So Much For Security
I can’t believe how long it has been since I posted on my blog page. I have learned that this process, while cathartic, is also extremely painful as I relive every moment of my experience of my son being shot 17 times and surviving. I have told this story many, many times. I have recalled details to family members and friend. I have shared our experiences with other Crime Survivors and those behind jail and prison walls because of the harm they have caused others. Vinnie, Trevor and I have spoken, at length and in detail, from each of our perspectives. And yet, putting the memories to thoughts to words has had a profound impact on my mind, my heart and my healing journey. So, I take a break with the knowledge that, no matter how painfully difficult, I must keep on this journey. There are others who’s healing journey will begin because I had the courage to share mine. And so I continue…
After finally falling asleep somewhere around 1:30 or 2:00 am, I was awaken by my phone ringing. As I looked at the caller id and saw it was Trevar, panic immediately set in. It is amazing how many thoughts can run through my mind in the few seconds it took me to answer the phone. The absolute worst case scenario thoughts are the only ones that ran through my mind. Although what Var was calling to tell me wasn’t the worse case scenario my mind had told me it would be, his words brought another level of concern for my son’s safety that had little to do with the 17 gunshot wounds that had riddled his body less than 48 hours before.
Somewhere around 7:30 am, according to Var, the phone calls to the hospital, had begun. People were being granted access to Vinnie by simply asking for him. The problem was twofold, the first being he was supposed to be there under an alias or trauma name. The second, he was the surviving victim of an open, recent homicide case and therefore, by definition, at risk, potentially in danger. Why Highland Why? Why were you not following your own protocols in situations like this? Why, the very next day, after my son was admitted to Highland Hospital, were people calling asking for him and GETTING patched through to his room? Well, the why doesn’t even matter. After asking Var if Vin was ok, well all things considering. He said Vin was cool. I told Var I would be right there.
I hopped out of bed, jumped in the shower and drove to the hospital. I rehearsed over and over what I would say. I reminded myself that Ayoola must speak, not Ki-Ki. My first stop the security desk in the main lobby. I politely asked to speak to the Head of Security. The young man at the desk, Bless His Heart, asked me if there was something he could help me with. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd, here we go. Oh, the conversations that take place in my head. I’m thinking, “If you could help me, why would I be asking for at the head of security?” And, yet, I remained calm and polite, did not say anything smart or sarcastic (shocking but true) and repeated that I needed to speak to whomever was in charge.
In less than five minutes the Shift Supervisor appears. Shift Supervisor, hardly the Head of Security, but what do I want on a Sunday, huh? Anyway, he introduces himself to me and ask how he can help me. In my smart mouth mind, I’m thinking, “I am so glad you asked”.
I ask him the protocol for patients who are there under trauma names. He explains to me that the only people who are granted access by telephone are those who ask for the patient by their trauma name. He goes on to explain, in great detail, the reason this protocol is in place. Blah-bla-Blah-bla-BLAH. I wait to he completes his well rehearsed spill then repeat it back to him. You know, a little Active Listening. He responds, sounding all confident, “Yes, that is correct”.
Silently I take a deep breath and a pregnant pause before I give him the business in the most prim, proper and professional way I know how. “Sir, I have received information that numerous people have called this morning and asked for my son. By. His. Name. Not the trauma named assigned to him upon admission, but his birth name. The one I named him. I have zero understanding how this could happen. It is my understanding that for his safety he was given an alias and that no one, not even me, his mother, would be able to reach him without using that name. And yet, seemingly everyone who called has reached him.”
He begins to interrupt, attempting to explain and apologize. I cut him off with an, “Excuse me, I’m not finished. I am not interested in an explanation nor an apology. It is clear to me that this breach in security poses a serious threat to my son’s safety. And, if anything were to happen to him as a result of this egregious breach of security that would be a huge liability to the hospital. All I am interested in is how you are going to rectify this problem in order that my son’s safety is no longer compromised?”
I can remember the look on his face as the words flowed, without taking a breath, raising my voice and spoken matter-of-factly, from my mind to my mouth to his ears to his mind. Based on the fact that Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has a sub-station at the hospital, one can glean that people aren’t always the calmest when interacting with hospital personnel. I have learned that my calmness, particularly, in the most intense and dire circumstances, takes people aback. This often results in them being momentarily at a loss for words.
