Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My brother, John.

John means "Jehovah has been gracious."

My brother was born 6 weeks early after my mother fell outside of her home.  She landed on her stomach and her water broke.  To put this into perspective, my mother was 16 when she had my first brother, Chris.  She's now 18 and pregnant with her second.  She's a military wife since my dad joined the Army.  They are living in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, away from all of their family which was in Houston, Texas.  The year was 1978.  Technology was definitely not as it is now, which means medicinally we were not where we are now.
My brother was taken to Vanderbilt because he was very sick and struggling to survive.  The doctors were worried because, in their words, baby boys do not usually have the fight like baby girls.  The boys will often just lie there and die.  Well, John definitely did not.
He was a decent weight, over 5 pounds, but he was long, which means he was skinny.  His diapers swallowed him up.  He had no fat on his body.  But John didn't give up.  He survived.

Fast forward a few years.  They are now living in Germany.  John is mischievous, not purposefully all the time, but he's got a curious brain.  He was the kid who took things apart all the time just to figure out how they worked.  Well, one day a lamp stops working, so my brother had to figure out what the problem was.  He ended up sticking his finger in the light socket.  I'm not sure if you know, but in Germany, the electricity has a much higher wattage than in the U.S. or at least it used to.  My other brother yells for help, so my dad comes running to the rescue.

I cannot imagine what ran through my parents' minds, especially Dad's as he saw his little 4 (or maybe 5) year old son being electrocuted.  He did what they say not to, and he grabbed my brother.  The electricity then passed from my brother's body, into my dad's arm, and then blew out the back side of his elbow.  The doctors said that saved my brother's life because it gave the electricity a way out instead of running continuously through his tiny body.

So, the hospital gets to know John by name because he has to have skin graphs done.  He has to go in frequently to have the finger cleaned and  re bandaged frequently.  Mom says that was the worst part.  Changing the bandages hurt him.

My brother still has scars on his pointer finger and his finger nail never grew in quite right.  A constantly reminder, you could say, of that curious brain of his.

So, my brother, at 29 years old, ends up in the hospital with pains he describes like knives stabbing him in the chest.  His cholesterol was dangerously high and he was having a heart attack.  He ended up having to have triple bypass...  At 29 years old.  Everyone, even the nurses and doctors at the hospital, were blown away that he was having to have this done at such a young age.  We weren't so surprised.  My grandfather had his first heart attack at 27.  He passed away at the age of 34 from another.  This high cholesterol is hereditary, a problem that not even an internal medicine doctor has been able to rectify within my own mother.  Hers was almost 500 at one point in her life.  After weight loss surgery, the loss of 70 pounds, and numerous different concoctions of medications, it's still over 200, but it is in a much safer range than before.

 Back to John.  Even the surgery was difficult.  They had trouble getting the veins out of his legs so it took much longer.  Of course we didn't know why it was taking so long as we were waiting in the waiting room, so we were extremely nervous.

That was hard.  I thought I would be ok, but when they wheeled him in on his bed to see us before they wheeled him into the OR, it hit me.  He was in his gown all prepped and ready to go.  I remember he had his right hand over his head like if he was shielding his eyes from the light.  He was crying and trying to hide it. It's never easy to see a 6 foot 3 inch man cry, especially one who weighs over 250 pounds!!  He's a giant teddy bear.  That's when I lost it.  I started crying and just buried my face into my aunt's chest, sobbing.  That's my brother after all.  This was a serious deal.  They would be sawing open his chest for God's sake.  It was almost too much to think about.

Afterward,  it was so hard to see him intubated.  When he was in ICU, I remember a needle sticking out of his neck; I believe this was for the anesthesia. I remember as he started to wake up, he really wanted the tube out of his throat, but they wouldn't take it out until he would stay away.  So, I would remind him of that and he would SHOOT his eyes open as wide as he could and then motion with his hand a circle, as if saying, "OK, speed this up!"  He hated that tube.
I remember him being incredibly thirsty so I would run and get him lots of juice.  The medicines often cause dry mouth.  The absolute worse though was when he would have to cough, sneeze, or when he got the hiccups.  It was incredibly painful for him, and he would just hug a pillow to his chest and then cry.

So, when 6 years later he begin to have serious pains again, you cannot imagine the worry.  Luckily, his heart is fine.  His cholesterol is high again, but he's working on it.  He doesn't have health insurance, so it's difficult to get the medicine which is right at $150 a month for just the Crestor.  But through it all, I have realized just how much a brother's love is worth.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Even though we go long stretches of time without seeing or talking to each other, (I live in Katy, he lives in Corpus Christi, I work days, he works nights) we know that we will always have each other's backs and that life would not be the same without each other.

Last example, I get a phone call at 6 a.m. from my mother.  She is NOT a morning person, so I know something is wrong.  John was in a motorcycle wreck on his way home from work.  Someone cut him off, hit him, and fled.  His huge body was lying in the middle of the only major freeway in Corpus Christi, as a friend who (thank God) happened to be following behind him attempted to pull him to the shoulder.  She was a girl though and I've already told you how large my brother is.  He was knocked unconscious because his head hit the road, so he was dead weight.  She actually thought he was dead.  He always wears his helmet, so that saved his life.  But a stranger stopped on the middle of the freeway and helped pull him to the side.  Minutes later, another motorist runs over his motorcycle, splitting it into two and sending fragments everywhere.  That could have been my brother's body.

He is recovering well.  He has a few broken ribs, a broken scapula (shoulder blade) and a punctured lung.  Luckily his lung never collapsed, his scapula broke cleanly and began to heal without surgery.  But boy, those ribs cause some serious pain during healing.

So, while John often says that if he didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck at all, I say that his luck could have been much worse.  You see, yes, that electrocution was traumatizing, but it could have caused more damage, or death.It was terrible that he had to have open heart surgery at 29, but he also could have instead had a massive heart attack that ended his life at 29, much like our grandfather.
It was unfortunately that he married a woman with whom he just couldn't make it work, but I think it's better than never having known love at all.It was really heart breaking to have him finally get the motorcycle of his dreams, only to have it shattered.  It was horrible to see him in the pain he was in.  But it was SO good to get to see him at Christmas, to have him here on Earth to celebrate one more time.  It was SO amazing that he didn't have to see an orthopedic surgeon.  It was amazing that his punctured lung stayed inflated.  It was amazing that a perfect stranger, whom we NEVER met even to this day, willing stopped on the middle of a major freeway in the middle of the night to help pull a man to the side and ultimately save his life.

Much of life is about perspective, and John has truly helped me to remember to cling to the positive instead of allowing the negative to swallow me whole.

To go along with my previous posts about names, I believe John has proven his. 


  1. I have always thought how lucky he has been.

  2. John sounds like a by/man who is blessed and who has truly already lived "9" lives - at least!

    There is much to be said about the power to learn from those who survive.


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