You’re Not Dead ch.1: The Rude Awakening {ANEWSIN VOL. 4 — Jason Garden}

The Hero awakes from a deep slumber. He is not in his bed. He actually has no clue where he is.

There is an intrusive beeping of monitors and hospital equipment all around him. The room was not black, but it was dark. Lights flashed on machines and noises echoed in the room. He notices a cup of water a few feet from where he lies, and thinks how his mouth feels rather dry. The cool liquid would feel fantastic at this time.

He tries to lift his arms: no luck, for some reason.

He then tries to call out for someone.
Anyone.
He has no voice.

He strives to run out of the room and down whatever hall is in front of him. He wants to flee from the threat of something he does not understand. However, his legs are as lame as his arms.

Confused. Alone. He cries silent tears for what feels like an eternity.

Finally, his mother and father come into frame. Their faces gleaming with joy, tears in the crevices of their faces. This made him cry harder. He tries to ask what happened. He tries to offer some form of condolence. He tries to do pretty much anything to gesture that he is okay.

He is unable. His arms are paralyzed and he is mute.

Defeated, he closes his eyes again and hopes that either everything changes when he awakes. That, or, he never comes to consciousness again.

The Hero awakes from the quick bout of overwhelming reality. He is still confused, but his parents are around him.

They explain how he died.
They explained that he is physically unable to do anything right now.
They show him the tube coming out of the front of his throat his throat and explain that is how is breathing now.
They try to keep their spirits up, but the Hero can see their confidence faltering in their expression.

They explain that something happened. He got sick. He was asleep for a long time. He died. Twice. Now he is back and they were happy. They explained how the medical personnel wanted to pull life support weeks prior but they refused to let them. Then, they explained that life support was pulled anyway, but he did not die after a few hours. They explained that hundreds of people have been through the room to either wish him condolences, or wish him back to life.

The Hero still just wanted a drink of water.

His parents finally try to explain the beginning. Apparently, he contracted some sort of flu and his body reacted by inducing encephalitis.

Encephalitis is where the fluid surrounding the brain collects and crushes the grey matter. In his particular case, it crushed the cerebellum and effected a good portion, if not all, the major motor and health functions. Primarily, those dealing with limb control, nerve reaction, heart rate, and heat regulation. In a way, the Hero was lucky. If it had been the frontal cortex or any of his memory functions, it would have destroyed who he was. Who he is. His memories, personality, and humour would all be lost.

Legally, he was a quadriplegic. He has no ability to move his legs or arms. Even the movement of his neck was very difficult, if not impossible. The Hero was unable to swallow. He dreamed of drinking water, but was then informed that he would most likely choke. Even the movements of his tongue could be fatal.

That is when the Hero noticed all of the metal. He counted four long bits of medical steel jutting from each of his forearms. They punctured on the perfect angles to avoid nerves, so they did not hurt.

Maybe he could not feel them, anyway.

The Hero was not new to the idea of metal piercing flesh. He had received over fifteen body piercings in his life: something he was quite proud of. It was a kind of identity for him. Everyone was the same, but he had shit in his face.

Enter the health care professional. They just came in to check the Hero’s vitals and breathing machine. They were surprised that he was as responsive as he was, and started immediately asking a million questions. That was when the Hero was unable to move his middle finger to gesture them on their way. They left, eventually, and immediately the Hero started silently crying again.

The Hero was an hour from home, laying in Toronto Western Hospital. He remembered that he was somewhat close to people he knew. He wondered if they would know where he was or what state he was in. The door burst open at that point, and Luka ran in.

Luka was the Hero’s greatest and longest friend. She had lived in Toronto for a number of years at this point, and he had attempted to make it out to see her and her dog at least once a week before he wound up in hospital.

He was ecstatic to see her, and tried his best to put a smile and a brave face on. She took one look at him and immediately burst into tears of celebration.

It turns out that she was informed the Hero had died about a month before this day. Then, she discovered that he was alive not a week later: close to death, but also down the road. She had been there most days, talking to the unresponsive body. Wishing him back to reality. She told him over and over again how she couldn’t bare life without him. When he was informed of all of this, he cried again.

He felt pathetic: crying three times in (what he assumed was) one day. He was just so happy to see her.

