Joseph Rodriguez   
           My Birthday August 20, 1984
 This story starts on Saturday, September 29, 2000.   I spent the day at my sister's home.  My nephew Joey (Joseph) was home through out the day.  He was in and out, hanging with his friends, and walking down the street and back all day long.  Early in the evening he was on the floor wrestling with a couple of other boys and of course my daughter had to jump in a few times to get her licks in!  He was just a normal and bouncy teenager!  Around 9 pm I kissed him good bye along with the rest of my family and headed for my home.  

He didn't feel right that evening and was complaining of a stiff neck.  My sister assumed it was from the wrestling.   At 2 am he was burning up and vomiting.  My sister called the hospital and was informed to put him in a tub of ice to get the fever down.  She and two nephews placed him in the tub of ice.  Shortly after he went to sleep in his room.  Around 6 am he came violently out of his room and threw himself on the floor.  My sister called the ambulance.  It took 4 paramedics to hold him down and get him to the hospital.

First assumption on the part of the paramedics was drugs as he was a teen.   After test results proved them wrong the family was informed it was a suspected  case of meningitis!  By this time he was unconscious.  

Meningitis!  What was meningitis?  What did this mean?  Where did he get Meningitis from?   Meningitis:  An infection and inflammation of the lining and fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord.  Bacterial meningitis may cause brain, hearing, vision and kidney damage. Meningococcal infections (which is of increasing concern among 15-24 year olds) may progress quickly.  Within hours of the onset of symptoms, the disease can lead to shock and rapid death!   About 3,000 cases of meningococcal meningitis occur in the United States each year and about 10 percent of those cases result in death.  Among those who survive, about 15 percent experience serious complications.    "Mayo Clinic Health Information"

You hear these cases on television but never expect them to hit home!  The family was told that it didn't look good and we should not get our hopes up.  Some said that patients usually wake up in two days (if they wake up).  Five days later he was still unconscious.  His fever was so high.  One minute he would be ok and the next the fever would be up high.  One minute his blood pressure would be a little high and the next it would go up very high.  They had to keep sucking all the flam from his throat so he wouldn't choke.  He had tubes everywhere.  He was trembling so violently much of the time.  The doctors couldn't tell the family anything.  They said all we could do was wait and see the developments.  

Wait is what we did and it seemed like eternity.  There were hundreds of people in and out of his room.  Many of his friends, family, members from different churches, and teachers came to see him.  So many people prayed over that bed.  It is awesome to see so many people believing in prayer!  I sat by his bed every night.  I sang to him, prayed for him, talked to him, poked at him, took the bandages off his eyes from time to time, cried, begged, and even bribed this child to wake up.   Things did not look good at all.  

Not An Easy Road:
On the fifth day his eyes opened.  The doctors, who didn't even go in to see, said it was reflexes.  The next time it happened he looked right at me.  I asked him a question and he shrugged his shoulders.  I called the nurse in so she could see that it was not reflexes.  After a couple of days of Joey being in and out of consciousness the family realized there was a lot of damage to his body.    He couldn't talk, couldn't move his legs, and didn't know anyone.  Then he started talking.  His speech was damaged, his brain is damaged, his hearing is gone in one ear, his left leg has damage, and he can not go to the bathroom (he uses a catheter).  And there is no way to tell if it will be permanent or if he will heal.  Although the body suffered such a blow that it probably won't all heal 100 o/o.

It is so hard to see our Joey suffering.  But I guess many families do go through set backs like this.  Our family isn't immune to devastation.  How do you tell a 16 year old child that he may always have the catheter  or use a walker or need hearing aides?  How do you get him to realize he is very lucky to be alive when he can't even comprehend what happened to him.  He doesn't remember anything about that night.  Not the playing in the evening, or the sickness & fits.  The doctors told us when he was in a coma and first woke up and was suffering so bad with pain that he wouldn't remember any of it.  

But to us, his family and friends, we want to let him know that he is a very lucky boy.  We are very grateful to our Father above for sparing his life and working the miracles in his body!   Another child from the same area died three weeks later from the same thing.  His poor family went through what we did - the child got sick and went to sleep.  However, he didn't come out of his room and throw himself on the floor as Joey did.  He simply went into a coma and died two days later.  I don't know exact circumstances for this child.  Though I do know his family's pain.  I pray that they have peace in their hearts and realize that their son is Resting in Peace in Father's heavenly Kingdom!   I know that pain too because I lost my son last year in a violent death.  

This weekend, after four weeks in the hospital, Joey got a pass to come home both Saturday and Sunday (for the day).   Saturday night he went to a youth concert with his family with many performers.  They brought Joey up and everyone prayed for him.  On Sunday the whole family was at Joey's house.  It was so nice to see him home.  However it was hard to see him struggle.

Today, Monday October 30, 2000, we have some good news!  Joey went to the bathroom on his own!   Now the fear of him having to depend on a catheter all his life can disappear.  

Now to my message for our children:  
Life is so very short.  We are not promised tomorrow.  I lost my first born son to a life of crime and drugs.  I speak at many different places to try to let these children know that life is not about a permanent party!  Take every day and try to live it right.  If you mess up - pick your head up and try again.   If you have a religion of preference go to your place of worship.  Pick up your Bible or Torah or what ever your religion goes by and read.  Do your best every day to live by it.  It is not easy, but then death or the loss of a child is horrible and sometimes so unnecessary.  Pick up your books and study a trade or profession.  Don't sit back and watch life pass you by.  If you wait until tomorrow to get your life into gear it may be too late.  We are to live for today and thank the Lord above for every new day we see.


You can also Email Joey your well wishes.  He is at a
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