How to fail

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill

How it Began
It was a sunny and cold afternoon as the entire class began to walk in and sit down before class started. As always, we all talk about life and other courses—what was more fun to hear about what had happened in other classes? Dr. Patricia comes in; like always, we remain in our seats and doing our businesses until it was time for class to start. Everyone quiet down and begin to pay attention as soon as Dr. Patricia started to talk. Her class always seemed so long due to the horrendous and lengthy notes, but we were finishing up a documentary that day. Twenty minutes into class, we were done with the documentary. We thought that we would be able to leave early like other previous times. However, that day she said she would share a story since we were all seniors in that class and a few of us were not going to return in the spring—except to walk across the stage.

A Story No One Expected
Dr. Patricia told us about her days in college. Like us, she was young and excited. She didn’t fear the future as the present was all that mattered to her. Dr. Patricia told us about how she spent her first-year partying and hanging around a bunch of hippies. Eventually, she became a hippy herself and dropped out of college.

“I know many of you go clubbing on Thursdays and enjoy getting drunk instead of studying. Yeah, I know because I was the same. I spent my days having too much fun that I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree until I was a few years older than all of you right now.”

She spent the following year enjoying her life and freedom until she ended up with a guy and had her oldest child. Unfortunately, the man did not stick around. After her child turned two years old, she decided to go back to college and get her undergraduate degree. At that time, she had had enough time fooling around and wanted to get a promising career to support both her and her child. She told us the struggles of being a single mom and going to school with little to no help and support.

“There were times when I was up late at night studying, and I started crying. I just wanted to give up, but then it would be freezing cold in my house that I decided I needed to preserve through all it and get a better place to live.”

So, she persevered and eventually graduated with Latin Honors and was valedictorian of her class. She continued her education and, in graduate school, met her first ex-husband. They got married, and she had her second child after she earned her master’s degree. Unfortunately, she hit another bottom rock as she and her first ex-husband got a divorce, and now, he left her with two children. After a year of working, she decided to pursue her Doctor of Philosophy. That was also not easy.

“I had to carry my youngest on my back and hold my oldest’s hand while hiking up so many mountains to collect data and continue my grant research. It was so tiring and hard, but when I saw my children. I thought, ‘how much harder it must be for them hiking in the cold and heat, not being able to have a proper meal, and how exhausted they must be just wanting to take a nap.’ I had to comfort them while I had no one to comfort me, but I was fine with that. I thought to myself, as long I made it through all this trouble and got a better job, everything will pay off.”

Once again, she persevered and earned her Ph.D. She did not land a good-paying job right away, but eventually, she made her way up in her career. As for love, she managed to find the perfect man and married him. Together they had two children, but soon they had their differences and thirteen years later divorced. They remained best friends even after he re-married. For her, that is one successful relationship. Finally, she decided to spend her later years teaching, which brought her to our campus. In 2016, she decided it was time to retired.

“My entire life has been filled with lots of ups and downs. You can even say I spent most of my life failing. However, I want all of you to know that just because you fail at one thing doesn’t mean you have completely failed. Failing is part of success, and if you fail successfully, you will find a way to succeed. All of you made it this far, and I am proud of every single one of you. No matter where you all go from here, never give up.”

How I Learn To Fail Successfully
Thirteen years I spent in school, I have never heard “fail successfully.” All I ever heard from other people was that you have to pick yourself back up every time you fail. You have to learn from your mistakes and do not repeat them. However, learning from your mistakes is a given and does not require one to be a rocket scientist to know that. Nonetheless, I graduated, and before pursuing my master’s degree, I have been through endless ups and downs. Even now, I’m still going through a bunch of ups and downs. Whenever I felt like I was going to hit rock’s bottom, I told myself, “please just let me fail successfully.” For some odd reason, Dr. Patricia’s words always come back to me during hard times.

Over these past few years, I learned a lot about how to fail successfully. It begins with emotions; at least it was in my case. I learned that if I leave room to accept mistakes, even the pettiest mistakes, I will feel a lot better about making the mistakes. In the past, I did not allow a single millimeter for making mistakes, which is not healthy and very harsh. I like being perfect and being an overachiever. For the longest time, that was the image that I had built, and that was how other students and colleagues saw as my most desirable traits: perfect and overachieving. It became exhausting, and soon I was losing my sanity even at the slightest mistakes.

