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I woke up from a coma, about a week later, DIOS MIO!! What a terrible experience! I wished I wouldn’t have opened my eyes again, but I did, and I had to confront the cruel reality. I remembered I was in a very dark, and small room, a couple of souls was there with me, my sister and her husband, I think. I tried to move, I couldn’t, I tried to get out the bed, I couldn’t, and when I tried to speak and ask what was happening, I couldn’t do that either. I started to cry, but I couldn’t cry out loud like a normal person, only moaning and big, ugly gestures were showing. It was such a devastating, frightening and miserable situation, I can’t describe it, like a nightmare! I was feeling so sorry for myself, thinking my life was over, and I turned into a living vegetable. I couldn’t look straight, my neck was all messed up, twisted like when a chicken gets killed by grabbing it from the head and spinning it around. I wasn’t able to stay lying down on my back, because every bone of my body hurt. I had to be only on my right side, and my head was in the opposite direction. My only way to communicate with them and answer back and forth any questions was by blinking my eyes.
I couldn’t breathe, so a tube was put in my neck to help me get enough air in my lungs. A feeding tube was inserted into my belly, as well, because I couldn’t eat, or swallow anything. After nearly, a couple of months, the hospital told my sister and beloved mother, who came in to see me at the hospital, they couldn’t take care of me anymore, they had to, either, send me back to Mexico, or look for another place/hospital that would take me in. They found a hospital, that accepted people like me, in the city of Berkeley, so I was sent all the way there. I was discharged from the hospital, Memorial Hospital, of Santa Rosa, around September 2003, maybe, while I had a UTI infection.
I had a terrible time in the hospital of Berkeley, I don’t remember what was it called, or the name, I just know if my family didn’t get me out of there, I wouldn’t be alive today! The UTI was spreading very fast, because I wasn’t cleaning, bathing, and suctioning the flame/mucus from my neck, as often as required, so it was consuming me quickly. Luckily, my family found a hospital in the city, of Healdsburg, ready to take me in. I got transferred a couple of months before the end of the year, when I arrived at that hospital, the UTI was so bad, it was all the way up to my neck. The very first day, they took care of it, cleaned it and changed the collar, suctioned it, and treated me nicely! I started to get better and the infection soon disappeared.
The year of 2003 hit the final day, and I was going to spend the arrival of 2004 in a hospital bed, alone and unable to celebrate, or do anything. HOW SAD! I don’t wish that situation to my worst enemy. As time traveled, I got better, it didn’t seem like, but I did, and v the infection went away. There was in the hospital a young nurse assistant, or how are called, CNA, he was very nice and smart. He started sitting me in a wheelchair and figured out a way for me to communicate with my family and friends. He attached and taped, a laser light on a baseball cap, and a letter board with the alphabet posted on the wall in front of my bed. That way, I could wear the baseball hat and point to the alphabet letter board, when necessary.
In 2004, the desire to learn English started to grow in my head, but I had no idea how to begin, my options were very tight. I started reading a bilingual dictionary, one with English on the right side and Spanish on the left, or vice-versa. I had my bed elevated from the head all the way up, so I could be in a sitting position and placed the book on my lap. The nursing staff put the call button under my chin, it was a round shape pad, so I could press it whenever I needed the page flipped over. The social worker of the hospital, sometimes, brought bilingual magazines and read them to me, she was very nice! Surprisingly, I was absorbing some words very quickly, I wasn’t a “burro” 😂 ! When I was a little kid and go to school, the smart kids used to call “burro” the non-smart ones. I was able to learn enough English to communicate with my nurses and nonspeaking Spanish people. They had terrible times trying to put together sentences and decipher what I tried to say, I didn’t know much about grammar, but I didn’t care, I felt pretty good about myself.
I had over two years since my unfortunate life almost ended, yes, it was the beginning of 2006, so quick, right!? They at the hospital purchased a laptop, pc windows HP, and a baseball cap with a stick attached to it, so I could poke the keyboard with it. I have never had anything like that before, I thought it was AWESOME! I had no idea how to operate a computer, TURN IT ON, I didn’t know how! Technology was the first time I learned about that stuff, and I LOVE IT. It was quite difficult to hit the keys from the keyboard with my wand, Oh jeez! I took several weeks, to get the hang of it, but I did it. I was so desperate for a taste of food, suck candies and lollipops, and drink a coca-cola with ice cubes in it, but to my unfortunate being, that was a NONO! I am so happy to say that, “miracles” are indeed amazingly true, and happened when you hold on to your faith in God for real and never let go.
