whenever my husband and I dare to venture “across the tracks of our suburban slum territory” into their “promised land of plenty,” we play something called the “HMG game.” This is a lot like the license plate game, only we compare women instead. Let me describe the look of the HMG girl: most often caucasian, blond — natural or bottled, always perfectly coiffed and held back with a pony tail or leopard print head band, leggings or yoga pants, minimum of 2 carats of diamonds on her ring finger, spray tan, carrying a designer handbag, wearing bug eyed sunglasses and usually carrying a Starbucks grande coffee in one hand and her Iphone 6 in the other.

designer-handbag

Their Type of Handbag

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My One Size Fits All Bag

When we spot one of “them”, we try to make a story around  her: where she lives, what she does for a living (if she even has to work), what her husband does for a living (probably a workaholic, but who knows?), and how many spoiled kids they are letting their live-in nannies raise for them. Then, we watch and see how they interact with “common, ordinary folk” such as clerks working the counters at the local Starbucks or CVS. Sometimes, we just want to know IF they will take their eyes away from their expensive smartphones to even lower their social status long enough to engage in conversation with the working class peasants.

Yes, I know I sound bitter, jealous and angry over these HMG. You might even think that somewhere in the back of my mind I keep wondering “Where is my rich, handsome prince who will buy me everything I want, things I actually don’t need, and allow me to stay at home and watch someone else raise my kids?” The truth is, I wouldn’t want that lifestyle if I could have it. It’s just not me.

blue-jeans-cloth-texture-world-collection_639877I have always been low-maintenance. My favorite outfit is blue jeans, tennis shoes and a Tshirt/hoodie of some sort. I prefer sweatpants or hospital scrubs and leggings to yoga pants. I get my haircut at the local barbershop for $14.00, and that includes the tip.

Incidentally, for all you women out there who think a barbershop haircut is too “manly” and “unprofessional”, let me clue you in on a little secret: barbers have much stricter requirements for getting their licenses to cut hair than “beauty” professionals. While they don’t learn how to color, they do spent a lot of time (600 hours, to be exact) learning how to just cut hair on both men and women. I trust my female barber 100%, and have never been disappointed by her work.

Hold onto your high-priced designer handbags ladies — there is one other thing I do (or rather, don’t do) that clearly does not qualify me as “HMG”. I. HATE. TO. SHOP. Hate it. I would rather head to the thrift store and buy gently used clothing there than spend ten minutes in a Kohl’s trying to find good deals AND good fits. I spent twenty minutes there last week and left in disgust – I couldn’t find a single pair of jeans to fit me. And shoe shopping? Forget it. I have three pairs of shoes: one work quality, one pair of tennis shoes, and one dress pair. That’s it. I can’t wear high heels because of my bad feet (I’m tall enough anyways) and I choose comfort over fashion any day.

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“Like Feet Up a Sheep’s Ass” Warm

But, I have to admit I own a “couple” of items that might put me on the edge of HMGness: I own a pair of UGG boots and, yes, a Northface hoodie. But, these come with a very good explanation: the UGG boots were bought because of hockey, and the Northface was a gift from my students years ago. I was a hockey mom for years, and those 5 am ice times in mid winter when the temps were in the negative teens made sitting on cold metal bleachers very miserable. By the time my son’s game was over, I couldn’t feel my toes. I told my husband that, if I don’t get the warmest pair of boots ever made to keep my toes from becoming popsicles, I was done with going to watch my son play. After talking with the other moms, I came to the conclusion that a pair of high top UGG boots were the only things that would keep my feet and calves toasty warm. So, I bought them and they are the only (and last pair) of boots I will ever purchase or wear in winter. And they make my feet feel like I’ve just shoved them  up a sheep’s ass. See how that makes me different?

I do have one final confession, however, that makes me rethink my potential HMG status: manicured nails. I have been a nail biter all my life. I’ve always thought that manicures are a complete waste of money and too luxurious a commodity for me to get done. Until recently, that is.

As soon as I began therapy, I noticed my nervous habits such as nail-biting and bouncing my leg up and down had begun to diminish. While I have always remained calm on the surface, my inner turmoil was still burbling underneath and coming out through nail biting. It was a daily habit.

Now, as I continue exploring my past and all the feelings I was never allowed to share and experience (surrounding the unplanned pregnancy and subsequent adoption), I no longer feel any urge to bite my nails. They are long, strong and beautifully manicured. And while I continue to get my hair cut at a deep discount, shop at thrift stores and generally live a low-maintenance lifestyle, I will also continue to “cross the tracks” into the world of HMGness, and get my nails done professionally on occasion. Why?

Because my manicured nails say, “I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been.”

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This is Part 6 of my fictional series “Stories of the ER”. In this story, the event really did happen. Everything before, during and after it is 100% fictionalized.

emergency

**WARNING** GRAPHIC CONTENT!!

I am generally not a religious man. Even though I was raised in a very Protestant home, my folks never really made us attend regular church services. Sure, mom and dad would force my sister and me to dress in our best “church going clothes” and they would pack us into their little brown station wagon and make the twice-yearly trek to church for Christmas and Easter — usually sunrise service or midnight mass (which always started at 10:30 at night, ironically).

