Whatever State I be in

November 23, 2011

I wouldn’t have chosen this life. That’s one of only a few statements I can make with absolute certainty. The life God gave to me is not what I would have chosen for myself. Even with all that I know now, I would have chosen not to wander along the road less taken. I would have chosen the easier life where I would never witness my father in tears over my hospital bed. Where I would never know the intense pain of seeing my mother break down as I screamed at God in angry, bitter sobs. I would have chosen in a heartbeat to walk the path where I never once felt that I was not allowed to dream. How many times I screamed at God in bitter curses for not allowing me the privilege to dream. I felt less than human. Not worthy of anything but extraordinary and unbearable pain.

That’s why I’m most grateful that God did not give me what I wanted. Instead he gave to me and will continue to give to me what I need. I wouldn’t be fit for God’s plans for me had I not seen what is painful to see. Some people get to pick their destiny. I wasn’t given that privilege, for I was born into mine.

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The first acoustic neuroma (brain tumor of the ear) developed in my left ear by age five. The tumor, the radiation treatment and the surgeries that followed left not even a decibel of hearing behind. By age fourteen, another acoustic neuroma, which we had been aware of, had developed. It was the last surgery of that ear that drained most of the hearing. This was much harder on my parents who wanted to deny my prognosis. Their son became “deaf” that year.

Growing up HoH (hard of hearing) was filled with many challenges. My social skills were below that of my peers due to my inability to fully understand their speech. Socializing and making friends was a roadblock along my journey. It got to the point that by eighth grade, in all of my loneliness, I began to feel nothingness and my mind was never too far from suicide.

Since first grade, I had always been provided with a deaf educational specialist throughout my time in the public school system. As a child I spent a couple hours each week with my specialist learning to speech read and sign. By high school, I only saw my specialist for an hour a week just for emotional support. Someone who understood the trials a deaf child had faced and a Deaf man would overcome.

In addition to speech reading and sign language, my specialists were my advocates for all things relating deafness, from adaptive listening equipment in the classroom to my first hearing aid. From a live captioner who sat in class to type out the teacher’s speech to my journey into deaf school, my specialists were always one step behind me, allowing me to lead the way.

I had visited Oregon School for the Deaf once before and met with the principal of the middle school one time before the tour. My mother had a negative perspective throughout the entire tour, convinced deaf school had nothing I’d benefit from. One day after school in eighth grade, my mother took me by the hand into the kitchen. Her eyes were red and puffy, she had been crying. She sat me down on the kitchen chair, got on her knees and, through tears, did the most selfless thing she had ever done for me. She told me that I was deaf, saying it more for herself than for me. She told me there was a place where I wouldn’t have to wake up everyday to the challenges that I thought would always be my life. She reassured me (or herself) that she wasn’t sending me away. That she loved me and believed in me.

I believe I became “Deaf” that year. I would soon learn to embrace it as not just a part of my life, but a central part of my identity. Someday I would even learn to seek motivation from it, becoming inspired by silence.

Constructed in 1992, the Oregon Health and Science University Sky Bridge became the largest bridge of its kind in North America. At six hundred sixty feet in length, the bridge was constructed to connect OHSU hospital with the neighboring Veteran Affairs Medical Center off campus.

I recall moments after surgeries where my mother, father or sister would pull me in a wagon (as a child) or push me in a wheelchair across the bridge. It was always a special time of bonding with my parents, separately as well as together. A time when we meditated on God’s will for our lives. A place where we reflected on what was laid out before us and how we would find the courage and the strength to keep walking.

Now, as an aspiring physician, I think back to the OHSU Sky Bridge when I need a moment of enlightenment and inspiration. It helps me reevaluate where I’m going and just why I’m going there. It feels as if this bridge was more than just a physical bridge, but a spiritual bridge as well. A child was what I was when I began my journey, yet what emerged from the other side was not a child, but a man. A young bird with a broken wing and a dream of one day flying with the eagles.