He was just so happy to be able to see everyone again.

Luka hugged him. He tried as hard as he could to hug back. He tried to call her a fool for thinking he was gone. He tried many things.

Luka was no where near the only visitor that the Hero was happy to see. While in a coma, he had apparently shut down the main waiting room with all of the people clambering to see him for, what they believed to be, the last time.

That is when the Hero had discovered that the idea had gotten around that he died. Many people came to pay their respects, to both him, and his family. When it was reported that he, in fact, did not die: more people came around out of celebration. Benefit concerts that would be held in his memory were simply forgotten due to redundancy.

A great percentage of the people the Hero had interacted with came out to wish him well: to remind him just how much he meant to them.

It was January.

The month was even lonelier than usual. People popped in and out of existence all the time. The Hero would live, for what seemed like days, alone. In reality, it was just a few hours. Time drags on and on when you are in a hospital. Even the sweet embrace of sleep would not save the Hero feeling truly alone. He spent a lot of time imagining fantastical worlds.

In one such day dream; he was a hunter. He would venture out of his holdings to find rare and mystical beasts to kill them. He remembered vividly thanking them before he ate them. He was a decent chef, but he would cringe when biting into the meat he prepared. A cool breeze would float between the sea of green leaves and across his face.

Once, while he slept, he dreamt that he was flying through the skies. Observing the world around him, drifting between trees and hills. He saw valleys that were coated in green grass, clouds as large as he could picture, and mountains that were red and towering. His speed never held much concern, for the air around him was always warm. He never got lost, for there was no destination. On occasion, his arms were massive wings, twice the size probably needed to hold one human. He rarely landed, and simply got sustenance while soaring around in the clouds.

The dreams reminded him a lot of what life was. He felt like life was just a series of events not narrated by anyone or anything. Everything happened by accident. All you could do was learn from an experience and move on.

Then he would wake. It was still a jarring resurrection. It often involved tears and frustration. When the dreams ended, he would have to face a version of reality that he did not want. He wanted to escape into that world that he was just in and get lost in it forever. He knew it would be an end, but that did not bother him. He just did not want to find that end.

The nurses would come in. Check vitals. Talk at him (never to him). Leave the room. This was a fate worse than death, he would think. At least if he was dead.

Oh; at least if he was dead.

Bad days seemed to trivial before. He would forget something important, do something stupid, or say something regretful.

Now, bad days were because his body would not let him do what he wants to do. Now, bad days were because he felt trapped. Now, he could not even escape to his old stand-by of driving for a great distance to avoid life. Before, he could leave if he got upset by someones arrogance or crude depiction of the world. He never saw himself as super intelligent, but he regarded himself as extremely open-minded and he was always willing to do research to elaborate on topics he was uneducated about. He had to accept what was around him. He had to endure the oppressive hate and malice that the world contained.

People pretended to be understanding about his condition, and the Hero could sense this. They would put on a brave face, say things that they thought were politically correct, and carry on with their interpersonal relationships.

The Hero could see through all of this. He knew that people were frightened, that they were curious how this would effect their life. Even his parents, who were nothing but supportive, were concerned about how their life would change. How he changed their life.

It was, after all, his fault.

I thought that I would share the rewrite of You’re Not Dead. Please support me on Patreon.

If you wish to support this piece, but do not wish to fight with Patreon, here is the PayPal link where you can offer what you want with no obligation.

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New Month

Hi! I hope you are doing well.

I had something huge happen on the first.

I had a seizure.

It was far from a huge deal: my mother-in-law was over and she knew exactly the steps to make sure everything went well.

My fiancee did what she had to, including getting the EMS and calling my parents.

I hate this I hate this I hate this.

Now I am on pills twice a day.

They make me sleepy.

I’m Back.

Hello hello hello everybody! I hope you have been well!

I’d be lying if I said I was. Natasha and I have looked at two apartments and were thwarted both times. They asked us for co-signers. I do not think it is hard to believe that we, at pushing 30, do not have the connections and ties to make those happen. Please do not fret: we will be fine. I am just freaking out a bit.

TO ADD TO THE FREAK-OUT! I got kicked out of the programme I was in. My average was considered too low, so I was “forcibly withdrawn.” The notification e-mail was obviously computer generated and impersonal.