But for the remaining Sundays, we’d spend the mornings doing whatever we wanted: sis and I would get up at 6:30 to watch the Bugs Bunny cartoon show, while dad enjoyed his only day of the week to sleep in. Mom, who was a stay-at-home mom, occasionally would get up around 8 am and spend the next two hours making huge, carb-loaded, coma inducing breakfasts from scratch. At least that was what we always thought they were. But, her little secret was exposed one day when I wandered into the kitchen because the smell of cooking bacon overpowered me. I found her pouring boxed pancake mix into her favorite mixing bowl. She was horrified I had caught her “cheating” – but personally, I didn’t give a shit because the end result was a feast made for a king and I was her little prince.

That was pretty much the extent of my religious upbringing. When I moved out after college and took this job at GW, I didn’t give religion a second thought. Sure, I respect a person’s right to believe, but after seeing a lot of what I’ve seen here in this job, I’m fairly convinced there is no god. How could there be when there is so much pain and suffering in this world.

This story, as you might have figured out, focuses on the topic of religion and how it can and does destroy lives. As I’ve mentioned before, I worked the day the ragheads blew up the towers and the Pentagon with airplanes. I know what happens when flames meet flesh, all done in the name of religion. And honestly, it’s pretty fucking disgusting. “My god, your god, his god, her god” Does it really make a fucking difference whose god is who’s when there’s no evidence of any god? I guess that makes me sound like an atheist. Oh well, call me that. When I tell you about Dharia and how she came to my ER, maybe you’ll understand why I detest religious zealots.

This is Dharia’s story. I’ve had to fill in a lot of the details, unfortunately. You see, Dharia was one of the women who didn’t make it out of my ER alive. In fact, she barely made it into my ER alive. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Living in DC, we have a lot of  foreign nationalists come here and take up temporary residence while they represent their countries’ political and diplomatic interests. And of course, they’re just as vulnerable to accidents and injuries as anyone else. However, being foreigners, they aren’t entitled to US healthcare benefits. Well, change that a little. The recent ADA has, to the upset and outrage of many, allowed foreign diplomats to enroll for healthcare coverage if they’re here on an A or G Visa, whatever the hell that means. We were just told to treat them like any other sick or injured person and the government will foot the bill. However, years ago that wasn’t the case. They were required to have their own international health plan before they arrived, should they need medical care while in Washington on official international business.

Regardless of their visa status, we did have a few foreign diplomats come through our doors over the last few years. We’ve had, if I can remember, a couple heart attack patients, several traffic accidents because they weren’t used to driving on the opposite of the road, and one or two drunk driving accidents. One guy from South Korea on an economic visit was struck while walking across the street to the federal building by a Russian diplomat, who had just returned from a lunch heavy with vodka and was driving erratically back to his rented apartment. This in and of itself nearly caused an international scandal of epic proportions. They resolved the sticky mess by just declaring themselves diplomatically immune from prosecution and, despite our best efforts  to try for prosecution and criminal charges, nothing ever happened in that case. I guess power does have its privileges.

Unfortunately, the wives and children of these spouses don’t have that same level of protection afforded the diplomats. Is this unfair? Absolutely, which is why the wives and children are seldom seen out and about, enjoying the same types of privileges their husbands and fathers get. Welcome to politics.

But as I’ve said, with power comes privilege. And while privilege certainly played an integral role in Dharia’s story, it wasn’t through her, but through her husband’s abusive behavior that Dharia came to us, only moments before I witnessed her pointless death right before my eyes, while I stood there – unable to do anything to help her or even comfort her. You see, Dharia was a suicide victim. The how and why of her suicide is what needs to be told.

When she came through our hospital doors, seconds from death, all she could do was stare at us in wild-eyed terror — eyes screaming what her charred lips couldn’t — “Help me, oh please–help me!”  Her arms were stretched outwards from her body – sticks of bone, fingers burned off completely. She walked in on two wooden planks – what used to be her legs. Her clothing had melted onto her skin, then into the skin itself. The smell of charred flesh and burnt hair trailed in still smoking ringlets all the way up from the nubs of what once were her feet to the very top of her exposed and peeling scalp. Her earlobes were bubbling as the cartilage melted into human fat globules, dripping onto the floor below. There was nothing left of her to save, and we all knew it.