I used to blame others for my mistakes or pushed the blame onto someone else because of embarrassment. Now, I do not care. If I made a mistake, then so be it. I come out to accept my mistakes and make sure that everyone knows it was mine and not another person’s doing. Of course, I learn from it and analyze the “what.” What could I have done to make the situation better? What were better options that I had but could not possibly think of to ensure that the same or similar mistakes do not happen again? What went wrong, and how it went wrong? Most importantly, when I admit that I screwed up, I never followed up with “but” or “however.” Following up a “but” or “however” is just lame excuses to justify my actions. That is not acceptable. The more you try to sugarcoat or rationalize it, you will be less likely to learn from it and most likely repeat it.

“Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” ― Oprah Winfrey.

Everything Is Going to Be Alright
At some point, I started telling my friends, “everything will be alright. Just trust me.” I am actually screaming inside my head, “do not trust me. I do not know what is going to happen next. I am just saying this to make you feel better.” However, my friends always reply, “yeah, you’re right.” It could just be that they know I am trolling them, and they are just going with the flow. But a little positivity does not hurt, and sometimes it helps to bring better results when you felt like you have failed.

There used to be this kid in high school, and he was perfect in every single way. I remember how one of my friends, Becca, once said that he was just so perfect. Yes, she was right. He was just so perfect. So perfect that now I think about it, he is unrelatable. I never once heard him talking about any mistakes he made, nor have I heard other students talk about mistakes he made even during our undergraduate years. I used to think, what would he ever do if he ever made a mistake. Lucky for me, we ran into each other one day, and he solved my curiosity.

Surprisingly he recognized me and asked for my spare time. Of course, I had nothing better to do, so I grabbed Starbucks with him and learned that he was visiting his family for a few days. So, there it began. We catch up with one another, and he starts to update me about his life as if I had always been someone so important to him. Before I knew it, he tells me that I amazed him by still being me—carefree and untouchable. My response to him—I stopped caring about living up to people’s expectations because it was unrealistic. I just let my imperfections flow out because shit happens all the time, and I learned from them. I open up about my mistakes and failures to people I trust and can give me constructive feedback. I am no longer afraid of criticisms and failures.

However, it would be best if you never failed on purpose because while some mistakes are teachable. Some mistakes are impossible to rectify. Therefore, as awful as the mistakes can be, you will have to live with them. So, in situations where you know that you can prevent failure, you need to prevent it from happening. We are humans. We make mistakes. We learn from it. We are full of imperfections. Shit happens, but mistakes and failures can and will lead to success. Everything will turn out alright.

If Mails Can be send to Heaven

If there was a way to send letters to the dead, then I will probably be up late into the night writing endless letters. I won’t be writing long pages of letter, but rather short and straight to the point letters. The last few words I had to said to each person I had lost over the years. I’d asked them questions that I always wanted to ask, but never did. I’ll apologize to them for the mean and hurtful words I never meant to say. Lastly, I’ll let them how much I appreciated having them in my life.

To Sun Young, the friend that cooked me food when I was too lazy to do so,

I wish you would have listened to me and left his ass. It broke my heart when you took your life, then again at the same time I was not surprised at your action. You lived in a country with one of the highest suicide rate and one where divorce is shunned upon on. Did you finally find your grandmother in heaven? How is she doing? As much as I missed you, I also missed your spicy stir fry pork. Can you please send me the recipe to your secret sauce?

To Tyler, the kid I hated but loved because you were my friend,

It was only after a year after we graduated high school. We all made it through the first year of college, then as I scrolled through Facebook I saw the news. I even came to the memorial that our high school dedicated to you. Yes, you were right and I was wrong. You were that much of a great influence. LOL, just lying. A year later, I learned the truth that you took your own life because of girl. Why? Everyone was angry when we learned the truth. Then again, we were also angry because it was your big mouth aunt that let the secret out. Still though, why you do it? I finally gave up asking that question a year after your death, because after a few psychology classes I came to realize (or at the very least hoping) that you were showing signs of depression and anxiety. It all show through your Facebook posts. Are you still playing football up there? Most everyone from high school are married now. Did you find a beautiful wife or girlfriend? If not, it’s okay because me and a few other of our friends are still single.