One day, after I had a shower, a nurse came into my room, she was going to change the collar for the tube I had on my neck, Tracher, to help me breathe, but she couldn’t, because I had no such tube; it was hanging completely off my neck, and I was breathing normally without it, WHAT!? Then the same thing happened to my feeding tube, it sprout off my stomach one night, “it could’ve been put back in by the nurses or a doctor”, you may say, I couldn’t agree more. However, they weren’t able to do it, they were thinking about sending me out to Santa Rosa hospital, but it was during the weekend and for some reason, they couldn’t. Since I knew a couple of words in English, I was bugging them constantly to feed me real food and water, so they agreed to ask for the speech therapist to evaluate me, and she did. I almost flunk, but I did it, I was able to swallow! I started getting fed by the nurses, pureed food and thick liquids, NOT very tasty food, but I was very excited about eating again.
Because I could eat, drink, and breathe without the Tracher and feeding tube, the hospital couldn’t keep me with them anymore, I had to go to a nursing home. It was a bittersweet excitement. I loved my nursing and all the staff members, but I was so excited to get out of the hospital.
It was the last few months of the year, 2006, when they were trying to find a place for me to go. They found a nursing home in Sonoma, California, my sister, and her family were living there, so they thought, it would be good for me to be close to family members, it was called, London House, at the time. I was scheduled to leave Healdsburg hospital sometime in January 2007. I was wondering what a nursing home was, I never heard that name, or seen one before, it was going to be a completely new experience for me, so I asked what was that. I was told that it was a big facility where many elderly people live in because of age, or health problems. Also, they said, a nurse was in charge to take care of a lot of people, at the same time. I got a little nervous when I heard that, but I thought, what could be worse than living in a hospital!?
A week went by, time to remove the stitches from my belly. I was very happy, actually, I was beginning to eat and swallow, not too much and hard food, either. For instance, any meats, beans, or tortillas, which were one of my favorite things to eat, were a big “NONO”, my stomach wasn’t strong enough to handle it yet, I was improving and that was what mattered. In those days, I was starting to get off the bed and walked a little bit, I was hoping to heal soon and get out of the hospital. It was Thursday, July third, a day before Independence Day, a doctor came to me to do his regular check-ups. He said, young man, because you’re doing so good, there’s no reason to keep you here any longer, you’re going home Monday, July seventh. I was immensely happy to hear that, I couldn’t believe it. I have to do a check-up on you, the doctor added. He checked my heart rate, my breathing, my whole body. Suddenly, he spotted a big bruised formed in my right side above my hip; it was huge, and every time he squeezed it, oh-gee!! it hurt. It was an infection, he explained, we need to applied surgery to extract all the bad liquid that is inside causing problems. Now, don’t be alarmed, it will be a very small operation, just to insert a little plastic tube to absorb the juice, and we will be done. It doesn’t change anything, you still can leave on Monday, “feeew! “ I sweated cold water.
Around 5:00 in the afternoon, some medical staff came for me to take me to the surgery room. My brother-in-law stepped in the room and found me in the stretcher bed. Where are you going, Cuñado? He asked, the doctor found an infection in my right side, but it’s nothing too preoccupied, they just have to insert a little tube to absorb the bad blood inside, and that’s it. So,I didn’t think it was necessary to alert anyone and make you all worry about it, for no reason. Oh, ok! They took me to the surgery room and promptly put me under anesthesia, I fell asleep, and they proceeded with their thing. I don’t know how long it took, when I woke up, I was already back in my room with a drainage thing hanging on my right side. It was already nighttime, and my brother-in-law was already gone. I was still drowsy from the anesthesia, so I just closed my eyes and go back to sleep.
