Lisa Pond died alone. She collapsed on a cruise ship, and her partner and three kids who followed the ambulance weren't allowed to see her. And while there are some who argue that it wasn't homophobia that kept this family apart in extremis, it can certainly be argued that a lack of compassion and a lack of empathy did...
Full credit for the article above to Joan Gerry of Lambda Legal.
Thanks to TheAdvocate for the picture
The story that Joan tells bothers me on several levels. Not just that kids weren't able to be with their Mom as she passed. That Lisa Pond died alone needlessly, as they were there at the hospital. That Janice Langbehn wasn't able to be with her partner.
It bothers me because I had an aortic dissection about 12 years ago. My aorta blew like a bad seal, and I collapsed. I was amazingly lucky to survive. 26 and a half hours of surgery, 267 units of blood, plasma, and platelets, the work of an amazing surgeon and stellar team, and a lot of luck.
When I awoke, it was to my girlfriend. It was about 20 some odd hours after my surgery. I was jacked up. Spinal block, they'd had to literally vacuum my left lung out because it had filled up entirely with blood. All the ribs attached to the right of the sternum had been detached and then lashed back down. I had run out of room in my arms and hands to put lines and IVs, and they'd been forced to put them in neck and along my collar bones. I had a machine breathing for me, and while I was out they replaced my ascending aorta and the valve it was attached to with Daycron and a lovely artificial spinning dohickey that seems to be doing just fine after all these years.
I mention this out of perspective. Because when I woke up, and as jacked up as I was, I knew immediately that Laura was there by my side. She held my hand, and while I was on a spinal block, and couldn't move, she was there. She was with me, and she stayed with me. Together, she helped keep me awake and concentrating on keeping my pressure up--I was far from out of the woods, and I have no doubt whatsoever, that she was just as responsible for keeping me alive as my doctors.
Laura and I weren't married. She was my girlfriend, and we'd been together 8 years, and I was lucky to have collapsed in Massachusetts, not just because Dr. Rousseau happened to have been in the parking lot ready to leave after a day in surgery already, nor just because I had my dissection only a few miles away from Bay State Medical and one of the best cardiac teams on the East Coast, but because I collapsed in a county that recognized that not everyone who is together gets married. In Western Mass those 12 years ago, it wasn't even legal for some folks to get married.
For me, this case hits very close to home. Because I know how important it is to have someone close. How much it can affect your chances of survival. How much you can actually hear when the doctors and the nurses all think that you're well gone and past the point. My own team, after all their work, were pretty sure that I'd be a vegetable. Most folks who have dissections like mine die within the first 20-30 minutes. It was 40 by the time I got to Bay State thanks to being taken to Cooley Dickenson and sent on to Bay State. I was awake for ambulance trips, and to this day I thank those crazy bastards--it was snowing like mad, and they drove like hell. I was lucky that I had very big blood vessels in my neck that didn't need a lot of pressure to get blood through. I was even luckier that Laura was there, and I couldn't let her down.
While the case seems, to some, like there was no real hope, I know that folks can beat the odds, especially if they have that reason to live near by. Janice Longbehn and her children will never know if they might have made that difference. They never even got a chance to be with their loved one when it counted most, and were walled off by the staff from being informed of what was going on.
I was lucky. I was lucky that I had the good fortune to have something horrible happen where I did, and that my girlfriend was there, and she got me through that first terrible night. I had a good reason to live, and I knew that, so I did. And my deepest fear is to wake up, and be trapped, unable to communicate, and alone. That didn't happen, and I'm glad that Laura and I played goofy games, because for about a week I had to communicate with squeezes because I was too weak to speak.
The idea that we would keep loved ones from those in extremes just stuns me. And I hope that we can work towards a place where things like this don't happen again. That we don't have to hope that we're lucky to have bad things happen someplace "civilized" when we're in America.
So, I hope that we can remember Lisa Pond. And I hope that we can remember Janice Langbehn. And I hope that we can remember that not all families are the same and that when folks talk about never hearing about cases of families really being torn up, we can maybe put that horrible banal evil to rest. And that we can remind folks that this horrible myth of the "traditional" marriage and "traditional" family didn't even exist in the mist soaked 1950s, and that it's not asking for special rights or more rights, it's about having compassion. About putting ourselves in someone else's shoes, and extending to everyone the courtesies that we would hope were extended to us in the same situation.
And when someone brings up that banal excuse that they don't know anyone, then maybe we can not let Lisa Ponds' death be entirely in vain.
Originally posted on Wed May 20, 2009 at 00:18:30 AM EDT at The Motley Moose