***Warning. The following post may be a bit of a downer compared to my usual cynically humorous outlook. If you're already depressed, go read old Calvin & Hobbes cartoons or something.***
My week got off to a very inauspicious start. I was on "vacation" last week taking care of the Queen while the inlaws went to the annual church festival without us, and I took Monday of this week "off" even though I was secretly trying to work in an effort to get caught up on the 168 emails, 91 edocs and 27 voicemail that had accumulated in my absence. I say trying to work because my DSL connection has been plotting a suicide attempt for several weeks now. Due to the DSL trying to convince me to shot it by crashing every few minutes, I was unable to get any real work done. Tuesday and Wednesday were not much better.
One of the few emails that I was able to read on Monday was from a friend and former co-worker, Barbi, informing me that another friend and former co-worker of mine, Mike, had been in a serious car accident on Friday. The email said he was in the hospital critical care unit. Mike was not quite 2 months older than me. So, I figured...how bad could it be? Right?
Then my Facebook account exploded. Not literally, of course, but relatively speaking. My Facebook activity has stabilized to the point where new requests, notes, messages, etc. are the exception rather than the norm. Barbi sent me a friend request on FB as well, and I got another friend request from another former co-worker. 2 friend requests in one day from the same day. Red flag. Then the urgent messages started showing up. Things aren't looking good.
How bad can it be? When I finally spoke to Barbi, I found out. Try "Mike hit an eighteen wheeler suffering severe head injuries and now on a ventilator" bad.
I spent the next few hours debating on whether or not I should go to the hospital to visit. Not necessarily for Mike, since he was out of it in a coma, but mostly to be there for friends and his family. And so that, later, I wouldn't hate myself for not going.
Despite my cynicism, I tend towards being more emotional than the average male of our species. So, it wasn't an easy decision. I cried. I prayed. I cried some more. In the end, I decided to go.
I got to the hospital shortly after the late visiting hours started. Barbi was there with her husband. Mike's wife Erica was there (on a side note, Erica was the one who printed the invitations for the Queen's and my wedding), and I had just missed seeing Mike's daughter.
Even though we weren't family, we were allowed to go back into CCU and see Mike. From what I understand, the hospital bent the rules at Erica's request given the situation. I was able to see Mike and spend some time with him. He was recognizable in a distorted kind of way due to the swelling from his injuries.
Mike was always a very fashionable guy, and he would have been mortified to receive visitors in a hospital gown not to mention all the tubes and wires. Then there was the fact that they had to shave part of his head. Fortunately, he didn't suffer any really grotesque injuries like some of the things you see with severe burn victims or amputees. He was whole, but he just looked like he had been in a bad fight.
By this time, Erica had already made the decision with the doctors to have the ventilator removed the next day and "let nature take its course". Apparently, Mike was not showing any brain activity and was not expected to improve. But, for reasons I didn't think about at the time, I stopped short of saying goodbye. The last thing I said to Mike was that he was a good friend and always would be.
I spent some time with Erica after I visited with Mike. She's holding up remarkably well under the circumstances even though she describes her current emotional state as "Craptacular" to any who ask. She talked about how difficult it was to get a hold of anyone at Mike's work. In this day of direct dial extensions, she only had Mike's direct number which wasn't much help. Mike's cell phone was not among his personal possessions when he was brought to the hospital. It surfaced a day or two later. Fortunately, people from his work got in touch with her and started the ball rolling on the workers compensation claim, insurance, etc. The president of Mike's company even flew in from Connecticut to visit.
It still chokes me up to think about Mike and what happened to him and his family. I sit here writing this with tears trying to fill my eyes. I still won't be saying goodbye to Mike here even though he died on Wednesday shortly after the ventilator was removed. Mike was not much on religion. But it doesn't matter. God believes in us whether we believe in him or not. I believe, and I know I will see him again.
Mike, I will remember your smug, knowing laugh. I will remember your sense of humor and your love of Hondas and Acuras. I will remember that you were a fan of The Cure. I will remember that the most prominent thing in your office was a picture of you holding your daughter on the day she was born. I will remember you until we meet again. Rest in peace and worry no more.