I Will Never Stop Fighting For You

I have a lot of stories to tell about my life and all the experiences that I have gathered. Some are great, funny and inspirational. The greatest is the latest one and needs to be shared to everyone, why? It may actually save someone’s life, it is that important. I can’t give you the long version but I can email the bio that I wrote for the hospital I was in. They are doing a story about my time there and all that I went thru. So this is the short version, I can elaborate for you later.
I’m a Law Enforcement Professional with over 23 years experience. I’ve been a the Police Officer, Corrections Officer, Case Manager, Probation Officer, FTO, Trained US ARMY troops while being stationed overseas, SORT Team Member, Jail Officer, Property Officer, MMA Trainer/Coach, Several accolades in training for law enforcement and military personnel. I am married to the greatest person I have ever known, my Queen, my Life, my Love, my wife Louise Ann Smith. She is an 18yr OKNG vet with an active duty time from 03-06 and deployed 4 times in her military career. She is one of the finest soldiers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. A Warriors Warrior, if you can understand that. We have been blessed with 4 children, 3 girls and one son. The 2 oldest girls are serving our country now one in the US ARMY and the other in the USMC. The youngest girl is working on her law enforcement career and our son is still in high school. This story begins fall of 2017. I was having issues not sleeping and developed a really bad cough. My O2 levels were starting to drop. As the weeks went by, my cough worsened and I started to fell run down, no energy and almost lethargic. Other then pushing myself thru work, I didn’t exist. My weight was out of control and I wasn’t doing well. At Christmas time, our family went to California to spend with our oldest daughter and her family. During that time I got hurt and couldn’t hardly walk. It was later determined that I passed out from lack of O2 and all I remember is waking up in a hotel bathroom floor with blood all over the walls and myself. I eventually got back home and went to my doctor. X-rays and blood were taken from me to figure our what was going on with me. It was first thought it was Cancer, a tumor, Crohns Disease, Lupus or a number of other aliments I can’t spell or pronounce. My doctor sent me to a heart doctor and a lung doctor. My heart was ok but my lungs were operating at just 30% and my O2 was at 72. Which is not real, because I should have been dead. So I had been walking around like that for weeks while my doctor was trying to figure out what was wrong. In the mist of all this chaos, the Cardiologist put me on oxygen. That was the wake up call for me. Here I am, 43yrs old, sitting in my own home and have 6 giant scuba tanks of oxygen in my house to live on. I was placed on 100% oxygen 24/7. Now, you may say why I wasn’t placed in the hospital. How come my doctor didn’t admit me? They all tried, I refused. I signed wavier after wavier to refuse medical advice. The dumbest thing I’ve ever done and trying to be tuff was my ultimate demise. A day and a half of being on O2 I basically began to slip into coma caused by Acute Respiratory Failure, Phenomena, staff infection in my lungs, water in and around my lungs, water around my heart and because my lungs weren’t operating properly, I had CO2 in my blood or also called Sepsis. My wife tried to wake me up and I wouldn’t come around. I had slept for almost 30hrs straight. If she had waiting one more hour I would’ve have never came back. She called 911, which I work with all those people, and EMS and YFD showed up to get me. I was taken to the ER. I was immediately placed in ICU. The same Cardiologist, Dr. Kahn, was there and told me wife I wasn’t going to make it. He is a realist, brutal but honest. He said to her, I had hours to make it and to call my children and family to come and say good by. Now, I’ve been thru hell and back several times in my life. Prison work was an adventure and I’ve been thru so much that I should have died many times and never did. Here I was on January 13, 2018, fighting the greatest battle of my existence. My wife refused to believe that I was done. My children and family were called in. Red cross messages were sent out, due to my Marine being deployed at that time. I was placed into an induced coma, placed on a ventilator, IVs, meds, oxygen the whole gambit. I’d like to think I’ve saved a few lives in my day but I couldn’t save my own this day. All my doctors counted me out and told my family to make my final arrangements. She refused. She never left my side. She stayed with me day and night. The doctors and staff kept telling her to go home and rest and she wouldn’t go. She never gave up on me. She held my hand, talked to me, washed my face and would touch me face constantly. I can only imagine the pain and suffering I put her thru. Something I feel horrible about this very day. After a few days of being stable but not making any positive improvements it was determined that something else needed to be done. My body was so weak and tired. So the asked my wife about doing a surgery called the ‘Eckmo Procedure’ which you can YouTube and see it. I can’t watch it and I was told not to watch it. The doctors told her if was a 50/50 success rate. I would either live from it or die from it. This was my last and final option. She prayed about it and came back to them and said to do it. They tried to move me to the surgery floor and when they tried, my vitals would bottom out. They had to do the surgery right there in my ICU room. The Eckmo surgery is basically an oil change for your blood. It takes the blood and cleans, filters, re-oxygenizes it and puts it back in your system. 