Can You Imagine

By Kathleen Navarich

Editor's Note: This is a piece created by a Fort Lyon resident in one of our creative writing classes led by writer-in-residence Kathy Conde last fall. 

Can you imagine someone sewing both sides of your stomach closed? Can you imagine someone sticking a tube into your intestines through the tender, soft flesh of your belly? Then being told, "This is the only way you will ever be able to receive nourishment again." Your mouth, forever after, watering for the things you can no longer enjoy, as you lay there craving your mom's fried potatoes. Can you imagine being so addicted to a drug you would literally die for it? Your heart would stop, and you would awaken with a searing pain punching through your chest that would leave you bruised for days afterward. A drug so insidious you crave to be released from the hospital just to do some more. My name is Kat, and this is what happened to my baby girl, my daughter Jennifer, one that I can only imagine. I would like to share with you the hideous insanity of how a drug called Spice/K2 ruined her life: stealing her beauty and love for life, rendering her not much more than an invalid with little desire to live.    

I was living in Redding, California, when I received a Facebook message from Jenny, my daughter. It read, "Momma I'm sick, I need you, I'm dying!" Fear gripped my insides: I ran to the bathroom and started throwing up, tears streaming down my face. Sweating, I made my way back to my computer. I sent a message back telling her I would get her a ticket on the first flight I could find. She wrote back, "I can't Momma, my doctors are here, please come to Denver." I replied, "I'm on my way!"    

When I arrived in Denver, I was shocked to see my once beautiful daughter. Her hair was grayer than mine and unbeknownst to me, she had a hole in her throat to breathe and speak through called a tracheotomy tube. She wasn't at all excited to see me and acted very distant, her eyes a dull gray. (My mind flashed a picture of bright sparkling sapphire blue eyes, full of laughter and mischief looking up at me. "I didn't let the hamster out Mommy, honest.") She said she needed to pick up her medicine and asked if I had any cash. "Of course, sweetheart, let's go get it," I said. Jen took me to a rough-looking area and asked me to wait while she went to pick it up. I immediately knew something was wrong; she said it was for some medical marijuana, so she could eat.    

When Jenn returned, she sat on the grass and rolled the nastiest smelling joint, promptly smoking it down to nothing. I commented on the smell, and she admitted that it was Spice not exactly pot (marijuana) like she had led me to believe. I had no idea what it was, but they sold it legally over the counter at the time. She then admitted to me she was on probation and that was why she couldn't come to Redding. Jenn said, "Come on Mom, look at me, jail would kill me." Spice apparently doesn't make you come up dirty when they tested you for drugs and was also the reason why she had to have the tracheotomy. I wanted to know why she was on probation. "I'm not a child anymore; it was no big deal!" We got into a huge argument, and she stormed off, running and hollering down the middle of the street—"You just don't understand, you'll never understand!"—leaving me standing, helpless, on the corner. In a town I had never been to before.  

I called a taxi, found a place I could afford to move into on my meager disability income here in Denver and proceeded to wait for her to contact me again through Facebook. I waited and searched everywhere in this strange, unfamiliar town, contacting the authorities to no avail, before my daughter finally contacted me again. Four excruciating long years had passed when, in May 2016, my Facebook messenger flashed. "Mom can I come see you?" I quickly responded. "Of course you can." As it turned out, she lived just three or four miles from me and had been for a couple of years, so close and yet so far. I was so relieved and excited to hear from her again, my palms were sweating, and my stomach was full of butterflies.

