Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hell is Here...or at least something like it

The last two days have been some of the most hellish I’ve every experienced. It’s been a time where I’m reminded of the frailty of life, the depravity of man, and just how much our individual lives have an effect on those around us. I’ve spent the majority of the last 48 hours in a hospital room watching a young girl on her death bed. We’ve prayed, we’ve cried, we’ve laughed. Parts of the day seem to be a dream, like something unreal is happening…like I’ll wake up to the annoying sound of an alarm and go about my business as usual. Then other times the pain of what’s happening is all too real, and I wish that it really was a dream.

So now, I’m taking a break from the sterility of the hospital to sit down at the computer and just write a little bit of what’s going on. It’s helping me to process it. Monday morning started like most for me. Reading some scripture, praying. Then the phone call. It was JR. Our friend Danielle who had been missing since Saturday had called her boyfriend…our friend…Dave. He was at work, and apparently we were to pick her up at 28th and Division. For those of you who know that area of Grand Rapids, it is a friendly corner for prostitutes. That whole stretch of Division, from 28th St. to downtown is where most of the prostitution happens in Grand Rapids. As we pulled into the gas station we looked for her, but no sign. I got out and ran inside, asking the clerk if anyone was in the bathroom. He handed me the key, I ran in, looked behind the door…no one. I handed the key back to him as he looked at me puzzled…I’m sure he wondered why I didn’t go to the bathroom, but it didn’t matter. We drove behind a hotel that looks like it’s seen its fair share of prostitutes. No sign. We drove back up Division, and got another call from Dave. She was apparently at Popeye’s Chicken, just a few blocks away. When we arrived, no sign. She had told Dave that she had been at a house on Buchanan and Stewart, so we went there. No sign. We drove Division all the way downtown and thought we saw her outside of Degage Ministries, a local soup kitchen. We parked on the street, ran inside and looked around…it wasn’t her. Then we went home.

This whole time, I was calling her cell phone every few minutes. It would simply ring and ring and ring. Then, the last time I called her it went right to voice mail. It’s ironic that just three days prior to this, on Friday, she had held her first outreach to the prostitutes and drug addicts on South Division. She gave away Bibles, water, hugs, and prayers. Newschannel 3 from Kalamazoo picked up the story. And now, just hours after reaching out to people, she had relapsed and gone downtown to cop some drugs. JR and I decided we would make one more round. We pulled back around to the corner of Buchanan and Stewart and sat there for a few minutes. We were looking at the houses, trying to figure out if any of them were crack houses. Only one looked suspect, but we couldn’t be sure. Then we left and headed home. As we pulled onto Division, there she was…it looked like she was trying to pull some tricks. We pulled up next to her and JR said, “Get in!” She got in. She smelled of crack…something I had never smelled before…and you could tell that there were drugs in her system. We drove right to the hospital, and on our way we discovered that she had a crack pipe on her. We took it and got rid of it and I searched her purse for drugs.

She claimed she had been beaten and raped, but there were no marks on her other than burns on her forearm from the crack pipe. We took her to the emergency room anyway. The whole time we were pushing her to get checked into a long-term care facility. This pattern has become the norm in her life. Months or years of being sober all thrown away at the drop of a hat as she hits the street, prostituting and using drugs again. She didn’t want to have anything to do with rehab. And so we ended up leaving the hospital. Danielle was safe, the police were on their way to question her, and she would be discharged shortly. Then later in the afternoon we find out that after the police questioned her, she attempted to kill herself…which landed her in a coma, on a ventilator, and the latest report today is that there’s not much of a chance that she’ll make it. They think the oxygen to the brain was cut off for 8-10 minutes, which is more than enough to do extensive damage. And so now she lies in the hospital bed, family on their way, friends and family gathered around her side. Nothing short of a miracle will save her at this point. And while I’m certainly praying and hoping for that, I’m starting to grasp the reality that this could be it for Danielle.

More to come I’m sure.