4:00am - I am finally finished with work installs and quickly leave my job. I rush to the hospital to be with Ashley. I try to comfort her. She looks pale and feels hot to touch. Her hospital gown is soaked in perspiration. I notice that she is showing some initial signs of withdrawal. Her long hair is strangely piled on the top of her head and I lean closer to look. The nurse comes in and tells Ashley that the bobby pins in her hair need to come out before surgery. I reach down to remove them for her and realize that her hair, all that beautiful long blonde hair, is in a big matted nest on the top of her head and held together by, what looks like, a boxful of bobby pins. It’s evident that her hair has not been washed or brushed in months. She has hidden it well. I believe that the addict cares next to nothing about their hygiene. Their only concern is where they are going to get their next fix and how soon they can get it. Not much else matters in life. I wonder how in the world this massive knot of hair will ever get brushed out. I push away thoughts of having to shave her head. This is minor by comparison I remind myself. Her hospital gown is draped loosely around her neck and I spot several scabs on her chest. I ask about them. She confesses that they are cigarette burns. I realize that she has burned herself while lying down and being so zoned out, that she loses her hold on the cigarette and it drops onto her chest. It is by the grace of a merciful God that she has not burned the house down where she is staying.
May 17, 2015 – 10:30am - Ashley has surgery under general anesthesia to remove multiple layers of skin where there is no blood supply and to remove infection on her right upper hip butt area. They are giving her morphine for the pain and for her addiction. Shockingly, I learned that Ashley was injecting $300 a day of heroin into her body and ingesting about $2000 worth of pills per week prior to that. I don’t even want to know where she gets the money for this expensive habit. I feel sick and numb inside. I have not slept in over 40 hours.
It’s a good thing that we cannot see the future before it happens. We go through periods of joy and adversity one encounter at a time. If I was given a crystal ball to see the next set of events that were going to unfold, I’m positive I would have packed my stuff and moved far away.
As always, Ashley is on my mind. Even though she doesn’t know what her future holds, God does. I desperately wish she would allow Him to lead her in the right direction. These past few months, I have felt like an incessant child tugging at the skirt strings of her mother. I call her naggingly to see if she has food, is she okay, is she sleeping, is she eating. It’s as wearing on me and I’m sure it is on her.
3:45am – Ashley’s bags are packed, and we get in the car and head to that same areas of town again. But first I need to stop by the ATM and withdraw some money. My nerves are completely shot and again, I’ve had little sleep. Plus, Ashley says she has been up since 6 AM the morning before. We head to the airport. As we are on the road leading to the terminal, I spot a McDonald's and ask her if she’d like to have something to eat before she gets on the plane. As we pull over to the drive-through, I reach for my wallet and realized that my debit card isn’t in there. My mind races to the last time I had it. I remember just leaving the Huntington ATM and suddenly realize that I left the card in the machine. I pull over and try to call Huntington's loss prevention to see if they can put a block on the card. I'm not sure that it was successful because I apparently can’t talk to a live person. I’ll have to worry about that later. Can this day get any better?
As we enter the airport, Ashley spots a restroom sign and almost runs to it. She tells me she’ll be back. As I drop my bags on the floor and slump into a spot on a nearby couch, I realize what she’s doing. I picture the cold metal walls of the restroom doors hiding her dirty work as she injects a needle into her body. A syringe filled with something so damaging and destructive to anyone else not using drugs; but to Ashley it’s what will make her body feel normal again.
We get to baggage check-in and I wonder how I'm going to pay the $60 for her to check her two bags in. I have no cash on me. I had given Ashley $65 in all for her drugs and then $20 to take with her on the trip but that depleted my cash on hand. I scrounge around my wallet and find a credit card I have not used for a while. It’s declined. I called the 800-number on the back of the card. After 45 minutes, the card goes through. I had lost this card last year and requested a new one but never used it. There was a security block on it from when I lost it. With her bags checked in, we head to the gate. I know that I am sending her off to a place to save her life but now all I see is my little girl again. Alone and afraid. And my heart is broken. It almost takes my breath away. I hug her and hold her tightly. I remind her that God is with her and that she can do this. With His help, she can emerge victorious.
Ashley goes through the checkout line and then through the security gate. She looks over at me frequently. I watch her, knowing that what lies ahead will be hard for her. I thank God for giving her courage to do this and for giving me strength to see her through this. As Ashley walks down the walkway towards the final gate, she turns her head around and looks at me. She slowly touches her heart and then her lips and blows a kiss to me. I do the same back to her lovingly. She does this again several more times after taking a few steps and continues until she's out of sight. Part of me wants to run and hold her. But I keep reminding myself that this is where she needs to be and that I alone can’t help her. I know she is going to a place where they can teach her how to live drug-free. With the Lord by her side, I know she can do this.