Sep. 18, 2021

IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS---WHAT REALLY MATTER?

"I easily-remember the first time I met Fred from Atlanta, Georgia.  Tall, dark, and handsome, Fred had “a look” that turned heads.  Attracted to my oldest daughter, Fred had invited her to join him for a dinner date. Soon after meeting Fred, I left Atlanta and returned to live in my hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  By this time both of my daughters were working in Atlanta while also attending local colleges. I don’t know how long my oldest daughter dated Fred before abruptly ending their relationship. I only remember asking her “WHY” but…she chose not to answer my question. I learned more specific details when—late one night---I received a long-distance call from Fred. I listened for more than 3 hours while a very sensitive young man, someone I barely knew--- shared years of personal hurt, tragedy, and multiple disappointments.  I listened… and learned.

From an early age, Fred showed promise as a swimmer.  So much so that he ranked among the professional swimmers being groomed for the Olympics.  He received full scholarships to the most outstanding colleges and universities and was in the process of making his choice when tragedy hit.   In fact, Fred was returning to the US from a Swim Competition in Hawaii when he began hemorrhaging.  His bleeding was so out-of-control, the plane returning him to America had no choice but turn-around and fly Fred back to Hawaii.  Surgeons moved quickly to save Fred’s life.  His father--the only family member traveling with Fred--had no choice but hurriedly sign the consent for surgery form.   Without immediate surgery, Fred would die.  Without hesitating, Fred’s father signed the form, allowing doctors to remove 3/4 of his son’s intestines, his colon, and his rectum. 

I heard the anguish in Fred’s voice; the permanent-anger toward his father. Losing his major organs in one operation was—indeed--a shocking experience for someone so young.  Learning that his bodily functions would no longer be “normal”--- that for the rest of his life, this promising young man would wear an ileostomy bag attached to his side---must have been beyond devastating.  I continued to listen as Fred talked about his teenage acne and how he’d anguished over every bump.  When an Atlanta dermatologist suggested Fred try the newest wonder drug for acne called ACCUTANE…Fred could hardly wait to begin using it.

As his skin miraculously improved….Fred decided to increase the dosage for faster action.  After all, he was young, handsome, and single, and wanted to look-good at all his swim meets. His skin kept looking better and better while his doctor issued more and more Accutane refills.  Yes, Accutane was brand new.  It received rave reviews and was considered a miracle, a WONDER drug.  No one thought-twice about side effects--certainly not Fred--until his near-death experience.

Today, Accutane is off the market. Deadly hemorrhaging occurred in too-many cases; side effects became too-numerous and too-deadly. The last time I checked, the internet was “over-run” with Law Suits filed on behalf of Accutane users. I know that Fred was one of those Law Suits….I just never heard the results.

Fred and I became telephone-friends. I’ll always believe he was desperate to feel “accepted” ...especially by women. We had numerous conversations, even after he learned my daughter was seriously-involved with another man. The last time we spoke, Fred mentioned he’d begun dating a nurse on a regular basis. I pray that Fred found lasting happiness with someone who could accept his medical condition and appreciate his outstanding qualities.

Only once was I able to get my daughter to comment on her brief relationship with Fred.  She said: “Mother, when he hugged me…there was a crackling sound like he had a wad of cellophane or plastic-- in his pocket.  I knew something was different and it scared me. I didn’t want to find out what it was because, well----I don’t like weird".

When we’re young, romantic, and loving life... just-maybe we aren’t ready for “different”.  I understand.  But it seems such-a-shame when “just around the corner” from different-- lies a world of possibilities--- including happiness--and just-maybe--love.  As caring individuals, I’d like to think we could simply move far-beyond a person’s exterior and appreciate their interior-- their heart. In the end, that’s all that should really matters.

 PS. The male model in this photo is a real body builder who lost his intestines due to cancer. He's now a survivor--and proudly shows his ostomy bag in photographs.  Never apologize for what "assists" you in living the best life.