We were frozen in place until, of course, the screaming began. Fortunately, it was still pretty early in the evening, so the waiting room was almost empty. Unfortunately, there was a family with small children ages nine and four, who were right in the sight line and witnessed Dharia’s dramatic entrance as she hobbled through the automatic door, moving in a herky-jerky way that reminded me of the walk made by Peter Boyle as Frankenstein in Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein.” Only much, much more terrifying to a four-year old, who raised his little hand and pointed directly to Dharia, while stating, “Mommy – That scawy monster is coming to get me! Scawy monster!” When mom looked up from her cell phone and caught sight of what her little boy was pointing at, she became hysterical and started screaming at the top of her lungs, temporarily dragging the attention of the rest of the people waiting from Dharia and right onto her. The intake nurse lunged out from behind her cubicle to see what all the commotion was and was just about to ask the woman to calm down when her eyes locked with Dharia’s, and she froze in her spot, wobbled a bit, then promptly fainted onto the tiled floor. At that point, several of us from inside the ER rushed out to see what was going on, and that’s when I caught Dharia as she started to tumble, face first (or what was left of it, anyways) directly on top of the unconscious intake nurse. The lobby was in total chaos by this time as people rushed about not knowing what to do or where to go. The mother of the small children picked up both her kids at the same time, buried their faces into her chest, and ran out the doors – apparently their visit wasn’t much of an emergency any longer.

With Dharia in my arms, I half-carried, half-dragged her nearly lifeless body through the double doors as quickly as possible to get her out of the sight of others. She looked truly terrifying. I know I had never seen anything like that in my career – even in the worst of traumas we’ve had come through our hospital. I also recognized the sounds of a dying person – the throat gurgling as the person takes his or her last breaths. This was what I heard as I laid Dharia down on the gurney. Her body made this awful thunking sound, like the sound you hear when you throw a fresh, dried log onto a fire pit. This sound haunted me for days afterward, and it was that sound echoing over and over in my mind that led me to do what I did next: call the police. If someone had done this to her, I wanted them caught and put on trial. I couldn’t and wouldn’t let her death go unnoticed. I just needed some answers.

Dharia died moments after she was put on the gurney. Her eyelids had been burned off, so even though she was dead her eyes appeared to still be opened. And, screaming. I draped a towel across her face, cut off what remained of her melted clothing and flesh, and prepared her for the hospital morgue and autopsy. I wanted to know why she had been burned so badly, and how she had managed to get here, in the last few minutes of her life, considering the physical state she was in.

When the police arrived, Dharia had already been taken to the morgue. I explained everything  to the officers as best I could, and begged them to come back and tell me whatever they found out – I wanted to know more about this poor, brave soul who had made one last, desperate measure to save herself. The will to live is one of the most powerful survival mechanisms we have. She definitely demonstrated that will when she defied all odds and walked through our doors,  seconds before both her will and her heart gave out.

The police investigation into her death only took a week or so. What they told me shattered my heart into a million pieces and confirmed my belief: there truly is no god, or couldn’t even be a god if he/she/it allowed someone to set herself on fire in sacrifice to that god. You see, Dharia was Hindu. She was the wife of an Indian diplomat who had brought her to the US with him when he was transferred from Mumbai to Washington, DC. She had been struggling with adjusting to DC – she didn’t have anyone here to support her or talk to her. Her husband was away often – leaving her alone and lonely. She was near her emotional breaking point so one night she decided to go for a drink without him – a very taboo idea for a Hindu woman, but she was desperate for conversation and human interaction.

While at the bar, she met another foreign diplomat – a Pakistani man, who had been at the bar for hours already and had several martinis under his belt when she walked in and sat down on the stool at the other end of the bar, minding her own business. The diplomat noticed her immediately and began making the moves on her. Despite her numerous protestations and flashing of her wedding band, the Pakistani refused to leave her alone. In fact, he got more and more aggressive with her. She had finally decided she had enough of his bullshit and headed back to her car to go home, only to see him following closely behind. When she opened her car door, he pushed her in and raped her right there in her car while she screamed and screamed for help. Nobody came to help her. Once the man was finished, he just hopped into his fancy government-issued Mercedes and drove off into the night. He was never caught.

Although the man was never caught, Dharia’s “infidelity” quickly became apparent when she started to show due to the resulting pregnancy. Of course her husband – who had been away on business for an extended period of time, put the math together in his head and quickly figured out the baby wasn’t his. And because of their religious and cultural beliefs, she had just disgraced him, her, his entire family as well as put his political career and  reputation at grave risk. After a harsh beating at home, behind closed doors, and a vicious threat not to go to the police for fear she would get them both kicked out of the country because of the trouble she brought upon herself (instead of blaming the rapist, where it belonged), she felt she had nowhere else to turn.

To make things right again in her mind, Dharia resorted to the Hindu practice of self-immolation. She waited until her husband was at work then took the full gas can out of their rented garage, a stick lighter for the grill, and a blanket and walked to the park directly across from the hospital’s ER entrance doors. She set out the blanket, took a few moments to work up the courage, then splashed the entire can’s contents over her head, chest, legs and, even the blanket. Then, after the gas  had soaked her and the blanket entirely, clicked the lighter and touched it to her chest. As she sat there, flames building and creeping everywhere, her survival instinct kicked in and in one last desperate act of futility, changed her mind and tried to beat the flames out with her hands. By that time, the fire had grown too big and had consumed too much of her cotton clothing that she wasn’t able to stop the burning. That was when she stood up and began the several  hundred yards walk to our ER department. Sadly, it was too little, too late for her. There wasn’t anything we could have been able to do anyways, except maybe give her morphine to help with the pain. But it turned out she didn’t even need that.

