Monday, December 5, 2011

A Certain Bromance

I’d always been mystified as to why combat veterans rarely talk about their experiences in war.  Veterans that had been psychologically affected by what they heard and saw should benefit by speaking about it, right?  Call it catharsis.  Those that weren’t adversely affected should love talking about the incredible, intense things they did and witnessed.  No?  NO.

With all due respect to veterans, I think I get it.  On a much smaller level I finally get it.

A number of months ago I made a lofty goal to run a half marathon.  13.1 miles.  It had been many years since I’d traded my sneakers for slippers and tennis balls for hot pockets.  The last time I did anything active I was 40 lbs lighter and George W edged Al Gore thanks to the hanging chad.  I was going from 0 to 60, but I was going dammit.  I was determined.  I talked my good friend Steve into running it with me and we started our training.

I was humbled quickly.  I didn’t have proper respect for the process and the process brought me to my knees.  I tried running two miles my first time out.  I walked the final three quarters and could hardly move for several days afterward.  But I quickly repented, invested in some gear, and started again.  Slowly.  Three weeks into training, a second friend decided to join Steve and me.  Jayd laced up.

My sister Ashley has always said “everyone that runs a marathon has a story.”  You don’t simply say, “Sure, I’ll run 13-26 miles.  Sounds like fun.”  Because it’s not..  Important, yes.  Invigorating, yes.  But fun?  No.  It hurts.  It’s exhausting.  Shins splint, toe nails turn black and fall off, blisters form, groins chafe, nipples bleed.  The process is punishing.  But the payoff is pure.  You learn things about yourself during training.  You push yourself beyond your perceived limits and find strength you never knew you had.  Some mornings you have to literally force yourself outside, just to hobble through three miles of hell.

When race day arrived we all felt ready.  We’d handled our final long run with ease, banging out 11.5 and feeling good afterward.  We weaved our way through the 35,000 people participating in the San Antonio Rock ‘n Roll events and found our corrals.  It was an odd morning…abnormally warm and balmy, but overcast.  The throng of people was overwhelming.  It was shoulder to shoulder as we waited for the gun.  And then we were OFF.

I was immediately frustrated by the sheer mass of runners, walkers, and waddlers.  Everyone was pacing dramatically slower than their corrals represented and I was constantly dodging slower runners.  There was a ton of lateral movement as I cut around, through, and sometimes over the cattle.  I ran up hills, on curbs, over sidewalks, on grass.  I bumped into people.  It was literally impossible to pick a lane and establish a rhythm.  There were just too many freaking people.

Jayd and I ran together (within 10 yards of one another) for the first eight miles.  I hydrated at mile five and dropped a few shot bloks at mile seven.  I saw Jayd grab some water at mile six.

At mile eight, Jayd started to pull away.  In training I was typically 15-30 seconds per mile faster than Jayd, so I maintained the pace that I was able to manage, figuring Jayd would eventually flame out.  He didn’t.  He continued to weave and dodge obstacles and limping fat people at an impressive pace and at mile 10 I decided I needed to kick it up a notch.  No way was I going to allow this guy to finish before me. 

I caught up to him at about 10.5 and made some snide comment like, “hey dude, I’ll give you $10 if you carry me the rest of the way.”  He didn’t respond.  Jayd was in a zone.  He was focused and he meant business.  After a few hundred yards of running together, Jayd pulled away yet again.  “No way” I thought to myself.  But I was really feeling it now in my legs and I had no ability to keep up with him.  I fell back and ran at my own pace.  At 11.75 I started to see bright bursts of light.  The sun had been out for 30 minutes and the combination of extreme fatigue, 97% humidity, and 80 degree temperature was besting my Spaniard.  I knew I was in trouble.  I stopped and rested against a metal fence separating the halfers from the marathoners.  When the bright lights stopped, I walked until mile 12 and started running again.  I was determined to finish this race running.  And I did!  I finished with a somewhat disappointing time of 2:19.

After I got my munchies and fluids I worked my way through the craziness to get my stuff at gear check.  There were a number of missed texts, one of which informing me that Jayd had collapsed just after 13.0 and was hauled off in a stretcher.