When she knocked on the door, all the joy in me evaporated, and I started to cry. My baby was so gaunt and haggard, her eyes—flashing the anger and defiance from our last meeting, all I had been able to see in my mind's eye, awake or asleep—now dull and lifeless. She let me hold her for a moment then pushed me away. They had removed her tracheotomy, which I took as a good sign. "Can I smoke in here?" she asked. "Of course," I said. While she was rolling, she lifted her shirt and showed me a small tube protruding from the left side of her once firm stomach, zig-zagging scars ran like a highway across her pale sagging flesh. I was stunned into silence. Jenn proceeded to light up another one of those joints she called Spice. I caught a glimpse of defiance spark through her eyes, and I was determined to do anything, go along with whatever, just to keep my 38-year-old child, my angel, my precious baby girl, from running away again. She started telling me how her heart had stopped and how three times now she died and woke up in the ambulance being shocked with those paddles. Jenny said the pain had been so unbearable that she had stayed bruised for weeks afterward. Her skin was paper thin, and she just wanted to die and get it over with. "Momma, you are the only reason I have left to live."  As my baby finished her joint, she immediately rolled another one and fired it up. I tried so very hard to endure the awful stench, but I was about to throw up. I had to tell her to put it out. "But I need it; it's the only thing that helps my pain. I'm NPO (nothing passes orally) now for the rest of my life." Her voice started to elevate, and I could hear the tremor. "I also have a DNR (do not resuscitate) order.” "Jenny, I love you with all my heart and soul, but if you must smoke that, you will have to sit on the porch while you smoke." I just could not condone her smoking it in the house, after all this is the drug that had crippled her. She went outside and sat on the steps. Jenn's coughing stopped, so I peeked out the blinds. She had disappeared again.

Little puffs of cold air escaped my mouth as I walked up to my porch and hurried inside. It had been snowing for several days nonstop, and we had gotten at least 5 ½ inches of snow just over the last 13 or 14 hours. The windows were fogged over from the laundry I was drying, and the fresh smell of coffee I had made demanded my immediate attention. My old bones ached as I drew patterns on the cold glass of my kitchen windows while I sipped coffee from my steamy mug, wondering where my daughter might be. So lost in my fearful thoughts I almost jumped out of my skin when the phone started its shrill ringing. As I hurried to pick it up, I kept saying, "Please let it be Jenn, please let it be Jenn, please Lord; Hello. . . (silence), Hello?" A weak, tiny voice said, "Mommy I'm in the hospital, I'm going to die. . . Help me, please Mommy, don't hang up!" Big fat, hot tears flooded my eyes and dripped into the coffee I had forgotten I was holding. I looked down, unseeing as it shattered on the floor, and sank to my knees. "I'm here my baby, Mommy's here, I'm not going to hang up. Where are you, sweetheart?  What's wrong?" My voice shook as my mind said, "Not again, please Lord, no more." There was a loud roaring in my ears. Shaking my head, I forced myself to get a grip. Jenny needs me. My daughter's words came back to me, full of terror, something I had never heard from her before. "They put a pic in my heart, (she was panting) and my body rejected it, (her words running together breathlessly) it's infected, I have a yeast infection in my blood, and I'm going to die. They have me in the Intensive Care Unit for communicable diseases. I need my Mommy; I need you sooo badly, I'm scared. Please come see me!" I fought to find my voice; I could feel my heart pounding as little flutters went through it, and I prayed. "Please Lord Jesus, help me." The taste of bile and salty tears filled my mouth. I swallowed over and over to keep from vomiting. "Calm down my baby, tell me what hospital you are in. I'm on my way."

As I walked into the hospital, a multitude of smells hit me, and my stomach rolled. I was afraid of what I would find this time, how much more could my daughter's mind and body take. Jenny was as pale as a ghost, her eyes sunk deep in her head, big and round and full of fear. She took hold of my hand with more strength than I would have thought possible and didn't let go. We cried as I held her tight and whispered soft cooing words of comfort and stroked her hair until she relaxed in a fitful slumber. All of this was the result of Spice. 

It has taken three long months of intensive care, and I will never have my daughter back. Jennifer has the mentality of a 6- or 7-year-old most of the time now. I am working on taking certified nursing assistant classes, so I might be able to one day care for her myself at home. Jenn will never be able to bathe herself again or eat or drink, ever. We are taking it one day at a time, and each morning I pray won't be her last. Spice/K2 is a killer; we need more about it in the media and education in our schools. I speak with people all the time that have no clue how deadly this synthetic marijuana is. They take grass, hay, herbs of any kind and spray it with poisons like wasp killer, and any other chemicals they can think of, then sell it cheap on the streets to our children. Please don't let it happen to your child.