WHAT AM I DOING TO FIX IT? I have a life here in Hamilton. As much as I bash this city, I do really like the connections I have here. No, I have not really explored the downtown in the condition I am in, but I was planning to venture out when I had my own space to populate with everything I amass.

I signed up with Mac Wheelers officially and have a physical on Friday, May sixth. What Mac Wheelers can be described as is “a gym for people in wheelchairs.”

I am aware it is more than that. It is just easier to put it that way.

Now, I have to apologize again: this was far from the large update I had promised. I have good news, however! My grandmother opened her eyes! She is still in hospital as I write this, but it’s a start!

BREAKING NEWS May 3rd, 2016
My grandmother is officially off of the vent!

Patreon.

Bladder Issues

I honestly cannot even say that without giggling like a young child.

HI AGAIN! I wanted to talk about something I have a really hard time talking about in hopes to make myself a little bit more accepting of it, and I hope for a little bit of direction.

So, as you MIGHT have heard, I’m in a wheelchair. SURPRISE! I know! Who saw that coming? I DIGRESS.

Like I stated in my second blog, no one is one hundred percent sure of what happened, what flu I caught, or whatever. One thing that is apparent, though, is what happened shortly before I went into hospital.

My legs went weak. I was throwing up. My muscles got very stiff. My neck swelled. I stopped being able to urinate.

Please tell me someone else finds me writing that hilarious to read?!

So, the medical response to someone not emptying their bladder for days on end is to insert an indwelling catheter. Its basically a tube placed in a urethra. It connects from ones bladder to a bag. They are quite common to receive during any extended hospital stay or as a result of any surgery.

The thought behind a neurogenic bladder (that I have put together from the little bit of reading I have performed) is that the nerves controlling the bladder have given out, and the individual will have to perform intermittent catheterization for an extended time until everything comes back.

Well. Fun little side bit of information. Someone fucked up. SURPRISE!

What happened is that a little bit of dirt or plastic (would probably have been microscopic) ended up in my bladder at some point last year (2014). The result is my body encased it in a compound, probably calcium, and it resulted in a stone. The stone in question is 4.5 CM in diameter. The stone takes up about 95% of my bladder. Is that not hilarious?

LAUGH WITH ME! PLEASE!

My eventual point is that I have to go back in for surgery to have it removed, which is scheduled for August 25th. I really do want it to happen earlier, but the medical system is all kinds of messed up in Canada thanks to our great political power that currently sits in the most important seat.

SO YEAH! That’s my attempted at talking about an embarrassing thing that has happened during this whole ordeal. There are many worse things, but MOST of those will never be brought up.

OH CANADA, OUR HOME AND NATIVE LAND…

Another Update From a Friend

This blog update is brought to you by the mind of Hannah Rae. She is one of my closest friends and my guitar player. However, she states pretty well all of that in the following “few” paragraphs. It is all beautifully written and crafted with much deliberation. Enjoy.

______________________________

Mass Effect

First, some context: my memories of Jason Garden prior to his illness are vague. Like a collage of images you compile, which then makes the person. I don’t really remember “Jay”, I remember his beard; his constant black toque; a taupe, or light brown corduroy (?) jacket. I see someone reliable behind the wheel of a car making it to wherever you need him to be. I think constant presence despite distance or absence. I see the store Jay managed. If I close my eyes, Jay is behind me, to my right, crashing cymbals. Jay’s a snare and kick drum that feels like it’s glued to the bass line. Jay is steady. Jay is constant. Jay is, and Jay was, a rock.

The first phone call I received with news about Jason Garden’s uncharacteristic absence went sort of like this, “I finally found out what happened to Jay… he’s in a coma.” I was in my fifth term of film school, Jay was the primary financial backer of my short film project and he’d gone missing. There hadn’t been any phone contact. There had been no coffee visits on my weekend sojourns home to Cambridge, no endless cigarette smoking, or conversations about music, or all the movies Jay hadn’t seen. Upon receiving the news I remember cracking a joke like, “how selfish of him.” We both laughed. I remember thinking how indefinite that sounded. A coma. People wake up from those all the time. Jay can bounce back any minute. I shrugged it off. Admittedly, there was minimal thought given to Jay’s family, or Jay himself. He’d be okay. He’d have to be. My thoughts centered on how Jay’s condition would affect me. After all, I had a short film to consider financing, and the peripheral view of a band in need of Jay’s drumming.

