Regarding July 4, 2001

We arrived back in Houston around 2:30 on Wednesday, the 4th of July, pleased as punch with our trip to San Antonio and very much looking forward to the rest of our two weeks with David and Emily. About 5 p.m. we told the kids:

"We're going to drop off the rent checks at the landlord's house, then we're going to go by and check on our roommate who is house sitting for some friends, then we're going to Kroger to buy some food so we can cook dinner. We should be back in an hour."

We dropped off the checks at Rich and Ginny's house, then stopped by the home of J & L, who were themselves on the road, which is why Steve was at their place. Sure enough we could hear Steve and friends in the backyard by the pool, apparently in the midst of a cookout. What Steve and company didn't know is that at J & L's house you leave the front door unlocked when you're having a pool party, otherwise you don't know when your guests are arriving. We rang the bell and pounded on the door and shouted over the fence for a good 10 minutes, to no avail. Eventually I was beginning to get miffed, as was Jeremy. "And we're still here because why?" I finally said to him. "Because I feel the need to express my irritation," he replied.

(I think this was the last conversation I had with Jeremy. It pains me quite a bit that it was so negative. But then we don't get to choose which conversation will be our last. It pains me more that I know this and I'm still quite capable of being snappish...)

A couple of minutes later, someone showed up at the front door, not - as far as I could tell - because he'd heard us but because he needed to go get something in his car. Jeremy walked in and I…? Well, like I said, I was feeling miffed. So I went back to the car. At this point I'm not sure whether I was going to get something out of it or put something into it or whether I just planned to sit there and fume. I only did that for a minute or two, though, before I decided I'd go in and say "hi," anyway. If nothing else, I wanted to see who was there.

I walked through the front door and through the house to the patio, where I saw Jeremy standing next to the pool and next to Steve. And as I got closer I saw that he had a very odd expression on his face. "Jeremy, what's the matter?" I asked.

And then he fell down, right there before my eyes, me standing there paralyzed at the sight of it, watching him hit his head on the concrete.

I was on him in a second, thinking he must have fainted, and then seeing that something was very, very wrong. He appeared to be having a seizure - his hands and feet were twisting (turns out "posturing" was the right term, I found out later on) and his breathing was noisy and labored.

"Call 911," I exclaimed. "Call 911 now."

I'm not sure who brought me the phone, probably Steve, and then I was talking to the EMS people, less than two minutes after it happened. I told them what was going on (I'm sure I sounded like I was hyperventilating, which was probably the case) and once I'd gotten Jeremy turned on his side (per their instructions) I went out front to check the street address (I knew the cross streets and which side of the block and exactly which house but I couldn't remember the number…) And then, well, what? I really can't remember what happened next until the paramedics arrived but it was no more than 10 minutes from the time Jeremy fell down, perhaps less than five minutes from the time I started talking to the EMS folks.

I explained what was going on. No, he hadn't been drinking. No, he wasn't allergic to anything significant. No, he'd never had a seizure. No, definitely not, he was not taking any drugs. I think they may have asked me which hospital we should go to. I remember thinking "I'll follow them to the hospital, that way I'll have the car." And then I realized, NO, there was no way I was going to be able to drive, that I'd have to go with them in the ambulance. I gave my keys to Steve and told him - what? Again, I can't remember.

The driver said that St. Luke's was taking patients and I said, "yes, St. Luke's, definitely." If not, he said, there was Park Plaza, and I said, "No! Definitely NOT Park Plaza, not if we can avoid it." It's where our friend Debbie had gone just two months previously and was diagnosed with the colonic rupture that eventually killed her.

"Please, God, please, God, please, God," I muttered the whole way to the hospital. "Don't let it be anything serious."

The moment we walked in the admissions nurse started rubbing me and patting me on the shoulder and I knew something was really, really wrong, although at that point I was still thinking, "seizure, seizure, it must be a seizure, he was acting a little obsessed, surely this is some kind of epilepsy…"

The nurse was a hunky, handsome bear named Rob, the ER physician a petite blonde woman. I told them right off the bat I was Jeremy's life partner and they said, "no problem, we just need some information from you" and I repeated everything I'd told the paramedics. I winced as they cut off the burgundy Emory tee-shirt ("The right choice!") that Jeremy had had since the fall of 1988, his freshman year at college.

And then…?

I don't know. I sat around outside the examining room for a long time, waiting for the nurse and the ER doc to do their thing. I think they were putting him on the ventilator and suggested that it would help if I were out of the way. I sat next to this incredibly elderly couple, a man and a woman, both in their 90s. She'd fallen down and bumped (but not broken) something, they'd been there for hours, they were tired and they wanted to go home, the docs wanted to keep her for observation but they didn't have a spare bed and it was the 4th of July and she wasn't ill enough (just vastly old!) to warrant the kind of attention that both of them needed and wanted.

Eventually the ER doc, the petite blonde, came and told me, "This is bad. His brain is bleeding. It's a very serious situation. We're getting in contact with the neurosurgeons now. They made need to do a procedure to relieve the bleeding."

I nodded, not quite believing what I was hearing. "Whatever it takes," I said.

How much time passed? Another hour? Two? I hung out with Jeremy for a long time. "You can talk to him," said Rob, the hunky nurse. "He can still hear you, even if he can't respond." Eventually Ken Ramsey, one of the chaplains came along. "Shall we have a word of prayer?" he asked, and I croaked "yes," clasping his hands like they were the only thing between me and a great, long fall.

Continued

RPJ


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