I was greatly saddened, as were millions of others, when I heard of Michael Jackson's death. We watched, as a family, the early coverage. It soon became apparent that the media was going to do what it usually does, so we turned off the coverage. My oldest daughter, Crystal, has a couple of Michael's DVDs(she's a big fan). We put one on and watched...amazed again at the genius of the man.
Kobe Bryant has also been in the news lately, due to the Lakers winning the NBA championship...and Kobe winning the Championship series MVP.
I am a crippled ex-cop...a minister who refuses to be paid for his work for God...and a writer.
What could I possibly have in common with these two Legends...one living...one now tragically dead too soon?
I like to tell stories to illustrate a point...true ones, if possible. It may not seem like the story I'm going to tell has anything to do with the topic, but trust me...I'll tie it together at the end.
My oldest daughter, Crystal, was born in 1977. The doctors' knew something was wrong right from the start, but they wouldn't say what. I overheard two nurses talking late in the afternoon about what a "shame it was for that poor baby". They tried to deny they were talking about Crystal when I confronted them, but she was the only baby there. They referred me to a doctor. He told me that they suspected Crystal had a "minor" heart problem, but it would be easily fixed with surgery. They were going to transfer her to Children's Hospital of Orange County(CHOC) that evening.
I couldn't ride in the ambulance with her, so I tried to follow in my car. It was an unusually foggy night, and I lost them. I finally found my way to the hospital, and, after many wrong turns, found her. She was in Pediatric ICU. I was allowed to go in and feed her every two hours. I stayed up all night.
I had just finished feeding her around nine the next morning when I was told her new doctor wanted to meet me and discuss her condition. The nurse sat me down in the ICU, just a few feet from Crystal. The Dr. came over and sat next to me. He asked what I new about my daughter's condition. I told him what I had been told: minor heart problem, but easy to fix. The following was the rest of our conversation.
Shit! Stupid God Damn idiots...
I don't know why they...OK, here's the deal. Your daughter has a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot. Basically, four different things wrong with her heart. There are two basic courses to follow. One is immediate surgery. Her odds with that are 50-50 at best. The other is to wait...give her an opportunity to get stronger...but her odds that way are 75-25 against.
What would you do?
We have the best in the world here...her surgeon helped to pioneer the surgery...
We just did the same surgery yesterday on a little boy. A little older than your daughter...bigger...stronger...better chance to survive. The surgery was a complete success...couldn't have gone any better...but the little boy died on the table. Just too weak.
The only thing keeping her alive right now is the ductus...it usually closes right after birth. If hers closes, by the time we know it's closed...it takes a couple of hours to set up an OR for this type of surgery. She'd be dead before we could start. You're the only one who can make the decision before that happens...and you have thirty minutes to decide.
I stumbled out of the ICU. Down in the elevator...outside. I was crying. The only people I trusted, that I could depend on, were my parents. They were 1100 miles away at the Mission in New Mexico. I didn't know what to do. I collapsed on a bench. Prayed. My gut instinct was to have them do the surgery.
I didn't hear Orson Wells voice...or John Houston's. Just a small, still voice.
If I want her to come Home, there's nothing they can do...if I want her to stay with you, she'll stay...give her the time.
I had never gone against my gut feeling at that point in my life, without it blowing up in my face. But I went with that voice. I made a vow to God: I wouldn't leave the hospital until Crystal did...one way or the other.
I stayed at the hospital for the next eight days. I was afraid to go to sleep, because her blood oxygen and other counts could change at any time. I didn't sleep for the first five days...went in and fed her every two hours. Talked to her...sang to her...and cried.
The morning of the sixth day, I finally stretched out on the couch in the parents' lounge after her four AM feeding. The next thing I knew, I was awakened by a vacuum cleaner at about 6:10. I rushed to the scrub room, upset with myself that I had fallen asleep. I could see her little incubator through the small window in the scrub room as I washed with betadine. Her incubator was empty. I rushed into my gown and into the room.
There was a note attached to the incubator...but no Crystal. None of the nurses knew where she was. The note said, "Call social worker." I used a phone in the ICU. The social worker asked me for my religious preference for Crystal. I cried.
"When did she die?"
"Die? I just need the information to complete her insurance forms..."
I slammed down the phone and went through the room like a madman. I finally found Crystal around a corner in the far end of the room. The late shift had moved her so they could clean her incubator. Someone forgot to tell the day shift nurses.
I can guarantee you that never happened again...to anyone.
Three days later, I took Crystal home. There were numerous mad rushes to CHOC's emergency room over the next two years...I almost lost her a few of those times. She had the corrective surgery right after she turned two. Her condition was far worse than they originally thought. They told me they would only call me away from the waiting room if she...
I got called away two hours into the surgery. I shuffled slowly to the phone at the desk. Picked it up.
A slow, southern drawl on the other end.
I dropped the phone and slid to the floor. The phone swung slowly back and forth inches from my head. The woman on the other end was still talking, but I was numb. Finally, I took the phone back to my ear.
"What happened? Was she just too small still, or...?"
"What do you mean? Nothings happened. I just wanted to know if you wanted someone to bring you some coffee or..."
I won't repeat what I said to that poor woman from Georgia, but suffice it to say, she never called anyone "dad" in that drawl of hers again...only "father".
The operation took twice as long, and they couldn't fix everything.
They told me she would never live to see thirteen.
Crystal is thirty one now. Every day with her is a blessing.
That was, at that point in my life, the worst set of experiences I had ever faced.
I have faced far worse ones since.
Some of you who read this blog know me. Some of you may feel that you have come to know me through my writing. If you're new to this blog, read TWO DOGS over on the side bar. It will give you an idea of my temperament.
Now, I want you to picture me going through those times with Crystal...and having the press following me...hounding me...filming everything I did...everything I said...sticking cameras and microphones in my face.
Trying to take pictures of Crystal.
By the time I was done, the paparazzi would have thought that Sean Penn was Mother Theresa.
Someone would have been hurt bad...or dead.
Picture the worst moment of your life...go ahead, get it firmly in your mind.
Now, picture have the press covering you, as you go through it...covering you the way that Michael Jackson has been covered his entire life...or Kobe.
Every mistake, real or imagined. Magnified a million times. Every private moment, every agony...
My work has been good enough to be stolen...more than once. One of the movies made from my stolen work did over $200 million. Another resurrected an actor's career. But...there's a reason why my work has never sold. Only God knows the reason why.
But, if I had to guess...
I'd say the He wanted to keep the body count down.
Kobe may be an arrogant prick...or, he may be a saint. I don't know. But, cut the guy a little slack for his mistakes.
As for Michael Jackson...
I hope he has finally found the peace that eluded him his entire life. I hope that the vultures leave his children alone. They've suffered enough.
And I hope that God allows Michael's version of Heaven to be...
The second star to the right...and straight on till morning.
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