To Abby, the girl who smiled too often and hide her true feelings

I always hated how optimistic you were, then again that’s probably why we became friends. I remember sitting in the hallway during a floor meeting with our RA’s and thought to myself “I need a friend like her to get rid of my negative energy.” Why didn’t you never let anyone know what you were going through? Why did you always had to smile when you were hurt, frustrated, and upset? You were like a robot, a smiling robot. I wish you would have expressed yourself more, but you kept yourself bottled up and never said a single thing. I always admired that about you. You never complained about how tired or frustrated you were, but kept smiling. Are you still smiling up there? Remember my dog, Coco? If you see her, you can keep her. She always liked you more than me.

To my old and frail maternal grandmother that became a stranger to me,

Were you sad that we never called or visited? If so, sorry for not calling more often. And trust me, if you had lived only a few minutes away instead of fifteen states away we would have visited you more often. I don’t remember what we even talked about during our last phone call. The only thing I remember was that you kept calling me different names. I was all giggles while reminding you of who you were talking to. It wasn’t until later on that I realized that you might have been suffering from Alzheimer’s. In fact, a lot of us (all your grandchildren) started suspecting that you were showing late symptoms of Alzheimers, but we didn’t knew it back then. Also, those Hmong clothes that you made for me, yeah they no longer fit. But they are store away in a safe place. I only wished we could have made more memories together.

To my grumpy paternal grandpa who passed away while calling out our names,

Every time grandma reminds us that when you were near your last breath you called out to us, but we weren’t there. It makes me frustrated because you were the one that choose to go lived in a state where you none of your own blood and flesh lived. Even after my dad and uncle begged you and grandma to come back, you guys never did. Why did you have to be so stubborn? Why didn’t you listen? That’s why you spent your last days being alone or nearly alone. I couldn’t even come your funeral because airplane tickets was so expensive, but did you know that I had to crammed five finals into two days so that my parents can come pick me up to make it for your funeral. It wasn’t hard, in fact it was all too easy for me. As you know, your granddaughter here can handle anything or almost anything. I hope you’re doing well up there. Also, you should give grandma a visit whenever you can so that she can lessen the nagging on us grandkids.

To my authoritative father, but a loving and supporting one,

Sometimes I wished you would have listened to us, more like mom. Why bother going out to help the community at your age? Especially since you were older and no longer healthy and strong. I get it that you said you are doin git for the sake of us, your children. However, we would have appreciate it if you had just stay home and do nothing strenuous. Now look at what had happened because you couldn’t stay still. Everything has changed. Do you miss us like we miss you? Is your skull back to normal? Sorry for signing the form to let them do the craniotomy, but I had too or we were going to lose you right then and right there. Can you finally speak now? Had I know that I was not going to hear your voice ever again, I would had called home more often. I’m sorry that you didn’t get a chance to go to community college like you wanted and I’m sorry that you had to be our father.

you can’t save everyone

I look into my friend’s eyes as I opened my mouth, “you can’t save everyone,” I tell her as her tears come down relentlessly. I get up to walk away but not before telling her “you did everything you can, it’s now up to him.” We all have been there before when we tried to “save” a friend or family member. We offer help endlessly, but the opposite party doesn’t change or accept our offers. Not everyone is meant to be saved by us and we’re not meant to saved everyone that comes into our lives.

A few years ago, I tried helping the same person. Once upon a time we were friends, the three of us, then that friendship was broken between him and me. His name is Jacob. There was many things happening in his life and it was affecting our friendship. His wife ran away leaving him with their son, he lost his job, became addicted to tobacco, lost his house, and basically lost his way. Not to mention he is on bad terms with his parents, because they now have custody of his son. I remember him coming to me crying and saying that he needed to change and a new job. I gave him resources and even places I knew that were hiring. When he needed a ride to work, I would give offer him one and sometimes pick him up and drop him off at wherever he was staying. That didn’t work out though, he couldn’t stay working at one place long enough. He stayed for a few days and then quit. It was a non-stopping cycle until I finally had enough. I remember telling him that if he wasn’t going to help himself then I no longer will help him. Additionally, I told him that he still owes me $20 and that I hated how he used my money to buy cigarettes instead of buying a gift for his son’s birthday, which was his original intent of borrowing my money.

