I paced the Emergency Room floor like an expectant father. I have felt helpless and unable to control the events around me on MANY occasions but on this day it was off the scale. I tried repeatedly to comfort Johnny’s mother but it was hopeless. I had no better results on the phone with Johnny Sr.
I had been called to the mother’s residence when my Officers discovered Johnny in his makeshift garage/bedroom. Single parents’ incomes obviously don’t go as far as combined incomes. I arrived in time to see him as he was being transported to the hospital.
He had overdosed on antidepressants. His color was bad and his vital signs were virtually non-existent. This was going to be a close one.
Most of us had been to most of Johnny’s residences at one time or another. It had been the typical adversarial separation, divorce and child custody battle. I’m sure there had been good cause for the end of the marriage, but I often wondered if either of the adults could remember what the reasons were. What was painfully obvious was that Little Johnny had become the pawn in the parent’s chess game of one-upmanship. He was bounced from school to school and house to house, seemingly not knowing from one month to the next where he was going to be or call “home”. There were two incidents of custodial interference with charges and counter-charges, both adults portraying the other as the “parent from hell”.
And TODAY was no different, Johnny’s father had to be going through a living nightmare, his son was probably dying and he was prevented by a restraining order from being within 300 feet of any place where Johnny’s mother was at, including this emergency room. The mother refused to leave so the father could see his son. I couldn’t violate the Judge’s order and allow the father to come into the hospital; this was the last place we needed another verbal or physical fight between mom and dad.
My uniform did allow me certain privileges, but to go into the trauma room where they were feverishly working on Johnny didn’t seem like a privilege. Watching a doctor perform CPR chest compressions on a pre-teenager was NOT something I wanted to see. I couldn’t see Johnny’s face so I tried to watch the heart monitor. I didn’t enjoy that either so I sheepishly left the room. I remember mumbling something like: “Good luck”. I felt embarrassed to have said such a trivial and stupid thing to these very professional people.
I desperately wanted to leave, I was not a relative or friend of the family, but I sensed that as soon as the police left, the father would be in the hospital and the war would begin again. The mother had got to the hospital first so she had won the battle of position but the overdose had occurred at her house so the father held a major trump card not yet played.
It was then that the initial Officer assigned to investigate the incident arrived at the hospital. He had found a note at the residence and brought it to me. I was impressed that the Officer had thought to put the note in plastic to protect it. He also had wisely left it open so it could be read.
The note was addressed to Johnny’s mother and father. When would be the appropriate time to let them read it? I wished I had a way for all separated or divorced parents to read it. I didn’t keep a copy and don’t remember the exact words but the note went something like this:
“Dear Mom and Dad,
I am so sorry that I have caused all of this. I think that if I am not around, maybe the two of you will stop fighting about me and get back together the way it used to be. I found a picture of the two of you when you first got married and you look so happy. I heard Dad say one night when you were fighting that I was NOT planned or wanted. I hope that God will not hate me for doing this.
No, Johnny didn’t make it.