If there is a lesson to learn from Dharia’s story it is this: women continue to suffer religious and social persecution at a higher rate than men. In some countries, they can be beaten and stoned to death for many different reasons, without a trial or other formal inquiry.This just isn’t right.

The female police officer who investigated Dharia’s suicide showed me one last thing before we parted ways. She pulled a picture out of her wallet and handed it to me. The woman in the picture was stunning–long, beautiful, jet-black hair. Big, brown eyes against caramel-colored, flawless skin. An electrifying smile. She took my breath away and I was instantly attracted to her. I asked, “Who’s this?” The officer paused a moment, then in a hushed tone said, “Your patient. The suicide victim. I thought you’d want to see what she really gave to the world.” I saw in the picture she was surrounded by little kids. The police officer added, “She had been a kindergarten teacher over in India before her husband was transferred here.”

Her name was Dharia P. She was only twenty-four, she was a beautiful, a shining star, and had the whole world in front of her.

Author’s Note: The story above is entirely fictional. Any similarities to any person, living or dead, is strictly coincidental.

 

 

 

A Swing and Two Misses

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

This is Part 5 in my series “Stories of the ER”

emergencyAs I’ve mentioned before, being an ER nurse in a busy hospital gives you the chance to see a lot of things you’d never seen before, let alone imagine come through  your doors at any time. This story is a retelling of one of those unexpected days when the scientific principles of gravity, mass and kinetic energy came together to wreak havoc in the name of love.

Hey there, Jeff Carson again. This time I want to tell the story of Todd, “Jasmine” and “Starr” (with two r’s). Well, this is more Todd’s story than it is the ladies’. They just had enough of a part in it to, well, set the evening in “full swing.” Perhaps I need to explain.

Now before anyone accuses me of being a prude when it comes to sex, I have to say that I tried a few things in my younger, early college years: a threesome with two hot Cuban chicks one night during spring break in Miami – which was pretty fucking awesome – they were wild and insatiable. I spent more time in my hotel room down there doing them both than actually time on the beach. Who cared about the ocean when I could swim between two hot Cuban sandwiches? You know what I mean guys, right?

And, my two roommates were Vietnamese med students who, in order to help pay for their schooling, worked part time at the local massage parlor – if you catch my drift. I did manage to come home early one day and just missed one of their customers sneaking out our rented two-story house. Apparently he was a well-known diplomat in DC and didn’t want anyone to see him. It was an election year after all.

Okay, I’m sounding a little douchey there. Sorry. I guess in a way I really miss those wilder, younger days. Being 44, single, and married to my job, I don’t have the time or energy I did when I was twenty-two.

Back to Todd, Jasmine and Starr. I was working the day shift – I had just switched up my schedule from nights to days. This happens a lot in nursing – shift switches – to keep the nurses from burning out too fast over the high volume of extreme cases that tend to happen more during the darkest  hours,  when partying is coming to a close and people are in a rush to hook up, or sober up or whatever form of “up” they do that brings them here. In Todd’s situation, it was a hook up, of sorts. The only difference was it happened during the early afternoon hours, mid week, when both his parents were busily working away at their individual jobs. Todd had the whole house to himself – a real step up from his normal habit of sequestering himself in his bedroom and waiting for his parents to come home and continue their unfortunate roles as caretakers for their son. You see, Todd was a big man. No, change that.Todd was a morbidly obese man who tipped the scales at well over 450 lbs.

Now before I get accused of fat shaming or making fun of the morbidly obese, I want everyone to know that I was once morbidly obese myself. Yes, by the end of my high school years, I weighed nearly 275 lbs. First year in nursing school — and finally on my own, I gained the typical Freshman twenty and almost topped out at 300 lbs. Let’s put this in proper perspective here. I was studying to become a healthcare professional. I was going to need to know how to shift and lift patients heavier than I was. I was going to have to tell those with Type 2 diabetes what they needed to eat and not eat in order to get off the insulin. Yet, here I was grossly overweight and finding it difficult to bend over and tie my own nursing shoes. Something had to give.

So, I spoke with the hospital’s nutritionist, began a regular exercise regime and worked the weight off slowly and safely. Within a year I had lost seventy five pounds. By the middle of my sophomore year of college, I was down to a very comfortable 190 pounds, where I’ve remained more or less steady for several years now. Trust me, I know the struggles of the morbidly obese, because I had been one of them.

But Todd was probably the largest man I’d ever seen come through our ER still alive. Usually the ones that arrive are either already in cardiac arrest, or have just passed from it. There is only so much the heart can handle before it quits. It truly is sad.