The following morning, a nurse’s assistant interrupted my beauty sleep to take my vital signs, lame! I was sleeping so well. 😂 Then I had small breakfast pancakes with syrup, and got off the bed to go for a walk. It was Friday, the fourth of July, I spent it wandering around the hallways. At 9 pm, I went to the window to watch the fireworks from the hospital, many patients, and their families began to gather, as well to see the lights displayed. Boom, boom! The fireworks started to fill out the sky with brightness, amazing colors, and shapes. I was having fun enjoying watching the show and the people, with my IV pool aside like a weapon! The artificial lights kept going for about 15 to 20 minutes more. After the show finished, everyone returned to their rooms, and their relatives went home. I went to bed and tried to sleep too, but I couldn’t, my mind was so restless, all I thought was about Monday, my big day!. I used to say to myself, when I get out of here, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that, be over here and over there, and why not, tried to be a better human being this time.
Monday arrived, finally! after a long weekend waiting for it. I got off bed bright and early, hoping to go home quickly. However, the nurses told me I wouldn’t be discharged until the afternoon. Oh, no! why not now? I asked, the person who is supposed to pick you up is not able to come in and get you at this time, oh well, better late than never, I replied. I walked down the hallway and back to the room, and took a glance at the clock hanging on the wall, hoping to see the handles advance quickly, but they seemed to run backwards instead. I was just anxious to get out of there, I guess, and because of that, a few more hours felt like an eternity. I laid down and got up, laid down and got up, and so on, until the time to leave the hospital finally hit the spot.
Around four o’clock, my brother-in-law arrived for me. We signed a bunch of papers, then the medical staff took me out in a wheelchair to the vehicle, we climbed into the car and headed to Sonoma! When we arrived home, my sister was working, luckily I have a wonderful sister; she requested to get off a little earlier. She got home a couple of hours after our arrival and made dinner for her family and me. She had a difficult decision to make regarding the food, because she did not know what to cook for me, as I was just released from the hospital. I wasn’t hungry anyway, I explained to her. She said in an upsetting voice, are you saying to leave you without dinner until tomorrow morning, are you crazy!? You know, I won’t do that, okay sister do whatever you think is good, and I’ll eat it. She cooked something very simple—simple but delicious—chicken noodle soup. Everyone sat down at the table and ate: my sister, her husband, my two nephews, and one niece. I glanced once in a while at their plates, because they had something different from mine. I thought, even though mine was okay, theirs looked pretty darn good!
We finished dining and went to take a seat on the couch for a little while to digest the food. We were chatting and watched TV, and after about 30 minutes, I decided to go to bed. My nephew allowed me his bedroom that night because it was right next door to my sister’s one, so she could keep an eye on me.
I was sleeping and around midnight a sudden pain in the head woke me up. It was very severe. I started feeling very dizzy and without strength. I tried to get out of bed and sit down on the edge, but I couldn’t do that. The pain in my head was extremely high and merciless. I felt miserable. Everything was spinning around, and every time I made the effort to get up, my whole body felt weaker.
Finally, after several tries, I managed to do it. However, I had to reach out and hold myself with a curtain that was over the closet by the bed because, if I didn’t do that, I would’ve fallen backwards again. My sister heard me struggle and shouted, “Pancho, are you ok?” I didn’t have almost any strength left to answer back, but I didn’t want her to worry about it; so I made the effort to reply and said, yes, I’m fine sister, even though I wasn’t. I reached out for a pair of pills that the hospital prescribed for me, I drank two and laid back down. After a while, I slept.
Another terrible headache woke me up. It was stronger this time. I tried to get out of bed, but that time was way too powerful. It made me break down. My sister heard me moaning terribly and immediately ran toward me. She found me struggling in the bed, rolling and tossing and trying to get up unsuccessfully. She was so scared and freaked out. She asked me, “Brother, what happened? How do you feel? Tell me, what’s the matter with you?” I could hardly answer her. My voice was fading away. My sight was blurry. I felt like the room, the bed, and everything around me were spinning very fast. “I don’t know. I can’t get up, and my whole body is getting stiff.”
Suddenly, I started throwing up weird green stuff and began shivering as well. My sister shouted at my niece to dial 911. She called for an ambulance and told them to come quickly. About 5 minutes after my niece called, the paramedics were knocking at the door. They questioned my sister about what happened, but she didn’t speak English, so my niece told them.