Jacob and I no longer were friends, but he and Savannah still was. Moreover, Savannah always had a one sided love with Jacob and he knew that. After graduating high school, Savannah join the US Marines. She became a great woman. We see each other time to time and I have been keeping her updated with Jacob until I decided to cut all ties with him. That was when I told her he was hopeless and helpless. Nonetheless, she still kept in touch with him and give him a little bit of money when he asked for it. Eventually she helped find him job in which he lasted for two whole years. Everything seems like it was going great, Jacob eventually gave me back the $20 he owes me through Savannah. However, she voiced her concerns because he was not cutting back on the smoking, drinking, and that some of his new friends were on drugs. She was worried about him. I told her to stop wasting her time because it seems like he is not going to stop and help himself anytime soon. A few months go by and we come to the scene at the beginning of this post. Savannah shows up in front of my house unannounced in tears. Everyone in my family has gone to work and already except for me and my two younger siblings.

I don’t need to know what happened.”

“I don’t understand. Why does it has to happen?”

“He’ll come around one day. Hopefully before it’s too late.”

“I really thought he was changing for the better. Once again this just proves how stupid I am.”

“You can’t save everyone. So stop blaming yourself. You did everything you can, so now it’s up to him.”

“Once again you were right.”

“I know I am not always right, but also I’m never wrong.”

“I hate you.”

“I know. You hungry?”

A few days ago I pulled into Walmart and saw him. He was standing in the cold holding a sign that reads “Homeless and jobless. Any spare change will be great help. God bless you.” After the short shopping trip, I grabbed $60 from my purse and put it inside an envelope that I had crunched up. I found a pen and a scrap of paper. Quickly, I scribbled a few words and put it inside the envelope. I hand it to my sister, along with the food from McDonalds, a rotisserie chicken and bag of Hawaiian rolls. Then, I told her to go give it to the man as I take the cart full of our stuff to my car.

“Can you do me a favor?”

“What is it Savannah? You know I can do anything as long it’s nothing crazy and wild.”

“When you see Jacob again can you tell him that when he decides that he needs help, he can always come to me. Also, here is $60 to pay him back when he lent me money for that New York trip back in high school. He never wanted me to pay him back, so I never bother. But now, I guess he might need his $60 back.”

She Was Born a Woman

*Note: This is not my story, this is a story from a friend. All names have been altered for privacy purposes. Also, for anyone who gets offended by this story, please just move along with your life and don’t bother wasting the seconds of your life ticking away by leaving any hate comments.

It irks me that even though I along with many Hmong youths are born in the United States, our culture still has not change much at all. We live in the present, going to the future, but many of the older generations still keep to the old traditional ways. Practices that sometimes can be hurtful. Today, I share a story of a close friend that took her life years ago.

Pa was a bright young girl and who had her whole future plan ahead of her. We knew each other since we were young, then her family moved. Every other summer her family would come back down and visit, so we remain our close friendship. We spent days chatting on Facebook talking about our future. Then we graduated high school and went to college. We were plenty of states apart, but still we kept talking and inform each other about our classes. Complaining to one another about how challenging anatomy and organic chemistry was, yet at the same time learning from each other. A year went by and we survived freshmen year, then another year went by and we made it through our second year. Two more years left until we graduate! At least one of us made it through all four years.

The summer before we started our third year, Pa decided to hang out with some of her close friends. It was just three weeks away before move in day. She never made it back home. Instead, her parents got news that her friend, Tou, had took her to his home against her will. All elders on both side said that nothing can be fixed because his family has already welcomed her and she was part of their family. So, the wedding was schedule. Before her wedding date we talked on the phone and she was crying. She cried to me saying it wasn’t fair, he was to picked her up first then picked up the rest of their friends. However, he claimed he forgot his wallet so they went to his house. It was then when they both stood in front of his door, when his family opened it standing at with all the preparations.

She told me of how she resisted, but at the end he won because he was more physically powerful. She cried and cried as I listen to her story, then we both went to bed. The wedding went on and she got married. Then she got pregnant against her will and he made her quit school. A year later she got pregnant by force again, at this time I graduated and she called me congratulating me in tears. I asked her if she was happy, she said no and that her Tou was cheating on her. I comfort her to the best of my ability, but I know nothing could heal her wounds. A year later, she took her life after Tou beat her up so badly because she would not let him go out drinking with his friends. Her in-laws fail to protect her like they promised her parents and Tou fail to love and protect her like how he promised her family.

