Friday, April 23, 2010

I'll miss you terribly Kenny Horn

My long time friend and medical marijuana patient Kenny Horn has just passed away.

When Kenny was 16 he did what a lot of country kids do and that was to jump off a bridge into a creek. And it turned out very badly. He broke his neck and was paralyzed from the chest down with only a small amount of movement in his arms. Kenny was 46 and had lived the last 30 years of his life as basically a talking head, completely dependent on others for his most basic needs. When it first happened his doctors didn't expect he would make it through the night....but he did. They now call him the miracle man because he has lived so long and through so many medical procedures, blood clots, infections, bed sores etc...

In all the years I knew Kenny he was, for the most part, a very cheerful, funny man. Very kind, would help anyone out, give you the shirt off his back, kind of person. Not that he didn't get frustrated sometimes. But, if I were a talking head, dependent on everyone else for just basic needs like getting a drink of water, scratching my nose, or being fed, I'd probably be a real bitter, mean, miserable, asshole who would have no friends. Kenny, though, was surrounded by many friends and a loving family.

Last week I took him to two doctor appointments. One to his regular doctor to look at his bed sores and another to a urologist in Anniston. I had recently told him I would come over on my days out of school and sit with him, help him medicate, and drive him to his appointments when I could, so that I could help take some of the strain off him and his mom.

His mom is 74 and does most of his care by herself, including getting him into and out of a lift so that he can move from his bed to his wheel chair, into and out of the lift chair in the van, all the driving to appointments all over the state..etc. Kenny weights probably 260. His mom is a little, old lady. However, the one thing his mom couldn't do was roll him a joint and help him smoke it.

She believed with all her heart that it was medicine, she'd seen it work over the years where nothing else had, and believed what the doctor said about it, but she just wasn't able to help him with that. He'd often call me on the mornings, when he had been unable to get a friend or family member to come by to help him get his medicine, and ask me to come help him do it. "Come on by girl...I'm bout to die" he'd say. He'd be in awful pain when I got there and the difference after he smoked his medicine was just an amazing thing to witness.

I stayed with him for a few hours after those two days last week. We sat out under the apple tree, medicating him, talking about everything under the sun, and just enjoying spending time with him. I've known for a while they he couldn't possibly survive much longer and cherished the time I got to go and see him for a little while. He wanted me to help him wash his hair that day, but some folks pulled up just as I was about to start and then my ride pulled up a few minutes later and I didn't get to help him do that. I feel really shitty about that now. It's funny the moments you think of when someone you love has died. The little things you didn't do that you could know?

I was supposed to take Kenny back to Anniston today for his urology appointment. I called this morning to see if they still needed me to come over and take him, but no one answered. When no one answers at Kenny's that means only one thing. He's in the hospital.

I called the hospital and they told me he was in CCU, in a coma and that his organs had pretty much quit functioning. For the last three years or so he has really gone down hill. The first major episode was when his pain medication was switched from Lortab to Oxycontin. He took three doses of Oxycontin, just like he was supposed to, and after the third dose they found him blue and unresponsive in his bed and rushed him to Birmingham. More recently he's had a lot of blood clots hit his brain which caused seizures and strokes and that really had an awful impact on his mind.

He's told me many times in the last few years that he is ready to go, that he is tired of suffering and being a burden on his mom. His doctor, an old, wise, country one, knew that Kenny smoked copious amounts of marijuana and had for years. He said that is what kept him alive and in relative good health this long. After the pain medicine episode, Kenny told the doctor not to write him any more prescription pain medicine, that marijuana worked better for him than anything else and wouldn't kill him. His doctor agreed and told him to stop smoking cigarettes but to smoke as much marijuana as he wanted.

When Kenny would have to be in the hospital his doctor would prescribe Marinol for him, but it didn't work. However, when no one was looking some of the nurses, who have worked with him as their patient for years, would sneak him out of the hospital and give him the real stuff. Bless them for being such kind, considerate and wonderful souls to risk their careers and their very freedom to help one of their patients.

Just the other day Kenny and I were talking about the medical marijuana bill and he told me that if he made it another year that he would go to Montgomery during the next legislative session and testify before the committee. He always wanted to go, but, due to bed sores or lack of proper transportation, or some other issue, we were never able to get him down there. That's too bad. Kenny , who was as deep country as they come and said just exactly what was on his mind, would have told it like it was. The judiciary committee and everyone else in the House and Senate should have had to look at him in the eyes and hear what he had to say. He was 'the least among us' and he should have had his day before those in power who seek to put poor souls like him in jail for trying to ease their pain.

This afternoon I went up to the hospital where Kenny is and spent about 2 hours with him and his mom. He was in the death rattles then. I kissed his sweet head, continuously replaced the cool rag on his forehead, rubbed his hair, held his hand, and told him how much I loved him and would miss him, but that I knew he was ready to go on and not have to suffer anymore. He had refused to be placed on a ventilator again. Yesterday he coded and they brought him back, but only gave him an oxygen mask per his request. All fluids except morphine had been discontinued.

He died 15 minutes after I left.

His poor little mama is tore all to pieces. This is the third child she has buried, and Kenny was the baby. For all of his life he has depended on her for literally everything. She and I cried together and she said she don't know what she will do with herself now that he is gone. We laughed over the things we will miss hearing him say like, "Come on by girl," "Scratch my nose," "Push on my stomach," (when he needed to cough) " "Light me up at joint right yonder", "Get this hair off my eye," "Gimme a drank uh at water," and "Give me a puff off at cigarette."

I know that wherever Kenny's essence is floating free tonight that there are no wheelchairs, no special air mattresses, no needles or ventilators, no colostomy bags, no bed sores, no super pubic catheters and no pain and misery. I know his death means the end of his long suffering, but, somehow that doesn't make it suck much less.

I love you dearly Kenny Horn and your loss is being felt very deeply tonight at my house. I promise to bury you with your favorite thing and to keep the other big promise I made to you last week. I hope that when you get to wherever we go after this life that you have the finest, most athletically fit body ever waiting on you and a completely unbreakable spine. I bet that there will be a beautiful red-headed woman waiting to love you and bare you many beautiful children, which you so desperately wanted in this life, but were physically unable to obtain.

You are already missed.

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