WHAT?!  No way.  With 1/10 of a mile left, Jayd went down.  He was rushed to the hospital.  And it was serious.

He was admitted with a temperature of 106 and a heart rate of 170.  He was not responding and had had seizures.  We got a call from his wife, Tauni, telling us to get to the hospital ASAP.  Jayd needed a blessing.

I am an elder in my church, and with that title comes certain responsibilities and authority.  One of which is to administer to the sick and afflicted through the laying on of hands, otherwise known as “a blessing.”  I sprinted from the parking lot to the ER

I’ll never forget what I saw when they drew that curtain.  There lay Jayd, stark naked minus a small towel to hide his junk, with wires and electrodes all over his body.  He was a sickly pale yellow color and his arms and legs were bound with leather restraints.  I was looking at someone that appeared to be on death’s door.  That is no exaggeration.  I was petrified.

I have a lot of respect for Jayd’s wife, Tauni.  She is a very “collected” person.  Quite analytical, never emotional, and very understated.  But she is intense.  Not in an overt, frightening way.  It’s subtle and small.  But very real.  When I looked at Tauni she was straight-faced and stoic.  She was somehow managing the situation with quiet grace, but her intensity was still there.  She told me she’d been asking doctor-after-doctor and nurse-after-nurse if he was going to be “ok.”  Naturally she got no straight answers…just “medispeak.”  I get it of course.  No medical professional is going to go out on a limb and say, “suuuuure honey, he’ll be just fine” when there’s a solid chance that he’s brain-dead at best. After a brief rundown of what was going on there was a moment of silence.  She looked at me and asked, “Ty, he’s going to be ok, right?” 

I didn’t know what to say.  The God’s truth is that I did not think he was going to be ok.  How could anyone think that pasty, yellow man hooked up to all the machines could possibly be ok?  But Tauni’s typically intense, smoldering eyes had a hint of panic in them.  So I said, “Yes Tauni.  He’s going to be ok.”  I didn’t believe it, but I felt I had to roll the dice and say it.  I could actually see a physical change in her posture and a softening in her face.  It was as if she just needed to hear it from someone….anyone.  She looked stronger.  I felt good.

I positioned myself behind Jayd’s bed and took a few deep breaths.  I was terrified.  It was hard to swallow.  Just as I was timidly placing my shaking hands on his head, a nurse walked in and looked at me like I was a mafia hit man about to ice an informant with a pillow.  Tauni assured her that I was going to give him a blessing.  After casting me a sideways glance she reluctantly left.

The circumstance was not ideal for performing a priesthood ordinance.  The ER was bustling with runners and other odd folk that day.  There was the sound of curtains being drawn/closed and loud voices.  Machines were blipping and beeping like an epic game of multiplayer Pac man.  But I was confident that I could filter out any distraction and blaze a trail for divine inspiration.  I was wrong.

When my hands met Jayd’s head I felt nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I felt no inspiration.  I had no vibe…positive or negative.  The floodgates of Heaven were not opening….and I was scared.  I needed some time to gather my thoughts, so I took it.  My mind raced while I paused.  What do I do now?!  I didn’t want to put off any kind of negative energy.  That was the last thing Tauni needed at this point in time.  Finally I decided to start with simply citing the things I know about Jayd and building on those things.

I let Jayd know that his Father in Heaven loves him.  I know that’s true.  I believe that with all my heart.  I am confident that God loves all His children.  I told Jayd that his family loves him and needs him.  And they do.  He is a stellar father and a genuinely great person.  I confidently spoke to Jayd’s great faith and how that faith is what would make him whole.  If there’s one thing we know from the Bible it is that people were healed through a combination of Christ’s power and their faith.  Whatever Jayd’s spiritual shortcomings may be, faith is not one of them.  We’ve had many conversations over the past couple of years that have had religious undertones, and Jayd is legit.  He is a believer.  He is a man of faith.

Then it came time for me to flex my own paltry faith and go out on my own brittle limb.  Without any specific divine direction, I blessed Jayd with a peaceful mind and a still heart.  I asked God, and blessed Jayd, that he would wake up quickly.  I prayed for the doctors and nurses to perform their duties with inspiration and intelligence.  And finally I told Jayd that one day soon we would be able to look back on this experience and laugh.  Because that’s what Jayd and I do.  We banter and laugh.  Then I quietly ended my blessing and removed my hands.