Two weeks ago, I ran into her little brother, he had moved back down with his older brother, and is currently attending university studying Women’s Gender and Political Science. I didn’t recognize him because he had grown into a nice and handsome young man, but he approached me while I was shopping at Walmart. We gave each other a hug and then I treated him to dinner. It was then that he told me, he decided to study Women’s Gender and Political Science because part of Pa’s last words to him was “my only mistake was that I was born a woman.”

a stranger’s talk

The store was so quiet, it is that time frame again where everyone is out getting dinner and about 2-3 customers shows up within an hour until we close for the night. Sometimes, if we are lucky no customers show up for the last hour and we close fifteen minutes early leaving right on the dot. As I grab the stool and sit on it while munching away on my Kit Kat bar, I began to stare into space. Four angry customers back to back over something I have no control (thanks a lot online orders) and I was dead tired. A walking zombie I was.

“Hello beautiful young lady, maybe you can help me,” the customer said giving me a startle. I didn’t even realized that someone was in the store. I quickly smile at him and put my face mask on while greeting him. He told me what he was looking for and I told him where to find it. Of course, he came to me a few times with other questions and I answer it all even while I was checking him out. My coworker was on her thirty minute meal break.

“I bet your parents are proud of you, juggling school and work at the same time. Where do you go to school?” I have forgotten that I was logged into my school portal trying to do a few class discussion when I was cutting his fabrics for him. I told him where I was attending school and what I was majoring in. I even joke about the “making my parents proud” as I failed to find a career for the past seven years. He laughed before saying “I’m sure they are proud because you never gave up and you haven’t yet or you wouldn’t be going back to school.”

As he stand with his bag in front of the store staring at the Christmas ornaments, he turned around back to me. “I was never a good father for my daughter. If she was alive she would be around your age or maybe a little older. Back in the days I became an alcoholic after losing my job and my wife left the both of us. I actually been in and out of jail and my daughter was put into a foster home. After many years, I decided to get help and then reconnected with my daughter. We spent her last few months together and she taught me how to sew. Now I love sewing.” He gave me one last smile and bid me good night before walking out into the darkness. Once again, the store was filled with emptiness.

Catching Up with MaiMai

A lot has happened within the past two months. My family has moved into a new house, I met a guy, work is still miserable, and I’m just trying to pick and put back the little pieces together. Life is a crisis!

Yes. After two years of searching for a new house, my mom and sister finally found one that is pretty big with four acres of land. Now, I know I mentioned about my father a lot, but as I have new readers coming by every day I just want to mention that when my dad got into his accident, we stopped looking for a house. The pause on house hunting was probably around seven months and we started house hunting again after new years.

The move went quite well, we’re still not done cleaning the old house as there is still the garage and the shed. However, we are, for the most part, done cleaning the old house. It has also been quite emotional as well since we have lived at our old house for twenty-five years. It will always be a place that I hold dear in my heart as it has lots of memories with my dad,  he spent his last few breaths and passed away there. It will always be a special place for my family and me.

Transitioning onto the next topic, amongst all the crazy things going on in my life. I decided to get back on my Tinder. Of course, I had to make a new account, but all that aside I did met a guy. He lives close by and he’s actually a really nice guy. We’ve been on three dates and surprisingly we have a few common friends. However, I also discovered that right now dating is not for me because my life is kind of unbalance. The guy did ask me to start officially dating him, but I did not want to put a label between our relationship. Mainly because I want more time to myself to heal, pick up my life where I left it, and spend time developing myself. I did meet up and talk to him today explaining to him my thoughts and he was very understanding. So I appreciate that and the time he spent with me. This doesn’t mean that we’re not talking or seeing each other, we’re just going to let time does its thing. If we end up being friends, then I will also be happy to gain another good friend.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot and I mean a lot. I’m thinking about going back to school in the spring to pick up where I left off. Meanwhile, I’m also looking into some educational programs to become certified in something, particularly the healthcare area. I have always thought about joining the Peace Corps, and finally, I’m going to put that into action. However, it’s going to be after I get my degree. I do constantly look at the programs that are being offered on Peace Corps because I just want to know what they’re currently offering. I think the Peace Corps will be a good opportunity for me to do some self-development. Additionally, years ago when I mentioned it to my dad, he liked the idea, so why not.