Then, they asked me, “How do you feel? Can you get up and help us to get you into the ambulance?” My niece replied, “No, he won’t be able to do that.” Then they put me on a thick blanket, grabbed it from the corners, and lifted me up to bring me out of the bedroom and put me into the ambulance. I remembered them asking me questions like, “What’s your name? What’s your day of birth? What day is today?” All the basic stuff. But most of them I couldn’t answer.
When we got to the hospital (a different hospital), everything was confusing. The medical staff thought I was high on drugs or intoxicated because I was still having convulsions and trying to vomit. Thus, they proceeded to make a lot of blood tests on me. My sister was very desperate to watch me (basically dying), but she did not know what to do. Because of her lack of English, and not being able to communicate with the doctors who were treating me, things were even worse for her.
My sister’s daughter had to go to school, and her husband was on a job, so she was alone in these agonizing moments. She called her husband and asked him to come in quickly to the hospital because I had a terrible relapse. The last thing I remembered was watching my sister and her husband hugging each other, and crying bitterly, like there was no hope left, and they were expecting the worst. Suddenly, everything went dark on me. I lost consciousness and entered in coma stage, I was told.
It was Sunday morning, June 21 or 22, 2003. My friend and I, had a terrible hungover from the night before, we spent it drinking in downtown Windsor. We had to go to Santa Rosa, Ca., a city nearby, that day. My friend was a member of a soccer team, and the team was scheduled to play later on that day, so he needed to go. I didn’t have to go, but we used to go everywhere together, so that day wasn’t going to be the exception. We jumped onto his pickup truck, Nissan Frontier, and headed towards Santa Rosa, but we made a quick stop at a gasoline station to get a case of beer, just to treat the hungover, according to us! We arrived at the soccer field, and a bunch of people was already there, men, women, and children. They were, most of them, from our hometown in Mexico. A group of guys, including us, gathered in a bubble to chit-chat, drink and enjoy the game. It was getting late in the afternoon, and the game was over, our team lost, by the way. My friend came back to rejoin us after the soccer team finished playing.
There was a (Taco Truck), most of the people, smart people, went to have something to eat, before going home, but a few others, and us, continued bending the elbow, if you know what I mean!
It was dark all ready and everybody was drunk; we had to leave, but no one in the group wanted to stop drinking. We decided to go to a place in Santa Rosa called “La Fondita,” a spot where you can drink, eat, and listen to the mariachis singing nice music. Also, you can delight the eyes with the waitresses serving the customers, very pretty “señoritas”. As the group was leaving the field, everyone agreed to wait outside the joint for the whole gang to arrive, so all of us could get a table together.
We were heading to the restaurant happy with the music at full blast, and with the bottle in our mouths, intoxicating ourselves even more. It was as if we were in some kind of competition against each other to see who could drink it faster. Suddenly, everything went blank on me, and I did not know what happened to me or my friend. When I opened my eyes, I was in the emergency room at the Memorial hospital in Santa Rosa, surrounded by doctors and nurses trying to bring me back to life. That’s when I realized, we suffered a massive car accident! My life was in jeopardy, and I had to have surgery immediately. The crash did extreme damage to several organs inside my abdominal areas and needed to be fixed. However, before they could make the operation, they needed to know about my family. Liability issues, you know, if something happened to me, kick the bucket, for instance, who was going to respond for me? I had to let them know where I was, and what had happened, so they could come to check on me. I didn’t know any words in English yet, so someone from the hospital was interpreting me. I knew I might not make it through the operation. So, I thought, “I got into this myself, nobody pushed me or put a gun on my head and said, “you better do this, or I’ll shoot you”, NOPE!. So, I didn’t want to let anyone know.
I woke up the next day, covered with tubes all over my face and body, “hurting horribly”. In fact, everything hurt whenever I breathe or blink my eyes. I made it though! ! I was in the intensive care unit because the doctors thought, I would not last long alive, regardless. Furthermore, hardly anyone could visit me while in the ICU, my family, if anyone. I was mostly sleeping, so I’m not sure.