Todd’s situation, however, wasn’t heart related. Or, maybe it was? I’ll get to that later. I have to tell you first how Todd, who lived thirty five miles from DC in a suburb of Virginia, ended up here at GW. We typically don’t get patients transported from so far away, that when we hear a patient is being life-flighted in, we usually understand that to mean it is a special medical situation and gets triaged right into a bed. Based on the radio conversation back and forth between  us and the pilots, all I could understand was that a very morbidly obese man with numerous cuts and abrasions is heading our way and we needed to be prepared for some heavy lifting. It might be advisable to gather a team of six or so to help get him out of the helicopter.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Six strong men to lift him? How big was this guy? Oh well, I was about to find out as I heard the whir of the copter’s blades overhead and the beeping sound indicating its touch down was in process. I grabbed my light windbreaker, put it on and rushed out to greet the flight team, who were swinging the doors as wide open as possible. They greeted me with a subtle look of disgust – I’ve seen that look before, it’s the one that says “How do people let themselves get this fat? Gross!” The pilot ran over to me while the in-flight nurse was maneuvering the IV around so the patient would get it pinched in his skin.

“Heart attack? Stroke? What do we got here?” I leaned into the pilot, trying to get a quick glance of the patient. The pilot, gritting his teeth and trying to suppress a giggle so as not to embarrass the patient, said, “Sex swing accident with extenuating circumstances.” I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly, so I repeated it back to him, “Sex swing accident? Extenuating circumstances? What do you mean by “extenuating circumstances?” The pilot had to turn away from the patient’s view, because he wasn’t able to hold onto his giggles any longer. I was trying to remain as unaffected as possible, but when the pilot finished the story, I was too shocked by what I heard, I let out a big whistle, sounding like a tea kettle that was going off on the stove. “Seriously? Come on, you’re shitting me – really?” I gaped back at him. The pilot nodded his head and said, “Wait til you hear the whole story. It’s one you’ll be retelling for years.”

He was right. It took six of us to slide Todd’s banged and bruised body onto an oversized gurney and wheel it into the triage room. The poor guy was a mess. He was entirely naked except for a bed sheet that barely covered his bottom half, and he was scraped, bruised and scratched all over. He also smelled very strongly of alcohol. Wine to be exact. And based on the reddish hue of his skin, I’d say red wine.

“Hi, I’m Jeff, the head ER  nurse. You’re pretty banged up here, fella. What’s your name?” He told me his name was Todd. He lived in a small suburb of Virginia, and he was single. I could tell he was in a lot of pain from whatever he had done to earn a flight into see us, but his heart rythmm was fairly strong for a man his size. I wanted to give him some painkiller, but I had no idea what dosage he would need, so I had to get his weight first. “Todd, I’d like to give you some pain meds but I need to know — what’s your current weight?” Todd moaned and shifted uncomfortably on the bed. Well, he shifted as best he could for a man his size.  He raised one giant, sausage shaped hand to me and counted out “four” with his fingers. After some clever back and forth sign language, I was able to ascertain he was somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 pounds. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

I started an IV drip, ran a series of typical tests – eyes, ears, nose, throat, heart beat. Other than the obvious signs of strain and stress, and all the physical injuries, Todd was in relatively good shape for a man of his enormous size. However, I was really curious about the circumstances of  his arrival. I wasn’t exactly sure how to bring it up, but I knew I had to get his story for his medical chart.  And due to the sensitive nature of the situation, I will probably have to choose my words very carefully so as not to embarrass the poor guy. From the looks of him already, and the fact he was found in the basement of his house,  bare naked and dripping in high priced wine, I suspected one helluva story.

And Todd delivered on that  after the pain meds began to take effect.

Apparently, Todd was a bit of a loner. He was twenty-eight, living in the back bedroom of his parents house. Because of his size, he was limited in what he could do physically, so he was unable to work and was declared officially disabled so he could get a small amount of SSI every month. He used this money to pay for food, pop and internet porn. You see, Todd was also very lonely. His weight had not only crippled him physically, but the depression from being so enormous caused him to retreat to a solitary life and therefore he never worked up the courage or the stamina to go outside, enjoy a beer or two at the pub down the street, or even try to find a social life. He spent every day just existing, until he accidentally stumbled upon several webcam porn sites. Suddenly, he had access to some of the hottest, most beautiful young ladies on the internet, showing him everything and doing whatever he told them to do.

Although Todd loved the attention, he desperately wanted to know what real sex felt like. He had no frame of reference as to what constituted a loving, mutually beneficial, satisfying sex life, so he quickly associated what he was watching on his computer as the kind of sex life he so desired. One late morning, after a particularly frustrating moment when his internet was choppy and he could no longer keep up with his World of Warcraft on line gaming buddies, Todd decided he wanted the “company” of some real life ladies to attend to his every needs. Knowing that his size and weight might hinder his performance, Todd decided he needed some help with some of the mechanics of the sex act. He loved to build things and knew it would make his parents happy to see their son doing more than just laying in bed watching the world go by. So, when Todd sent his dad up to the local hardware store with a long list of various bits and pieces of metal tubing, cabling, hooks, and an assortment of nuts and bolts, Todd’s mom was just overjoyed to know her son was about to make some “fancy thingamajig” for “some unknown reason.” She asked him what he was making, but Todd was too embarrassed to tell her the real answer so he lied and said “exercise equipment”. That made his mother very happy.