Those are pretty much the most major things that have been going on in my life. Right now, as I mentioned before, my life is pretty much unbalanced. At least, that is how I feel and I need more time to find and bring balance back to my life. My friends and I joked around saying I should do some research to find a temple and do a temple stay.  I know we were joking, but the idea isn’t too bad. Anyway, I hope you all have been doing well, enjoying life to the fullest, and continue to stay safe!

 

Blind Date Gone Horribly Wrong

I did it. I finally went on a blind date by myself. A few days ago a friend of mine set me up on a blind date. I was reluctant and didn’t want to go. Why should I spend one out of my two days off meet with stranger? Really, I got no plans but what is a better day than a lazy day? Somehow, after much convincing and nagging I told her “Fine I’ll go. Text me when and where.” And so she did.

She had claimed the guy to be a gentleman, well educated, and athletic. I’m definitely not that athletic, but I didn’t care. And so came the day of the blind date. We met at a local restaurant that I had to Google map because I never been there and I don’t eat out a lot.

He was all the three things that my friend had mentioned above. We had a conversation while waiting for our food. I’m not much of a talker, but he was really good at asking me questions and making sure the conversation kept going. Then it all went down the drain. Three of his friends show up by coincident and the greeter seated them right beside of us. After he quickly introduce me to his friends and vicer versa, I pretty much just listen to them talk.

Then I heard one of his friends telling him “dude she’s totally not your type. I thought it was going be someone a little different for your blind date.” I saw that he simply have them a smile before saying he really has no preference and a date is a date. He also mentioned that he was enjoying my company.

Their conversation continue and then the same friend look at me one more time, before telling him “bro she’s nice and all, but you can do better.” Hearing that, I glare at him lost at words. The waiter finally showed up with our food. Immediately, I apologized to the waiter, ask him to take my food back to box it for me, and to bring me my check at the register. The waiter looked at me confused, but kindly did what I asked. I look at my date with a sarcastic smile and told him it was nice to meet him.

That night he texted me, apologizing for his friend’s actions. He even said he wanted to meet up again, but this time I can choose when and where. I replied that I was good and did not want to go on a second date. A few days later he texted me again, and I just deleted his message.

My friend heard what happened and talked to me about it. As it turns out, he talked to her and wanted her to talk to me. I told her I wasn’t interested anymore and to tell him there are better girls out there for him. As for me I’ll find someone better.

Love…

Love.

What is it?

Have you ever been in love?

Seen love?

Touch love?

Feel love?

Lost love?

Love.

That one word that we all yearn to hear, feel, and touch. One word that makes us all happy, sad, jealous, and angry. It comes in all shapes and forms, sometimes it is near us but we don’t see it because we take advantage of it. Just like how we don’t see our parents’ efforts, how we don’t feel what they feel when they scold us for our wrongdoings.

There are moments when we measure love by putting it on a price scale. Why does receiving an expensive gift makes one so happy? Does it ensure you, me, us that that person will stay with us until old and gray? Of course, to receive an expensive gift is not wrong, but the desire to always expect or ask for a luxurious gift does not equal love or make love any greater.

Love is powerful, but it can bring so much pain. To hear someone, say “…but I love you,” is the most beautiful thing because it makes us feel accepted despite our flaws and mistakes, but to hear them say “I love you, but…” is the most painful. Hearing those words, we know the ending is near and then we tried to fix our mistakes and flaws. Bargaining and making compromises, but there’s no stopping. When it ends, it ends because sometimes love is not meant to stay.

To lose a loved one forever is the most painful experience. It makes you upset, mad, and frustrated because you think of all these other possibilities but fails to see one other possibility. You pray and pray, tell yourself you’ll do better if the one person you love open his/her eyes only to witness his/her last breath. Then you scold yourself for ignoring death, being foolish to think it will never happen. Upset for putting your hopes up so high just at the sight of the tiniest improvement.

Love.

It is phenomenal.

We have all been in love at least once.

Seen love.

Touch love.

Feel love.

And lost love.

Love is endless.

The Journey through My Father’s Traumatic Brain Injury: The Beginning Part 2

After identifying my dad and letting most of the people who came to see my dad, the neurologist wanted to speak to us. My brother, who had arrived while my mom and I went to see my dad, and I went in with my younger sister and mom following a few minutes later. As soon as we got in the neurologist asked us to speak to my dad to see if he will respond to our voices. I didn’t have the courage, so I told my brother to speak to my dad. My mom came in with my younger sister and she was crying saying that my dad can’t hear us. There was no response. The neurologist then told us he’s going to speak with his head department and will come back later.