More than 24 hours went by, and I was still alive. The doctors’ diagnostics were not very accurate, as they thought it was. Miraculously, I was starting to get better instead of worse. My God, king of kings, Lord of heaven and earth, and creator of every creature in the planet, big, small, human, nonhuman, underwater, land, and above the skies, had decided to give me another chance to live. My health continued to improve. I got transferred into a different room, away from the intensive care unit, “thank goodness!”. I was still hooked to all the hospital’s machines that help to stay alive; however, my recovery was coming along wonderfully. I thought so, everybody did.
Since I was in a different room, my family and friends could visit me anytime. I remember, sometimes when, either my relatives or buddies dropped by, as we were chatting. They started throwing out some terribly funny jokes that were too difficult not to break into laughter. My incision was too premature yet, so it was very painful, every time I smile or make the smallest gesture; my companion noticed right away because tears were actually rolling down my cheeks. They stopped playing around and tried to calm me down by saying, “stay still man, so sorry” we didn’t mean to hurt you. I lifted my head and looked at their faces full of guilt and remorse. My amusement grew up bigger, meanie me, huh! I just thought it was hilarious to see their expressions. After a while, finally my giggles went away, and the pain started to slow down. Everyone was quiet, they feared to make me laugh again too hard and cause reopening the wound, so They stayed for a few minutes more and then left home………
Hello! I’m Francisco “Pancho” Ramirez, from Michoacán, Mexico. I came to the USA at the age of 17, in March 1999. I arrived at my sister and her family’s house in Sonoma, Ca. I stayed with them for a month, or two, I’m not sure, worked for a couple of weeks in the vineyards, and then, headed towards Washington State. My father and two brothers were over there, so I thought, I should be with them. I arrived, I don’t know the exact date, it was April, or May, in a little, deserted, ugly town, called George, Washington. I got to their home, a tiny little one and not very accommodating, I was happy to see them again, but I was, sort of regretting, leaving California. However, as ugly as the town was, or I didn’t find the house comfortable enough, there was no way back, I had to get used to it.
I worked in the apple fields, in Washington state, apples are everywhere, just like here in California, grapes are! I was behaving during the first year there, but my brothers went back to Mexico, and I was left alone, well, my father was there. I was driving already, and starting to get to work by myself. I didn’t have a choice, I guess, my father had to go to work too, but not at the same place. I started to make friends, unfortunately, and started to drink, I used to drink when I was back in Mexico, so it wasn’t a new thing. It started to be a little too much, and it was getting in between my father and me. We I left the house and went to live with my friends, just a few yards away from where my dad was. Shame on me! I should’ve left far away and kept myself from embarrassing him.
I spent about four years in Washington state. Then, in 2003, I decided to try my luck back in California. It was the first month of the year, I’m not positive, January, or February 2003, maybe! I came down and stayed at my sister and her family’s house, again, for a few days. I was able to locate a friend from the same village, as I am from, in Mexico. We had a very nice conversation, reminiscing about our past while we were in Mexico, GOOD TIMES!! I explained to him my situation and my wish to find work and a place to live. I am living with my sister, I told him, but I don’t want to be a bother too long, even though they said, I could stay with them forever. I understood, he said, He was living and working in Windsor, California, and invited me to join him. I thought that was a great idea, but what about work? I asked him, I don’t know California, yes! I do know, he said. I’m going to ask my boss to give you work and allow you to live in the apartments of the company, as well. Do you live in the apartments where you work!? Of course, bro!! O. M. G!! I got very excited and without hesitation, I agreed to go with him. Hold your horses! I have to ask my boss, first, don’t get excited just yet, he said!
My buddy went ahead and asked his “Patron” about me, unfortunately, he had no space available at the company’s apartments, but he did give me a job. He told my friend, I could work for him, and then when one of his employees moved out, I could move in right away. We loved the idea! My friend had an uncle, living in Santa Rosa, 15 minutes away, and he worked there too, he told my friend, I could come in to live with him and his family, while I was waiting for an opening. Super! I moved in with his uncle and family. They were very nice people, I was very comfortable living with them, but the opportunity to go with my brother, from another mother, showed up, so I left and join him. We were doing good, working a lot, typical in the US, but we loved to go out and get wasted, literally, living check by check…