Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Our Roommate Jackson:

Jackson had a rough night. As John explained, the heart has to work harder when the body is prone and doesn’t have gravity going for it. In Jackson’s case, fluid builds up around his lungs and causes him discomfort and distress; it must feel a little like drowning. He was moving around a lot last night, in a futile attempt to get comfortable. John gave him some more diuretics and aspirin, and I think he was finally able to get to sleep.

Jackson has been sick since he was 15-years-old, when his heart valve damaged by rheumatic fever finally caught up with him. If not for his surgeries in Illinois, he would be dead like his two older brothers who succumbed to the kinds of things that Haiti throws at a person. Jackson lives with his mom and sisters on the side of a mountain. When his mom visits him, it takes her about three hours by tap tap to get here.

Jackson is very quiet; sometimes he even seems sullen. I try to imagine what is life must be like for him, being in Haiti, so close to death, hoping that the blancs who make periodic appearances in his life come through for him with an American hospital. He looks like a boy, but he is a man; he has pride. I think it pains him to have to ask us for food or when people at the hotel stare at his skinny physique.

Prior to bedtime, I sat in our room with Jackson and watched the movie, “Some Came Running,” a 1958 flick starring Frank Sinatra, Shirley Maclaine, Dean Martin, Arthur Kennedy and others. Sinatra plays a WWII vet who shows up in his hometown with a bad attitude and a background as a writer, which he wants to deny. The film is shot in dark, shadowy, atmospheric light. A dance-like alley fight is choreographed to herky-jerky music. I only saw part of the show, and would like to watch it all as well as read the book by James Jones, which it is based on.

While watching the movie, I sipped rum and coke, the perfect drink to accompany an American movie from the fifties. The liquor was courtesy of Jackson: in a touching gesture, he somehow procured two bottles of five star Barbancourt run, which is manufactured here in Haiti, not far from Jackson’s home. The smooth, golden liquid is much cheaper here than in the United States.

This morning, I could see that Jackson’s abdomen was once again bloated. John upped his dosage of furosimide, and we will hope that provides some relief. We are scheduled to go home on Saturday, 12/17, and we still have no hospital for Jackson.

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