We went back out to the waiting room where most everyone had left except for our uncle, aunt, and two cousins.  After a few hours, my uncle and aunt gave us some money for gas and food before they left because he had to leave for work the next morning. Moreover, his mother in law was with the rest of the younger kids at home. After they left, we waited some more until the nurse came to get us to talk to the neurologist. Once inside my dad’s room, the neurologist told my mom and I that due to two blood clots there is pressure being forced on my dad’s brain. One blood clot is growing bigger and that it can exert damage on the brain stem. There were two possible solutions, 1) perform a craniotomy and 2) leave it as is. I explained to my mom and after telling her that its best for us to continue with the craniotomy before the pressure can have any effects on the brain stem. Since it was me who spoke to the neurologist and understand what’s going on, I signed the consent form. Of course, my mom also agreed to the procedure.

It was getting late and after discussing we decided to for younger sister A to stay overnight with mom at the hospital. Since it was going to be my first day back at work the following day my mom didn’t want me to be absent. Additionally, hours earlier I have texted my supervisor of the event because I was going to have to go in two hours late since I was the only one available to take my sister to school at 11am.

For the next few days, we needed to figure out things. The two youngest siblings were still in school and would not be done until the end of May. Moreover, younger sister B work part time at Bojangles and does not yet have her drivers license. The good thing about her job is that younger sister A also works at the same Bojangles, so there were nights that they can come home together but cannot go in at the same time. Additionally, we were also deciding on which days who should stay overnight at the hospital with our dad. The first week my older sister did not go to work and stayed overnight at the hospital. My mom also did not go to work for three weeks.

We also received many phone calls from different people in the state and out of state. Very few of them I know quite well and some I don’t even know. There were so many phone calls asking the same questions. Can my dad speak? Does he recognize people? Can he open his eyes? What happened? Can he eat or drink? Where exactly on his brain is injured? All the while trying to remain my cool when answering I was so frustrated. We’re talking about my dad, who is now a patient with a traumatic brain injury and not yet awake, in a coma.  For the first time, I just wanted to unplug the phone. The phone and my dad’s cell phone rang 24/7. I was tired of hearing the same questions and giving the same answers. In fact, I’ve been giving the same answers all over that I no longer knew what I said to each person that called. I’ve become dumbfounded and gave up talking to people who called to ask about my dad’s condition.

For the first whole week, my older sister stayed at the hospital with my dad. I have already told my supervisor, who is probably the nicest boss ever work under, about my work hours and gave him my schedule. For the next two weeks I gave my boss the days I can work so that I can also stayed overnight at the hospital. The four of us, whom are all twenty years old and above and can drive, rotate staying overnight. My mom also stayed overnight. There were a few nights when both my mom and I stayed overnight. She would sleep in my dad’s room, while I camp out in the waiting room. Of course, there were also nights when she stayed overnight with another younger sibling. Thus, begins our long days and nights at the hospital.

The Journey through My Dad’s Traumatic Brain Injury: The Beginning

You’re probably thinking “MaiMai you’re still alive!” yes, I’m alive and barely doing well. A lot has happened in my life recently, as a matter of fact, there has been a dramatic change in my life. Before I was almost always complaining about my life that it was boring, and I needed more excitement. Right now, I cannot even complain about my life if I want to.

On Sunday morning May 13th, 2018 two days after I have come back home I received a phone call from a relative telling me that I needed to get hold of my mom and tell her to call my dad’s cell phone immediately. My mom and younger sister A had taken younger sister B to work and was going to stop by the Hmong store to get ingredients to make Pho. Well, younger sister A had changed her cell phone number without me, being the only one, not knowing. Frustrated, I decided to call my dad’s cell phone. An aunt picked up and I could hear all the noises in the background. She broke the message to me. A tree had fallen and hit my dad. Somehow, I was able to process all the information without going into shock. In fact, as soon as she told me that I asked immediately where my dad was being taken. She replied Charlotte which is an hour drive towards the east. That was not how I wanted to start my summer.

I immediately went after my older sister and younger brother B, who were at the laundry mat, after calling and leaving a message for younger brother A. I told my older sister and she took off to go to the Hmong culture park (more like an empty lot of land where the Hmong new year is held each year). However, she didn’t make it that far as she came back to finish the laundry and told me to go back home and that my mom and younger sister A was going to finish paying at the Hmong store.