Bridge in The Sky

November 21, 2011

I try to live day by day
With a goal that’s on my mind
And I get a little bit closer everyday
To the place I wanna be in my life

I wanna be on a bridge
Up in the sky
Between two buildings
Where the clouds pass me by
As I walk across the bridge
I turn my head to see
A lost little child
Calling back at me
I’m filled with what I’ve found
My feet are off the ground
And I’m fi-i-inally free

I know you wanna help me
But I have to walk and fall
That’s the only way I’ll learn
If I ever learn at all

If I believe that I can fly
I’m gonna turn out all right
I won’t let life pass me by
Without taking my flight

I wanna be on a bridge
Up in the sky
Between two buildings
Where the clouds pass me by
As I walk across the bridge
I turn my head to see
A lost little child
Calling back at me
I’m filled with what I’ve found
My feet are off the ground
And I’m fi-i-inally free

I know it’s hard to believe
But I wanna show you what I see
Come take a leap of faith with me
Take my hand and let me show you
What I see
Everything that means anything
To me
Let me show you what I see

I wanna be on a bridge
Up in the sky
Between two buildings
Where the clouds pass me by
As I walk across the bridge
I turn my head to see
A lost little child
Calling back at me
I’m filled with what I’ve found
My feet are off the ground
And I’m fi-i-inally free

I wanna be on a bridge
Up in the sky
Between two buildings
Where the clouds pass me by
As I walk across the bridge
I turn my head to see
A lost little child
Calling back at me
I’m filled with what I’ve found
My feet are off the ground
And I’m fi-i-inally free

I’m filled with what I’ve found
My feet are off the ground
And I fi-i-inally see

The Game of Life

November 14, 2011

I didn’t get to play the card game with a full hand. That’s how I explain my life to others. As I sat down at the card table, it seemed everyone had a full hand but myself, who only had one card to play with. Frustrated and angry, I sat wondering how I was supposed to win this game with only one card. I bluffed my way through each round with a poker face, thinking that just getting by was the best I could hope for. I’d play this game as long as I could, if only to see how far I could get before my chips were spent. Life for me could have continued that way had I not had the courage to look into myself and see that though I had fewer cards than my opponents, the one card I had was an ace and that is all I need to win in life.

If You Believe

November 14, 2011

Someday you’re gonna fly
Far away from here
You’re gonna look back
And upon your cheek will lie a single tear
But you know
There’s something bigger
Something better waiting for you
So you’ll keep flying
Soaring towards your dreams
You believe

If you believe
In a pain for every season
If you believe
Your suffering has a reason
And in life
You’re given a choice
If you’re hurt
To give your pain a voice
If you believe

You’re far away now
And it hurts to think back
You wish you’d stayed now
But you knew the skies were black
Here it’s only open blue
But you’re so afraid to dive into
So afraid to cross the line
Of no return
Will you fly
Or crash and burn
You believe

If you believe
In a pain for every season
If you believe
Your suffering has a reason
And in life
You’re given a choice
If you’re hurt
To give your pain a voice
If you believe

You’re an old man now
Blessed with years of wisdom
You’ve seen just about everything
You’re only years away from God’s Kingdom
It turns out you crossed that line
And it looks like you did just fine
But still, every now and then
You turn around and look back again
You can’t help but wonder
As you stroll through the memories
Over and under
What if you never flew
What if you never knew
What if you never believed

If you believe
In a pain for every season
If you believe
Your suffering has a reason
And in life
You’re given a choice
If you’re hurt
To give your pain a voice
If you believe

If you believe
In a pain for every season
If you believe
Your suffering has a reason
And in life
You’re given a choice
If you’re hurt
To give your pain a voice
If you believe

If you believe

A Soldier at War

November 7, 2011

In every war there is an enemy. My war is no different in that sense, but my enemy is. My enemy lives in my mind, amplifying the darkest corners of my heart. My enemy is a master of psychological warfare. My enemy knows my every fear and exploits them in attempt to break me. My enemy uses my every weakness to crush me mercilessly. When life becomes too stressful, my enemy plants the suggestion of suicide in my mind. My enemy whispers into my heart, “Jaime, kill yourself. It’s the only way to end this pain.” What my enemy doesn’t know is that I’m one of God’s chosen few; an elite warrior created to give my pain and the pain of others a voice that sings only the glory of God. So I say to my enemy, “Hurt me. Do your worst, because I’d rather feel this pain than nothing at all.” My enemy knows I’ll win and my enemy is afraid.