The second phone call, maybe a week and a bit later, was completely different. “Jay’s not going to get better.” It hit like a locomotive. Gone was the rock. I remember standing because the couch I was on didn’t feel stable. I cried my guts out. I paced the apartment, from the washroom to the living room getting more Kleenex to blow my nose. Once I was coherent, I called home to Rob, a mutual friend, and gave him the news. He’d drive up from Cambridge that night, and we’d visit Jay in the hospital. I called Chance Procedure’s bass player, Stephen, and had an incredibly frank and depressing conversation in which it was decided he could come up the following day with his roommate, Dave. It was to become a two-day visiting period, which was really to be a goodbye.

What I think of when I remember that shaky time is Mass Effect the video game series. As Rob and I walked through the lobby of the Toronto Western Hospital of Neuroscience I saw people sitting in this sterile, huge-ceilinged, remotely futuristic lobby holding what I assumed were deep conversations in white chairs. Someone was announcing something I didn’t care to hear over the P.A. system. I turned and told Rob how I felt like I was in Huerta Memorial Hospital in Mass Effect 3 going to visit a fallen squad member. Amusingly, he replied, “that’s funny. I spent my afternoon battling the Collectors in Mass Effect 2, and then spent another 2 hours battling the collectors driving to Toronto.” It was levity, and all of it to really say that none of this felt real.

Before we even got to see Jay, we ran into still more people visiting him. I was struck by how many there were. I thought of myself, how my funeral would never have that many people. Selfish. I’d never met Jay’s mom or dad before. I’d only heard of some of his friends, and briefly met others. Who cared? Jay would always be around for coffee, and he’d always drive to my house if I needed him. I had no idea Jay knew so many people, and so many people thought the same thing. This event was developing the sensation of being far larger than I had previously been ready to accept. Mass Effect, indeed.

The hospital staff was allowing only small groups back to see him. When I finally got back there reality, and grim finality, sunk in. I saw him through glass first. My first thought reached for a cinematic concept, for something intelligible that could interpret a fact so foreign from how I knew Jay: I smiled nobly thinking Jay was more machine than man now. Just like Darth Vader. In my heart, however, gone was the consistency of the snare drum. He’d been replaced by a steady beep of a respirator. My thoughts, again, turned to myself. This shell before me did not resemble my memory of him at all. Where was my drummer? It was a crude mockery. Frailty transformed one of the firmest handshakes I’d ever had into this lifeless husk. Beep. Beep. Beep. Here lay my fallen squad-mate, team member, and friend, never to come along on another mission.

I didn’t stick around long. I needed air. A cigarette. I didn’t have any other pop culture references to make sense of something quickly becoming far too painful to stick around for. I got the hell out of a warm hospital room to go sit in the freezing November night to smoke my lungs to death and cry at everything for taking something special from me. I freely admit my thoughts hinged on how this affected me. Who was going to drum for Chance Procedures? Who was going to be my friend? On my way out the main doors I passed Jay’s father. Through tears I told him, “your son is one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met.” I was mad. At him, I suppose. If I’m being honest, I was mad at everything. Through shaky vocal cords, Rick Garden responded, “tell him that.” Like it would make a difference. That first time I was afraid to touch Jay. Maybe I’d make him sicker? Maybe I’d somehow, inconceivably, caused this? How selfish of me to conclude that. My first awareness of the effects of Jay’s illness was to worry about myself.

The second time we visited, Rob and I brought two of Jay’s friends, Stephen and Dave, who couldn’t otherwise have made it. I was more prepared and ready to be supportive for Stephen who was not taking it well. I remember waiting in the waiting room to go see Jay, Stephen saying to me, “you realize we don’t have a drummer anymore, right?” The effect of Jay’s coma seemed a little bigger, more visceral, more massive and all encompassing the second time around. Stephen was thinking the same thing I was. Was this the day the music died? I had this hint of hope though, “he could still pull through.” I remember we went in to see him, and it was thought it would be a nice gesture; maybe it’d wake Jay up, if they pumped a Chance Procedures song into the room while Stephen and I were present. “Weird Science”. That was unbearable. This steady human being; the rock seated behind me, drumming loudly to my right, now, this bedridden shell in front of me with tubes coming out of him. Again, I had to leave the room. Afterward, Stephen remarked how weird all of that was. How alienating it was to see Jay like that. Weird Science, indeed.

