17 Years Later

Things were bad. On July 2nd, 1999, the day after my birthday, the depression started hitting me harder and harder. At the time, I was 215 lbs. As the days went by, I ate less and less. The week of my final suicide attempt, I had only eaten a slice of bread in a five day period.

I was at the lowest I had ever been. I dissolved 240 sleeping pills into a glass of KoolAde and drank it. You would think it would be a fairly painless and gentle way to leave this world. I barely made it to the bedroom before I collapsed. At some point I awoke laying in my own vomit while having a seizure and horrible hallucinations.  The pain was more than I could describe.  I’m guessing that when your internal organs shut down, your body doesn’t like it very much.”

In that moment, I begged God to let me live.  I didn’t want to die.  I tried to make it to a phone in my bedroom, but I could not stand. Each attempt brought on another seizure, all of which ended with an additional concussion from my head hitting a piece of furniture. There was no rationality in my head at that point.  Something lead me to try the phone in the kitchen downstairs. I crawled to the stairs but ended up falling down them. Laying, in the foyer, I gave up.

My memory is very spotty. I’m told I was able to interact with medical personnel, but the only memories I have are how loud the helicopter was, and hopelessly resisting as I was intubated and restrained.

intubate: insert a tube into (a person or a body part, especially the trachea for ventilation).

hematoma: a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues.

I was taken to the local hospital in Morristown via ambulance and then flown to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.  I awoke a few days later on a dialysis machine and my right leg flayed open on both sides.  The sleeping pills had taken toll on my kidneys and liver, the fall down the stairs caused a large hematoma in my leg and I apparently laid in such a was that no circulation could get to the leg.  Necrosis had set in.

“There are no relatives, friends, or anyone available to talk to…I think is at risk to potentially lose his right lower extremity to amputation, perhaps even [above the knee.]”

Daily, hospital staff would debride my open incisions which ran from above my ankle to below my knee on both sides of the leg. During this procedure I was transferred to a stainless steel table. My right leg was sprayed with uncomfortably hot water. Two would hold me down and one would scrub and scrape out the necrotic flesh. I would scream until I no longer had voice to scream and would often pass out from the pain.

Debride: To remove dead, contaminated, or adherent tissue and/or foreign material. To debride a wound is to remove all materials that may promote infection and impede healing. This may be done by enzymes (as with proteolytic enzymes), mechanical methods (as in a whirlpool), or sharp debridement (using intruments).

“The patient was dialyzed on 07-17-99 and underwent dialysis every other day until discharge.”Discharge

When your kidneys and liver are not functioning, pain medication is in short supply. The leg hurt more than anything else. Dialysis, is surprisingly painless.

While I’m told I came in and out of consciousness, my first lucid moment was around the fourth day. I awoke during dialysis. It freaked me out. I was still restrained. However, the staff calmed me down and informed me that this was my second dialysis treatment.

Gradually, they were able to close the incisions on my leg without skin grafts. Eventually, my kidney and liver functions started to improve. Lastly, a physical therapist had to teach me how to walk on my damaged leg.

Two week later, I was discharged. I no longer weighed 215 lbs; I weighed 155 lbs.

Until we can eliminate the prejudice and hate against my transgender brothers and sister, this is the fate that awaits many of us. Most won’t be so lucky as I was.