Someday, Somewhere

November 7, 2011

Like a father figure
I hold her in my arms
And I know she’s leaving this world
As I try to keep her warm
I whisper a lullaby
As I help her family say goodbye
And when the family has left…
I sigh a prayer as a tear falls from my eye

Someday, somewhere
I’m gonna be there
And the world is gonna see
Everything I was meant to be
And those who held me back
Will understand my destiny
Someday, somewhere

With gentle hands
I cradle him as I would my brother
And he looks up at me with a smile
As I hand him to his new mother
I whisper a lullaby
As I wave the parents goodbye
And when the family has left…
I sigh a prayer as a tear falls from my eye

Someday, somewhere
I’m gonna be there
And the world is gonna see
Everything I was meant to be
And those who held me back
Will understand my destiny
Someday, somewhere

Someday, somewhere
I’m gonna be there
And the world is gonna see
Everything I was meant to be
And those who held me back
Will understand my destiny
Someday, somewhere

I’m gonna be there…

Faith Like Pee

November 7, 2011

“If you don’t pee by this afternoon, we’ll have to send you home with a catheter,” the nurse stated with an apathetic expression on her face. It was a mix of her words, the expression on her face and the stress of being in a hospital that filled me with intense dread. That and the anxiety of watching your body slowly lose it’s ability to function autonomously. Urinating had been getting harder and harder for me after each surgery. I simply was unable to do it without a skinny, plastic tube inserted into my penis. The thought of taking this home with me destroyed my motivation to keep living. Inside those healing walls where patients are cured, I wanted to die.

The nurses told me drinking more fluids would help, so I drank until I was vomiting all over myself again. The nurses told me walking would help ease my bladder, so I walked. Despite the pain it caused me, I walked. I decided to take one last walk before going home, already accepting that this catheter was coming home with me. My father walked behind me, prepared to catch me if I fell. I made my way from the adult hospital to the children’s hospital and from there, I made my way to the children’s surgery waiting room. A place I had spent many moments of my life, but not enough moments to exorcise the demons that lived within me. There would not be enough moments in my life to berid myself of them. I had accepted that reality too. These demons would be with me all of my life and I slowly learned to live symbiotically with them.

I found a children’s activity magazine and sat down in the empty waiting room (surgeries were always in the morning) to read through it. As I flipped through the pages, reading the stories and admiring the artwork, memories of my childhood inside this very hospital flooded through my mind. Before I could acknowledge my emotional pain, tears began to fall, staining the pages of the magazine. Sobs soon accompanied my tears and my father, who had been sitting beside me quietly, looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong?” “Why does it have to be this way?” I sobbed. My father looked at me and I could see immense sadness in his eyes. He didn’t answer my question. How could he? He must have asked himself the same question thousands of times. Instead, he stood up from his chair, walked behind me and silently began rubbing my shoulders. I could tell he was silently praying because the rubbing stopped and he simply held my shoulders for a moment.

We made our way back to my hospital room. Still feeling emotional, I took the urinating jug into the bathroom in one last attempt to urinate before going home with a catheter. I held the container under me, feeling the urge to urinate, but unable to do so. It was all too much now. I began sobbing, “God, please don’t leave me. Don’t abandon me.” “Help me pee, God… Please, don’t leave me,” I pleaded with tears in my eye. Almost immediately and without any difficulty at all, urine began streaming from me. Filling almost a third of the container, I urinated.

The Lord of the Universe, Creator of Everything, in all of His glory, helped me pee. Any doubts I may have had about His love for me and His plans for me were gone in an instant. I knew at that moment that I was not alone, that I was loved and that my God would always be at my side. My pain and suffering would not be without a reason. A feeling of relief and understanding enveloped me. A sense of purpose overcame me. I knew then as I knew when I was a small child that I was where I needed to be. Faith poured from me again… Much like my pee.

Invisible

November 7, 2011

I am the blind man you see everyday as you get on the bus to work. You forget that I am not deaf. I can hear your words of pity. I can feel your stares.
I am the deaf man you overlooked as you skimmed through the employment applications to choose the best applicant in the bunch. “He can’t hear,” you say to yourself. But he sees. He sees your unfair prejudice as you spit on all he’s fought to accomplish.
I am the lame man you look down on as you walk past me. You see only my chair and not the human being that sits upon it.
I am the mute man you roll your eyes at as I softly utter and gesture for assistance. I’m the difficult customer you’re forced to put on a smile for and greet cheerfully. I lower my head in shame for bothering you.
I am everything you are afraid to look at. I don’t exist but only to pester you. My heart does not seek empathy, friendship nor love. I am not a human being.
I am invisible.

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