This time I made sure I did go in to see Jay. And I did talk to him. And, even through all my selfish concerns I gripped his hand. I remember this momentary thought of: is what he has contagious? Change is not swift in the heart. I was told his heart rate would travel and fluctuate if Jay was particularly moved, or a neuron fired or whatever. I looked at that heart monitor, and as I talked I never saw it fluctuate. But others had said they’d made it change, but not me. Selfish. I had this visual of Jay laying face up in a boat on a body of water. The boat was tethered to a dock I was standing on, and I was doing my best, hoping I could get him to reel himself in through sheer force of my presence and will. I don’t know if that’s an image I got from a movie, or wherever. But I remember clearly thinking despite the strong words of hopeful encouragement, “you’re not waking up, are you? You’re leaving me here.” Selfish.

Rob and I visited a few times over that period. The consensus was known; this was Jay’s last hurrah, basically. This was a wake. Recollections suddenly stormed in of things Jay had said that justified what was about to happen. Once Jay said, “I’ve completed everything save two (?) things on my bucket list.” His dad remarked, “he’s going out with a bang.” So strong, I thought. You’re about to consent to have your son’s plug pulled and you’re actually finding a silver lining? I was awestruck. I remember barely ever seeing Jay’s mom, Chris. “Where’s Chris?” She was in the chapel praying. I remember, for the first time, watching Rob disappear from the crowd. And I found him outside smoking a cigarette, and admitting he’d just called his mom and cried his eyes out. “I just needed my mommy,” he said.

I met people crying. I finally met Jay’s brother, the enigmatic “Dave”. Slowly, I started to see how Jay’s impending demise affected the world beyond myself. Sufjan Stevens’ “Casimir Pulaski Day” became the soundtrack of my life for this time. That and the steady inhale of cigarette after cigarette. My mind opened, and I felt what that songwriter had felt to some degree. Coping with an inexplicable loss. Things seemed connected. Things made some sort of broken sense, even on such shaky, inconsistent ground. I thought of how many people I’d suddenly met, and for the first time seen cry, and the world beyond myself grew as a very close friend’s life dimmed. I started thinking of what Jay’s funeral would look like. Stephen and I had discussed performing an acoustic Chance Procedures song. It was surreal. He wasn’t officially gone, yet here we were making plans to mourn him. Outward acceptance, for me, was fighting with this inward hope that Jay would pull through. But the human heart needs stability, consistency, and something solid to stand on in order to have coherence. It was more likely Jay was gone, and I should come to terms with that. That was about as stable and coherent as it was going to get.

And then I got news that Jay woke up. Seriously. Talk about subverting expectations. I’d gone home to Cambridge at the end of that school term feeling like a failure at having lost my chance to make a short film, about to go into a Christmas of heavy emotions and loss. And wham. What you think is going to happen? Doesn’t happen; the mark of a great story.

When I returned to Toronto in January it was for my final term of school, and I was met with the coldest winter I’d yet experienced. My life at this time became wholly unstable. Honestly, a lot happened, and my memory of things is hazy. I genuinely remember trekking the 5 or 6 blocks through the freezing cold to see an awakened Jay. I remember using that as my excuse to get away from an increasingly confusing and unstable situation. I was thankful for Jay, because no matter how difficult my life seemed to be, here was a person I could literally see in worse shape than I was. (No offense, Jay).