2 giant tubes were placed in my neck with one going to each side of my heart to pump the blood in and out of my body. Normally, the Eckmo surgery is done as a last resort option and typically people that respond positively to it remain on it for weeks to months to the rest of their lives. Some never get off of it and eventually die on it. Now here is the kicker and this is what sets me apart from normal people. I was on this machine for 8 days!! I responded to the procedure and starter to show positive signs. They had to sew the tubes to my face incase for some reason they were dislodge I wouldn’t bleed out. Which if that happened, I would bleed out in seconds. After 8 days I was taken off the Eckmo machine and in the next few weeks I finally woke up. I was in ICU for 7 weeks and then placed in a regular hospital room for 3 days awaiting my admittance to a rehab facility. I was placed in the rehab facility called Select Medical. I then began my next battle, rehab. It was a beast. My first 4 days I had to learn how to sit up on my own. The next several weeks I had to learn to walk again. My small motor skills had to be refined. My strength was less than that of a new born child. It was a fight. And my physical therapy team told me, the only way I was going home was to prove to the doctors I could sustain a normal life without help. I remember getting to walk outside for the first time in weeks and crying from how good the wind and sun felt on my skin. I got to see ducks flying around and hear the cars in traffic. As always, my wife never left my side. She stayed every night with me, get up early and put her BDUs on and head to work. Work a full day and come to me. She never let me down and was my constant fuel to get thru this hell. She is my compass that gets me thru the darkness. I never needed anyone before, I know now that is wrong. I need her. On March 15, 2018 I was finally discharged from the hospital. I walked in my house on my own power, slow like a penguin but still moving on my own. I went inside and got to see my dog Titan for the first time. He went crazy and it was so cool to see that. I sat down and cried, totally lost it. My wife there comforting me and being my rock. The next few days were weird. Due to all the trauma I put my body thru, my mind was in a ‘rebooting phase’ and my memory was very bad. To this day I can’t remember Christmas or even my birthday last September 23rd. 2 weeks after being home my doctors cleared me to return to work part time. I work for the Yukon Police Department operating their Jail and Property/Evidence. After the part time phase was completed I was back full time. I still have daily battles, it hurts me inside when my kids talk about things and I can’t remember. I feel like an outsider at times. My doctors were worried about me having PTSD, which I’ve had before it was called PTSD. The constant in my life is my wife and children. They fought for me, they stood by me as I walked alone in the darkness. They never left my side. I’ve learned a tremendous like lesson thru all of this and I was wrong about a lot of things. First, I was stupid in thinking there was ‘nothing wrong’ with me. Guys are the worst about that and we know were are. That has changed. Second, I was wrong in saying that I would die for my family. I will LIVE for my family. Each day I live with pain. A reminder of what I have endured but needed to keep me humble and focused. I see the scars on my neck from the surgery and the scars on my face are slowly disappearing. But I remember what all my wife and children went thru and they never quit on me and in turn I won’t quit on them. Its ironic that TNQ is something I live by everyday and its something that Marcus had imbedded in all of us. I hope one day to meet him and have the opportunity to shake his hand. The only other greater honor or me is seeing my wife and her everlasting smile each day. this is a unique story in the sense I was given my one way ticket never to return and defied what the doctors predicted. Today, when I see Dr. Kahn, he even says he was wrong and you can’t truly measure the will someone has to live. I am blessed and I don’t take God for granted one bit. I am not a miracle, and I don’t like hearing that from people. I can’t part the seas or turn water into wine, at least not yet. I tell you my story in the hope that it may reach someone that was just like me. I weighed in at 437lbs and when I left the hospital I was 292lbs. I weighed in last week at 299lbs. So I’m getting there and I know it will take time. I’m sharing this story to honor my wife. She is my hero. She is currently with the Oklahoma National Guard and works full time as an AGR NCO. She is assigned to the 160th FA Unit for the 45th IBCT. She went out to the field and she support the fire teams that shoot the 105 Howitzers. She got to put a note on a shell for me (a huge honor) and she wrote, ‘Justin, I will never stop fighting for you-Babs’ This lives with me each day. I want her to be recognized for being the epitome of a warrior. Not me. I look up to her. Thank you for this opportunity and if you want the full story, I will be more than wiling to share it with you. It needs to be told. I would like to leave you with one thought or saying and it actually is plastered on our living room wall in our home. It reads:
Family isn’t about the blood you share, its about those willing to bleed for you.
Thank you for all you inspire. My hats off to all of you and to Marcus and his brother Morgan. Thank you for your service to this great country.

Author: Justin