But, there was a major problem with Todd’s homemade equipment. He wasn’t an engineer, he had no idea exactly how much weight his machine could hold, or if it would even work right for what he intended to use it for. He was pretty much freestyling it to the best of his ability.

When Todd’s homemade “sex swing” was complete, he decided to test it out with a couple of ladies he met from Craigslist. He got a hold of Jasmine and Starr and invited them over in the afternoon, while his parents were both at work so he could enjoy his first sexual encounter in the absolute privacy of his own home. He had even managed to waddle out to the main living room of his parents’ very old Victorian home, with its original wood flooring still intact, but did manage to make the floor creak a few times during the journey.

He set up the swing in the middle of the room, lowered the drapes and waited for Jasmine and Starr to ring the doorbell. He was already semi-erect with anticipation when the girls arrived, each carrying what appeared to be a small, square suitcase. When they saw him there, half undressed already, a look of worry and excitement on his face, they gave each other a raised eyebrow and quick eye roll, signaling “This again? Okay, let’s get this over with..” They put their suitcases down, opened them up and each lady grabbed a toy from their supply – Jasmine a short whip and Starr a bottle of body glitter. Starr told Todd to finish undressing in the chair, and began pouring body glitter all over Jasmine’s breasts. Jasmine kept using the whip to smack Starr’s hands away. All  in all, it was very sensual and titillating and Todd was beginning to huff and  puff. The two ladies spent the first ten minutes of Todd’s hour of prepaid ecstasy just teasing and taunting each other while Todd just watched and gaped and became more and more aroused. Finally, Todd begged for the ladies to pay him some attention – to use some of their toys on him and make him “scream for mercy” as he described it to me. The ladies were more than happy to make Todd’s wishes a reality.

“I made  a swing ladies..” Todd offered, showing them his homemade, never before sat in,  “sex swing”. Of course they oohed and ahhed, and said whatever they had to say to make him happy. So, they each offered to sit in his swing – Jasmine went first, and it was a little rocky and unsteady, but it did seem to have some swing like characteristics to it. After she hopped off, Starr gave it a quick ride too, emphasizing how easy his homemade device made her legs spread wide apart.

By this time, Todd was beyond aroused. He was drooling and slobbering all over himself, wanting so badly to be fondled, caressed and used by the ladies. He pulled himself up off the couch and maneuvered himself into his homemade contraption. When his entire weight was in, he felt just a slight bend of the metal piping crossbars. He assumed that was normal, so he just swung loosely in the chair, waiting for everything to settle. And that’s when the series of unfortunate events began to occur, which landed Todd in the ER and the ladies out the rest of their three hundred dollars, which came from the very last of Todd’s saved up disability benefits for the month.

While Todd was in the chair, writhing in increasing sexual ecstasy, the girls were busy doing things to him that would seem pretty debasing. They used paddles, a whip, a spatula and wooden spoon, and what finally did get Todd to the absolute pinnacle of the strongest, most violent orgasm he will probably ever experience in his life – an inflatable dildo shoved up his ass then blown up.

He didn’t know what the ladies had just done to him, but his body rocked with convulsions. He kicked his feet and shook his arms so violently, that the sound of the swing’s fabric shredding, the metal tubing finally giving away, and the wooden floor snapped under him, hurtling him down to the cellar below — and right on top of his parents’ $50,000 wine collection, shattering every single bottle of it into a million shards of glass. Wine splashed and poured out everywhere – covering his now nude body in a lovely reddish-purplish hue.

Todd was still convulsing and ejaculating as he hit the cellar floor with a gigantic, deafening thud. He couldn’t seem to convince his body to stop shaking long enough to assess what had just happened to his parents’ prized wine collection. He was still caught  up in the afterglow of sexual satiation. As much as he needed to get out of his situation, his quaking body wouldn’t let him. So, he laid there for several moments, sputtering and moaning, until he could get himself together.

Meanwhile, Jasmine and Starr were still upstairs, on the main floor of the house, frozen in disbelief. They could see Todd below, resting atop a pile of shattered glass and – was that blood? no, wine- just moaning and shaking as what they thought was semen dribbled down his enormous inner thigh. They weren’t sure what to do, so they quickly packed up their sex toy suitcases and made a beeline for the front door. However, once the shock wore off, Jasmine did manage to work a phone call into 911 before the cab they had arranged for arrived. They might have been Dominatrixes, but at least they were humanitarian Dominatrixes.

If you think the story ends there, with the 911 call, you’d be entirely wrong. Todd’s accidental descent into his parents’ cellar and atop a now worthless wine collection was only half of the problem. Getting Todd up and out of the cellar was an entirely new problem the fire department had just been given.

In Todd’s present condition and location, it would have been very dangerous for him to move. Fortunately, his extra layers of fat shielded his bones from the impact and he didn’t break any of them. He also fell in such a way that fire and rescue didn’t suspect a head injury. The problem they did face, however, was complicated: how were they going to get Todd out of the basement and into the ambulance?