Mr. Security Man assured me that he would personally address the breach as well as any other concerns I may have. He kept his word, moved Vinnie to another room and checked in with me more than a few times over the next few days to make sure I had no further concerns or issues relative to his security.
After dealing with Mr. Security Man, I went up to see Vin. Each and every time I saw him, for the first time, on any given day, how he looked remains memorialized in my mind. Every morning I walked in his room, he would be laying in the bed and Var would be sitting in the chair. Every night Var stayed with him.
Sunday was a crazy, hectic day at the hospital because now everyone had heard Vinnie had been shot and everybody wanted to visit. Unless you were there during that time, you may not believe the number of people who came to visit. Imagine our current church family, Grace Bible Fellowship of Antioch, our former church family, Family Bible Fellowship, Jones Methodist Church family, our family, his friends, my friends. I am sure at least 150 people, if not more, came through over the week he was in the hospital. I say that not to brag or boast but to again say thank you for all the love and support showed us; to let people know we are not islands. I could not have made it through without everyone who was there to hold us down and hold us up.
We literally took over the downstairs waiting area at Highland. People were only allowed to visit in small numbers and only after they agreed to the one rule. No Crying. Vinnie was doing okay, his spirits were good. (He continued to say to everyone who came in there talking about how lucky he was to survive 17 gunshot wounds that he wasn’t lucky, he was blessed and that God spared him cause he had work to do.) There was a lot of crying going on. A lot. However, I recognized that Vinnie responded to his visitors the way they showed up. So no crying when you go up to see him. There were a couple people who almost didn’t make the cut but I won’t mention no names.
Before I continue with the daily challenges that took place during Vinnie’s stay at Highland Hospital, I want to go back to Saturday and two people who’s presence continue to stand out to me that I hadn’t previously mentioned.
The first is my Pastor who was my friend long before he became my Pastor. I remember calling Pastor Smith on the drive from Children’s to Highland to tell him that Vinnie had been shot. Of all the calls I made that morning, that was one of the most difficult. Pastor Smith wasn’t just our Pastor and our boss, he had known Vinnie since he was about 7 years old. He had mentored him and poured into his life greatly. In many ways, Pastor Smith thought of Vinnie as a son.
In classic Pastor Smith fashion, he paused and then asked me to repeat what I had said. I could hear him thinking about all the things he had to do that Saturday; he told me that Kaleb had a game and he would come to the hospital as soon as the game was over; everything else would have to wait. Always in ministry mode (Pastor can’t come see everybody who is in the hospital) and probably also in shock, I told Pastor I knew he was busy and that he didn’t have to come. Pastor Smith said he would be there about noon, no further discussion.
When he arrived at the hospital, Vinnie was still in ICU. Anyone who has ever been around Pastor Smith knows he is always very stoic and take charge in even the most dire of circumstances. The look on his face when he saw Vinnie, the way his voice cracked when he asked him how he was doing, it was clear it wasn’t ministry, it was personal. If I never knew how much Pastor loved and cared for Vinnie, I knew at that moment. The emotions from my always cool, calm and collected Pastor were too much, I had to leave the room.
The other person who’s presence stands out from Saturday came a little later in the afternoon after Vinnie had been moved our of ICU to his room. I had come downstairs to give an update to everyone and when the elevator doors opened there were 3 guys and a young lady standing there. They wanted to go see Vinnie. I didn’t know them so I said no until I could check with Var and them to see who they were. What struck me was one of the young men, who looked about 17 or so and couldn’t have been much taller than me, had on a white t-shirt that was covered with blood. I later learned that he was the one who picked Vinnie up, from between the curb and parked car, and carried him to the van that drove him to the hospital. I was later able to thank him for what he did. I am still amazed at how someone so small was able to lift my 6 foot-plus son and carry him. Those guys being there and having the wearwithall to drive him to Children’s Hospital, I know, is what saved his life. I know this because waiting on an ambulance on a Friday night in West Oakland is a roll of the dice.
Next, Monday morning’s call from Var, “Mom-Zos, they are trying to discharge Vin”. Lawd, here we go again….
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