Steve’s cousin Clint had been a heroin addict, gone through rehab, and everything seemed to be all right, until the night he decided to stick a needle into his arm again. The problem with smack is that you think, even though you’ve been clean, you can go back to using the same amount of it you had been using before.
He wasn’t thinking right. He went into his room one night and stuck a needle in his arm like before. He stopped thinking a few minutes later. The heroin smacked him down and out.
The next morning his roommate got up and found Clint curled up on the bathroom floor. He had been lying there most of the night, it turns out, on goose bump tile, in the dark. It had been a cold winter night.
“Clint, get up, we have to go to work,” the roommate said.
When Clint didn’t move, the roommate, being the bright boy that he is, went back to bed for an hour. When he woke up again Clint was still in the bathroom, out stone cold. Did he call an ambulance? No. Did he call the police? No. He called his girlfriend. “What is it?” she asked, annoyed.
“Hey, Clint’s on the floor of the bathroom and I need to get in there to shave. I need to get to work.”
“Who is this genius?” Thelma asked Steve.
“Boy wonder, disaster,” he said.
The girlfriend rushed over to their apartment. While she was on the way she called an ambulance and Clint’s mom. She had started thinking, at least. She knew Clint’s bad habits.
They rushed him to the emergency room at the hospital in Fairview Park, where the roommate and Clint’s mom were told the bad news.
“Here’s the deal. This kid is not in good shape. He’s overdosed on heroin, his kidneys have shut down, and he’s got Compartment Syndrome. His whole body is shutting down. Before we can work on the kidneys, before we can work on the Compartment Syndrome, before we can work on anything, he’s got to pull through the heroin overdose. He’s got to come through that first.”
After forty-eight hours he was still alive. Nobody could believe it. It was like a miracle.
Compartment Syndrome is what happens when oxygen gets cut off to the muscles in your body. That’s what happened to Clint. It’s the same thing that happens when you fall asleep on your arm in the middle of the night and wake up with it numb and tingling. You shake it off. It’s no big deal.
But Clint had been lying on his face, his arms and legs underneath him, when he crumpled to the bathroom floor the night before. He’d been unconscious for ten hours, circulation, and oxygen, everything, cut off. Everything fell dead asleep. Then muscles started dying, dying all night.
In the hospital they slit his hands open at the palms and slit his hands open at the back of them. The doctors slit his arms all the way up on both sides and slit his legs down the middle. They manipulated his muscles to get them to start coming back alive again.
He was wide open, machines circulating his blood. They did nineteen surgeries over three months. They saved his arms, but both of his legs are gone. His leg on the left side is gone above the knee and his leg on the right side is gone below the knee. They couldn’t bring the muscles back for anything. So, he lost his legs.
They didn’t tell him they cut his legs off until he was almost done with all the surgeries and out of the recovery room because they needed him to fight and keep going. He was almost ready to leave the hospital for rehab when they talked to him.
“We have to tell you something,” they said.
“Is it bad news?” he asked.
After he got home, he got a small, motorized wheelchair he runs around in. He can’t even use prosthetics because all the muscles in his upper thighs are ruined. They had to take some of them out because they were dying. If they had left them in that could have made the other muscles die, too.
The doctors had to take all the muscles that had compartments in them out of his legs. He has no strength in his upper leg muscles to support prosthetics, so he’s going to be in a wheelchair forever. He’s thirty-two years old and his fingers are locked up. They’re almost like claws. When he talks and tries to gesture, he can’t unclench them.
Clint asked Thelma and Steve for a dog.
The dog they found for him was a puppy mill dog, a little Parti Yorkie. They got him from another dog rescuer who put him up on Facebook. They didn’t even know what he was. They thought he was a Maltipoo, but it was really a Parti, a new designer dog, although it’s hard to tell the difference.
They jumped the rescue by telling them they very possibly had a desirable home for it. It was only partly a white lie.
They took the dog, not knowing exactly if Clint would go for it. They cleaned him up and had him for a few days at their house before giving him to Clint. Steve carried the Parti Yorkie around with him like a clutch. He was show dog size, under seven pounds, not a family-sized Yorkie. That was a mistake, carrying him around, because Steve then started wanting the dog.
When they delivered the little Yorkie to Clint’s apartment Steve told him if it didn’t work out it would be OK, and he would take the dog back.
But Clint does nothing now except sit in his wheelchair and dote on the dog. And the dog is the kind that needs nothing but being doted on. They are peas in a pod.
“I love this dog, man, and he loves me,” said Clint. “I’m keeping him.”