Once we all got home we tried to figure out who was going to Charlotte and who was staying home since we all wanted to go. After a few minutes of discussing, my mom, younger sister A, and I left for Charlotte after calling our uncle to let him know. Mind you, that none of us has ever driven to Charlotte except for my dad and younger brother A. Well we made it safely to the hospital and here is where more trouble begins.

At the front desk, I gave the patient representative my dad’s name and he was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes, it was getting busier and the representative asked us to move aside for a moment. By this time my uncle, aunt, and two cousins had also arrived. Now, the address was sent to us by the aunt who picked up my dad’s phone and address was given to her by the EMT’s. So, there was no way we were in the wrong place. I started to call all the hospitals that were within an hour from home. Younger sister A called the aunt back, and the aunt called the hospital. We finally thought we found our dad only to immediately know that the patient was female, and we’re back to square one.

Frustrated and angry, younger sister A and younger cousin A called the president of the organization, we were pushing for them to tell us where exactly our dad is and why no one thought to follow our dad to the hospital. Now, having taken an EMT course I know that the plane cannot carry that much weight or any other additional passengers. However, someone could have driven to Charlotte so that when my family and I got we would not have run into any problems locating my dad. Of course, since my dad was only volunteering not part of the organization and not their relative no followed him to Charlotte.

By this time my older sister has heard of the news that our dad could not be located at the hospital and was calling Catawba EMT. Meanwhile, members of the organization and some other people that were there on Sunday morning volunteering showed up. They went up to the front desk and got visitor passes, my mom told them that it wasn’t the right room, but they insisted. So, they went up only to came back down. Just as I hanged up, my younger sister A came up to me and said, “Hey so that aunt sent us dad’s license so maybe we can just show it to them.” Frustrated I just glanced at her, but then I realized something. If that aunt had my dad’s wallet with her all along there was no way the EMT could have put in his information into the system, he was an unidentified patient.

I told her to get in line with me and the patient representative we talked to earlier, waved at us to go to him. All along I thought they no longer care about, but since we were persistence about staying at the hospital until our dad was found and more people kept showing up it looks like he’s been making phone calls around the hospital. By this time my older sister had called and talked to the Catawba chief paramedic. Once again, the patient representative asked me for all the details and I finally told him that there was no way my dad would be in their system because he has no identification on him and we didn’t know that. One patient that flew in had match my dad’s physical description, the time frame and events led to the injury matched. So, the patient representative and I rushed to identify the patient after my sister showed him the picture of my dad’s driver license that was sent by the aunt, whom I talked to earlier.

Well, we didn’t make it in time to identify the patient since he was already taken to the CT Scan room, but the patient representative got a good glimpse of him. So, he told me that we’re going back to get visitor passes and he’ll take us the STICU (Surgical Trauma Intensive Care) waiting room.

By the time we got back to the lobby, Catawba EMT had called to let the front desk know and most everyone had gotten visitor passes. Everyone that was not family went their own way, but I told my family which also consisted of my uncle, aunt, and two younger cousins that we’re going with the representative. After a long wait, my mom and I were the first two to see my dad. I can still remember his condition. His head was so swollen and they shaved his head. They wrapped up his hands in mitts so that he doesn’t start to pull on any of the tubes and IV fluid lines. I couldn’t even look at my dad for so long because the tears just kept coming. I spent most of my time in the room looking out the window just to wipe away the tears until the ER doctor came in. By this time younger brother A had arrived at the hospital all the way from Boone and was with everyone else in the waiting room.

Of course, we let all the visitors saw my dad so that we can get rid of them and sent them home. I didn’t feel like looking at their faces. I didn’t want to see them. I felt so angry and disgusted because my dad has done a lot for that organization, he has helped most of the people in the organization and within the Hmong community. The least they could have done was sent one person to Charlotte with my dad’s identification so that when we got there we wouldn’t be stuck in the lobby for three hours. When they told us over the phone that EMT has my dad’s information and identification, I couldn’t even think twice about not being able to locate my dad. I was upset, so upset when I learned that EMT didn’t even get hold of my dad’s identification.

From the moment I saw my dad laying in the hospital bed, I knew that I took granted of my life before that event took place. I thought my life before was hard, complicated, and boring now it’s even going to be harder. If anything, I was grateful for the patient representative that helped us.