I stayed in Jayd’s curtained space for about 15 minutes speaking with Tauni.  During that time he woke up a handful of times as we visited, but there was nothing behind his eyes.  I believe his basic primal instincts were taking over.  All he knew was that he was in a bad situation and his body was restrained.  Every ounce of energy he had was being routed to his need to get out of those restraints.  I was dumbfounded at how STRONG he was as Tauni and I tried to get him back onto the bed.  After a few of these fits I elected to go wait outside and leave the two of them alone.

The only place I could find to sit was in the hallway just outside the ER waiting area.  I was sitting, collecting my thoughts, analyzing what I’d just witnessed when a woman in her early fifties approached me with what appeared to be her husband and two grown children.  “Excuse me, could you tell me where I could get some information?” she asked.  “Information about what?”  “About one of the runners that would have been brought here from the marathon.”  “Oh, you can just go ask at the ER desk around the corner.”  She thanked me and they casually walked around the corner.  About two minutes later, a hospital staff member brought them back to where I was and knocked on the door directly in front of me.  The door opened and the family went inside.  And then came the screams.  I’ll never, ever forget the sound of those screams.  Their runner, a 32-year old super-fit military man, collapsed after he finished and was rushed to this hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.  DEAD.

As we got the vans situated to get Tauni’s kids home so she could stay in San Antonio my cell phone rang.  It was Tauni.  “Jayd just woke up” she said.  WHAT?!  It had been less than an hour since the blessing and he was already awake.  She told me the first words that came out of his mouth were “I know who you are.”  The next words were “Did I finish the race?”

After myriad tests and scans and probes and who-knows-what, the mystified doctors discharged Jayd after four days in the hospital, two of which were spent in ICU.  He’s home now, with a new lease on life.

I think about this experience a lot.  Many times daily.  For a few solid days it haunted my thoughts, even while I slept.  Words cannot do justice to what I heard and saw in that San Antonio ER on November 13th, 2011.  And this is why I identify (on a microscopic level) with the combat vet.  It’s a useless story to tell to someone that wasn’t there.  You may get it on some level.  You might have even gone through a similarly traumatic experience in your life.  But you weren’t there.  It’s the ultimate “guess you had to be there” scenario.  You didn’t see the horrors or hear the screams.  It was a singularly unique experience to you and the people you fought with.  Those are the only people that truly “get it.”  I can see through the hollow nods and vacant “wow”s that I get from people I tell the story to.  It’s a story worth telling and it needs to be told, but I bloody-well hate telling it.

I’m very grateful.  The honest truth is that I don’t know what I would have done if something had happened to Jayd.  He’s a crucial friend that I value and admire tremendously.  Kind of like Art Garfunkel’s harmonies.  The world is better with him in it.  It’s a bromance.  I’m stoked to have him back. 

 My magic blessing worked you know.  His mind was calmed, his heart was stilled, he woke up quickly, and now we’re able to look back on the experience with some degree of whimsy.  No jokes yet.  But they’ll come.  It’s just a matter of time.  And that’s ok.  Time we have.

(Left to Right) Ty, Jayd, Steve


DavidEckholdt said...

Thanks so much Ty. This is beautiful. Thanks for being there for Jayd.

Dee Gardner - Management Heretic said...

Thanks for posting your perspective. Thanks for being worthy to help our friend. God Speed.

Talbot Family said...

Tears. Lot's of tears. You are right, we can NEVER understand what other people go through and the words "It could be worse" have become something that I HATE with a mad raging passion. I swear that after Adessa was born I had post traumatic stress disorder. It is something that people don't understand, but it was real for me.....still is. Anytime you see someone you love clinging to life by a thread and have no answers or validation, it is devastating. For five weeks I worried, cried, prayed, and freaked out. I am glad that he is doing well and that you are just a few short months from laughing :) On a different note, I am SUPER proud of you.

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The Barker Family said...

Thanks for sharing that story! Glad your friend is ok!

The Barker Family said...

Thanks for sharing that story! Glad your friend is ok!