Because of his enormous size, Todd was deemed a “critical patient”. While they didn’t tell him as such, they were worried all the additional stress and trauma might cause a heart attack. And, without being totally able to assess his injuries, they were also worried the jostling of the ambulance ride to GW could be too much for him to bear. They decided his situation called for LifeFlight – the helicopter that serves as an ambulance to take critical cases to hospitals faster and without worry of traffic delays. The rescue squad called for LifeFlight as they tried to figure out how to get Todd safely out of the basement.

Fortunately, the old house had a cellar door that swung up and out, locking from the inside so nobody could break into the house. While the firefighters fashioned a makeshift bed out of some old bedsheets they found in a box in the corner of the cellar, the police had arrived to investigate the neighbors’ claim of a huge noise coming from inside the house.  They were worried someone had broken into the house and, knowing Todd was partially immobile, wanted the police to come by and check on him.

Once the police officers spoke with the firefighters, they dispatched to go out onto the street and clear a landing area for the helicopter. Of course this got the neighbors’ attention, and soon the street was filled with all sorts of rubberneckers trying to get a glimpse of everything going on inside the home.

Todd, adrenaline and endorphins finally wearing off, began to thrash and panic at the sight all around him. He tried to stand up among the shards of glass to better assess the damage, but the firefighters pinned him down and rolled him carefully onto the makeshift gurney trying to prevent  him from cutting himself even further. His back was covered with little pieces of embedded glass. To help ease the pain he must have been experiencing they told him to lie down on his stomach. Once he was positioned, the firefighters hoisted him up and squeezed him through the side cellar door and up into fresh, chilly air, ass cheeks up.

And, as a last insult to this grown man who had only desired to experience the pleasures of the flesh but instead ended up bruised, battered and bloodied – the firefighters spotted something white dangling between Todd’s enormous ass cheeks. It was the dildo, entirely flattened, but still in place.

All the firefighters could say was, “How did that thing get up in there?”

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My friend Doug, over at www.dougromig.com called me a few moments ago to throw down a writing challenge. While I certainly enjoy a good friendly competition, I feel I am at a slight disadvantage here. Okay, maybe not so slight – the guy has a gazillion books in various stages and sequels both already written and rolling around on that internal, cerebral whiteboard of his.

The challenge was presented as such: From today until Saturday morning, there are two separate competitions: Most stories written and most words written. An interesting challenge to be sure.

He and I do share one thing that keeps us on a level playing field of sorts: our A.D.D. We equally bounce from one creative burst of inspiration to another. I write whatever I want when the mood strikes me (or whatever muse shows up for the day) so my writing will go in any direction at any moment’s notice. Yesterday I was in a quasi-sullen and angry mood so yesterday’s blog post reflected that.

Today, I am in the pre-writing stages of another ER short story about sex swings that fail to live up to their owners’ expectations, so to speak. I won’t ruin the surprise, but keep an eye out for another story that is sure to provide some pretty comical visuals. I know I got some pretty comical visuals when I googled the words “sex swing”. Of course it’s strictly for “research purposes only,” but I probably should delete it from Google’s search history before I let my daughter borrow my computer. Some things are better left unsaid.

Tomorrow, I plan to open my veins a little more (metaphorically speaking – no need to call the emergency squad) and get back to writing the story I’m supposed to be writing for my NaNoWriMo competition that ends on November 30. My word count (there’s that funny little statistic again) is a little over 25K so far, but I’ve passed the midway point and am slowly slipping behind in the challenge.

And that’s why my writing buddy’s throw down comes at a perfect time. I don’t want to lose this to him. I want to be able to say that I can keep up with an habitual writer, not only in word count but story count. I want to be able to gloat and boast and say “neener neener neener” this Saturday as we compare tally sheets and we both agree my writing was overall better and more substantial. (Anybody out there willing to serve as the judge?)

Okay,  I should probably not claim to be a better writer. After all, I only write for my own pleasure. I’m not out to win any Pulitzer prizes or Newberry awards for whatever I’ve written. And definitely unlike him, I don’t care if my work is ever picked up by a literary agent, turned into a publishing phenomenon and I have to spend the next two years on the road signing autographs from adoring fans at local Barnes and Nobles stores across the world.

I don’t need fame and recognition from the literary world to validate my existence. Unlike him.

Oh yes, I threw it down, Mr. Romig. Now it’s your turn to pick it up.

alright lets do this

 

Supportgroup

Yesterday, I made the brave and bold step to attend my first birth parent support group. It wasn’t that I had to be dragged kicking and screaming – it was that 1) I didn’t know groups like this even existed and 2) I haven’t allowed myself to think about my experience until recently.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a birth mom. I surrendered my baby boy back in 1984. Notice, I say surrendered and not “gave away.” This was my first lesson I learned in my new group: how we phrase and choose our words reflects directly back on what we think and how we feel about ourselves.

I had always used the term “give up” in reference to my situation, because I felt powerless at the time. I was convinced my “mistake” (I’ll get to that word later) was no longer mine to own. As soon as the words “I’m thinking two months pregnant” came out of the doctor’s mouth, my parents went into damage control and I no longer had a choice or say in anything that was going to come next. I “gave up” my power that day and let others tell me what to do, where to go, etc. The one thing they didn’t allow me to do was “feel”. My feelings were irrelevant at the time – because I obviously wasn’t able to make good choices, right? So, I acquiesced and did whatever I was told to do, including remaining dead silent and hidden away, as I moved through my pregnancy.