When I came home to Cambridge to stay, I believe it wasn’t long after that Jay’s recovery had made it such that he was in Cambridge Memorial Hospital. There was something so very inspiring about the fact that months prior we were preparing to bury Jay. And now I was joking with him about his poor handshaking skills. I remember a lot of sadness, for both Jay and I. It’s interesting how well I’d thought I’d known Jason Garden. Due to a rather unique set of circumstance, both Jay and I were in extremely vulnerable moments in our life. For the first time, this rock-solid drummer I’d had to muster the courage to ask to drum for my band was unable to keep his guard up. I saw Jay cry. I saw Jay admit weakness. Suddenly things were being shared between Jay and I that probably never would have otherwise have been shared. I came out as Transgender to Jay in that hospital. He was one of the first. It strikes me now how this person I’d associated with stability was teaching me how to never count on anything. How even the most stable of situations could change at any moment. It wasn’t a huge component of my decision to come out, but it helped knowing that my best friend could have died, but didn’t, and that to continuously live a lie might actually get in the way of being affected by a person, and in turn affecting them.

I can say that there was a status quo to my life before Jay fell ill. A set of constructed ideas of the world and how it worked, and thanks in no small part to Jay falling ill those got destroyed. The miracle of Jay’s recovery, watching him get carted from hospital to hospital and having constant trouble keeping up, and going to visit Jay only to see him change, and improve with each visit was astonishing. I’m sure for Jay change was not quite so extravagant or quick. For me, after Jay’s illness all was in a state of flux. My life, and Jay’s recovery. I can say emphatically that now, today, almost a year later, I know Jason Garden a lot better than I did prior to his illness. And, fortunately or unfortunately, I know myself a lot better than I did prior to his illness. In that way, Jay’s illness marks a chapter where my own personal life’s story changes in a different, unexpected direction. All the way through his recovery, no matter how dark, or sad my own life got, Jay brightened each day regardless of his ambivalence or improvement.

Prior to illness, Jay makes up a scattered, bizarre nonsensical collage of memories that add up to certain themes. Jay was my drummer. Now, Jay’s one of my best friends. That’s Mass Effect.

An E-Mail From A Friend

This an e-mail from my friend Kyle Becker.

I cut off the intro paragraph because it was full of personal shit relating to his and my friendship. To paraphrase, we met through a mutual friend of mine and mainly always talked through a middleman. That is not to diminish how much he meant to me. He is a brother, and always will be. Kyle: come over. Let’s chill. Fuck knows that I would love to catch up in person instead of twice-a-month piecemeal like I currently am.

I digress. Without further ado, here is Kyle’s story.

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When I checked my Facebook in October 2013 I was devastated by the thought of losing you on this earth. There was so much controversy on the social media from people who had no place discussing your business.

Obviously I immediately contacted Pat . They were planning to visit you, just the old band guys, but Pat insisted that I should come with if I wished, and I felt it was right.

When we got to the waiting room, it was like an old reunion. So many people that had once been friends, but grown apart, had all put aside their differences in the honour of your name. We waited for a while and tried to stay positive in means of moral support for the other people. It was hard to stay quiet as we listened to everyone’s opinion on how things were going. I can’t recall how much time went by but when they said it was our time to go in, my heart stopped.

The thoughts racing through my head. “Going to see Jay, for what could possibly be the last time. Regardless of what the clinic was saying: I refused to believe any of it.”

I’m not trying to sit here and say I knew anything, other than the fact that you were stronger than the typical person they were used to. Even though you were in a comatose state, I honestly felt your presence as if you were awake. As scary as it is, I would love to know what was going on in your mind at that time.

We were told this may very well be goodbye, as I was standing at your side, I held your hand, but refused to say farewell. I told you “this is not the end, we will see you again.”

After more heavy tears we slowly made our way back to town. I was in shock. Seeing you there like that. It almost killed me, you have always been an inspiration to me, and you have not failed to live up to that expectation. I’ve watched all your posts and to see your progress, I can’t say I’ve ever been more proud. I am not trying to take any credit, you are doing this on your own. I guess what I’m trying to say is: Regardless what these medical professionals try to say, they cannot judge character with DNA and testing. The spirit you embrace has carried many people through hard times, and i am every bit confident that you will carry yourself through this as well.

What you are doing everyday and continue to do is a game changer to anyone who has been told defeating facts from their doctor. It brings tears to my eyes to watch you break through with amazing progress. Although the battle is not over, I truly hope you acknowledge the distance you have already travelled. Not in means to slow you down, but in hope to encourage you to finding the battle on your terms. You have traits that I hope to one day acquire.

Your a good man. And a good friend.

I hope one day I can do for you what you have done for me. I’m here if ever you need me.