Friday, September 11, 2009

The First Time CF Rocked My World

The date was 1990 (my best recollection) and I was playing outside in my front yard. While I was running around in my own little world, I heard the phone ring. As I sprinted to go inside, I heard my mom yell "I got it", so I stopped just short of the front door. I then heard little bits and pieces of my mom's conversation with the mystery man or woman on the other end of the phone.

The following is how I believe the conversation went, with what I actually heard bolded and the rest from what my mom told me the doctor said.

Doctor: Hello, is Christine there?
Mom: This is she.
Doctor: Hey Chris, this is Dr. CF
Mom: Hi, Dr. CF
Doctor: I have some unfortunate news to share with you.
Mom: Ok
Doctor: I'm under the impression that Ronnie and Robbie were good friends, would that be correct?
Mom: Yeah, they're in the hospital often together.
Doctor: Well, Robbie recently underwent a surgical procedure to fix a problem that he was having.
Mom: Ok
Doctor: During surgery, Robbie's lungs unexpectedly started to fill up with fluid.
Mom: Oh no!
Doctor: All Robbie had to do was cough to clear his lungs, but we just couldn't get him to do it. He was in a lot of pain and probably lost much of his strength to muster up the cough.
Mom: And?
Doctor: Robbie died on the operating table. I'm sorry. I thought that you and Ronnie would like to know.
Mom: Well I'll tell Ronnie what happened.
Doctor: We're very sorry.
Mom: That's ok, I'll go speak with Ronnie.

So as you can see, I didn't actually witness most of the conversation had between my mom and the doctor (which by the way could have been a CF nurse). After my mom said "Oh no" I knew it wasn't good and started to walk away from the door. I'm not sure if I knew about Robbie's surgery or not, but I just knew that Robbie was dead. It wasn't common for any medical professional to call the house and my mom's reaction kind of tipped me off. I remember walking towards the street, already feeling a deep sense of sadness for my loss of a great friend. Robbie was my first CF friend and one that I spent a lot of time with in the hospital (this was before they kept us separate). I started walking back towards the door and heard my mom say that she would talk to me and hang up the phone.

My mom came outside and broke the news to me. "Ronnie, your friend Robbie was having a surgery and something went wrong. He died during the operation." Boom. The weight of a thousand bricks felt like they had just been thrown on me. There I was, a little 10 year old boy, being told that my 12 year old friend will no longer be there to hang out with in the hospital. The one guy at the time that "really got" what I was going through would never be able race me down the hall on our IV poles. Some one who I looked up to as the older "cool kid". I can still remember his smile and how it lit up a room when he walked in. He was always happy and never complained. He always "looked out" for me and treated me like a little brother. His laugh was infectious and bright teeth would glow as he cackled. Robbie was my first of many CF friends that I have lost but it still feels like yesterday that it happened.

Of course there were a million questions running through my head after my mom told me the full story. It never once made me question my own mortality, but I just couldn't understand how he could die. I knew he was "sicker" than I was, but I didn't think he was that sick. Why did he have to go into surgery? Was he in pain? What if his mom didn't smoke inside the house, would he still be alive (yes, you read that right, she smoked in the house)? The biggest question I had then is still the biggest question I have now...

Why didn't you just cough Robbie?

I lost Robbie almost 20 years ago, but as I write this, I realize how much I still miss him.

7 people had something to say...:

Graciy said...


Denise said...

man, that just killed me. :-(

Tooter's Mommy (Courtney) said...

Good story, but it totally broke my heart! =(

Sara said...

I can't believe his mom would smoke inside the house. I can't stand it when I go to someone's house and they are smoking. Surely she would go outside or atleast have some sort of a filter. I'm sorry about your friend.

Pegson said...

Im not sure if Im missing something but what part of his CF required a cough to survive after the surgery? is this a metaphor for "Packing it in" im lost...

Ronnie "Sickboy" Sharpe said...


I definitely think he just gave up. But we were told that all he had to do was cough to help clear the fluid that was building up in his lungs and he refused.


Rachel said...

I'm crying over here. I'm really sorry you lost your buddy, Ronnie.