Then, came the day to “give him up”. Another moment when I had to grit my teeth and, with my needs’ and feelings entirely irrelevant, sign the court papers and walk away — never to be allowed to  talk about it again, at least to my parents.

But yesterday’s support meeting was a real eye opener for me. I met other women who have been in this group for years and have dealt with and processed their feelings of anguish, anger, shame, guilt and a myriad of other emotions I am only beginning to draw up and out of me. Right now, shame and anger (close to rage) are the “Emotions of the Week.” I know I will eventually get through them, but I’m letting them fairly and deservedly wash over me and consume me until the tidal wave passes. Because, frankly, I fucking deserve the right to own these feelings.

The other word that triggered a reaction from some members was my use of the word “mistake.” I made a “mistake.” Sex happens. Pregnancy happens. Babies are not mistakes. While this all sounds so logical and agreeable, I am not yet able to remove that word from my vocabulary of words surrounding this situation. Once I can, I feel I can start to rewrite my internal dialogue and frame of reference and really let the healing begin.

But here is the real lesson I learned from yesterday’s group:

1. I am not alone in my experience.

2. My unresolved grief and feelings over this are authentic, genuine and should be acknowledged and expressed.

3. I no longer need to remain silent and ashamed to share my story — I have a voice and a support system of others who will stand beside me as I raise that voice.

4. I am saddened and angered to learn that so many women in situations such as mine were forced to remain silent and shamed due to outdated, sexist, religious doctrine that punished and threatened us instead of helping us when we needed it the most.

I am a birth mom. I surrendered a baby boy in January, 1984. And I’m no longer ashamed by this.

I matter.

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*If you are a birth mom who is still trying to process and heal from your experience, please consider joining a local support group in your area. It might be exactly what you need to help you heal.

 

A Visit from an Old, Old Friend

Posted: November 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

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I had an unexpected visitor drop by last night. Oh sure, we keep in contact on a regular basis through tweets or emails or blog postings, but she actually dropped in last night and stayed long enough to make me laugh. Well, not only make me laugh, but make the Twitterverse laugh.

I was just going about my usual process of participating in one of the bajillion (Okay, that’s an exaggeration – trillion is more like it) hash tag wars going on somewhere out there in the Twitterverse. If you aren’t sure what a hash tag war is, allow me to explain.

Some very clever (or very bored) person or people — I’m not sure if they are created by a tag (no pun intended) team or just really talented and funny people who have the time to sit around and think up the most random things, come up with a one line hash tag quip like #RejectedCrayonColors (that was mine, by the way). Then, they send them out to float around in the world where other talented and funny people pluck them from obscurity, read them and respond with equally funny quips.

As with anything else that can be turned into a competition (See my post on what would happen if men had babies), the tweets with the highest numbers of retweets and favorites are considered the unofficial, uncelebratory, non-rewarded winners in the game. I think. I’d never really been able to get many favs and retweets because — I’m going to be honest here – my sense of dry and often dirty humor appeals to only a limited, select crowd. What I tend to find funny often gets met with an eye roll or a raised eyebrow and a whole lot of “Did I really just read that horribly offensive, wildly inappropriate tweet?” Yeah, I think you did because I thought it, typed it and sent it. So read it, star it or ignore it. Those are all of our options here.

Last night, however, my usual dark humor was put aside as Thalia – the Greek muse of comedy -whispered something into my ear during one of the hash tag games that turned out to be a major favorite among all of us competitors. I’ve included a screen shot of it here:

https://twitter.com/CTL50/status/532656074927927297

The hash tag was the brainchild of someone who really knows how to keep his or her pulse on recent events. In this case, it was a result of science’s amazing ability to land an object on a comet that is hurtling through space at 86,000 miles per hour. Yes, ten years ago, a group of scientists in Germany launched an object into space with the sole intention of…WAITING PATIENTLY until it went 310 MILLION MILES into space before it would plunk down onto the still moving comet’s back, stick its hooks into it and start giving it some sort of kinky, robotic back scratch, scraping up bits and pieces of the comet to analyze it. As a science-minded individual, this alone makes me gape in glorious, wild wonder.

Anyway, this post isn’t really about amazing and wondrous feats of science. This is about one of my favorite friends, Thalia, and how she is so generous with her gift of humor. She knows exactly what to say to make me laugh out loud — sometimes at the concern of others when I’m discovered laughing at nothing in particular but whatever we’re talking about inside my head. Which happens a lot.

Regardless, the hash tag comment I made got retweeted about 134 times. I generally average about five retweets, but only because I pay those folks to do it. Okay, I don’t pay them. I’m just kidding. Or am I?

By the way, Thalia spent the night. I promised to make her a Greek omelette for breakfast if she promised to help me with this post.

We totally have each other’s backs.

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