The morning after we visited Kim went the way just about every Sunday morning went. I woke up first, took the dogs for a stroll to calm them down, then I came home and started making breakfast.
As I put the biscuits in the oven, I went upstairs to check on the kids; the older two were already awake and had begun playing in their room. I told them to get dressed and then come downstairs to get ready for breakfast. They began to probe me, asking what was for breakfast, knowing that I would not give them a straight answer. I love watching my kids’ faces light up when they find out they’re having a standard weekend breakfast, something like waffles, pancakes, or biscuits.
I listen to them scamper above me in their room, hopping around as they got their clothes together. The came down together, each trying to save the other from the certain doom of being left alone on a floor. My oldest saw the oven timer counting down and asked with a keen smile if we were having biscuits. I said, “No,” as I put bacon into the skillet. “Broccoli and spinach wafers. I found a recipe online. It said kids love it.”
He feigned death from disgust, prompting his little sister to do the same as she walked in from den, having no idea the purpose of the game, but rather participating only for the fact that it looked fun. She looked up from her deathbed, “What’s for breakfast, Daddy?”
“Eyeballs,” my son said before sticking his tongue back out of his mouth and making an exaggerated death rattle. My children are so much like me.
I had them both sit at the table and gave them each yogurt as my wife came down with our youngest, still in his jammies. She put him down and he moved to the slightly opened pantry where he grasped a package of apple sauce and held it up for Mel to open it for him. Shortly after this the oven pinged and I took out the biscuits, dropping them onto a plate.
As I sat down, Mel brought up Kim. My walk, joking with the kids, baking. All of my little joys and relaxations began to flutter away from me. Even still, it was a necessary discussion.
In the early part of the morning, my mom had begun texting our group consisting of my mom, Mel, me, my dad, and his wife Kathy.
A quick note on Kimberly’s life in the days leading up to this life – altering event:
For the first time in years, my sister has gone back to school. She is incredibly excited and impassioned. For years she has worked a series of jobs across the country: a pharmacy tech, tech support, waitress, and now as an admittance coordinator at a major university medical center. In her work, she has made herself indispensable. She has won recognition for her customer service skills, been awarded employee of the month, and won the respect of the hospital staff she serves.
While in the hospital, her boss came in to see her. He told her how worried everyone in the office is, how much the providers miss her and her skills, and that the general manager of her unit came to ask on a nearly daily basis about her and her recovery. Hearing all of this helped her realize how important she is and the kind of future she could have in her industry.
In order to help her advance beyond where she is now, she decided to go back to school and finish her degree. Because of her work schedule and the fact that she has a pre – adolescent son, she chose to seek an online degree program, a great choice, I thought. She has been so incredibly proud of herself because she consistently gets high A’s on all of her assignments and papers. We’ve all been proud of her commitment and hard work.
And then came the brachial arterial aneurysm.
She spent a week in the ICU trying to recover from something that we did not understand for the first several days and that we learned could lead to dismemberment or death only one day prior.
The messages my mom sent showed us Kim’s state of mind. She was frantic. My mom had gotten a call from her early in the morning; she was in tears.
My mother explained that Kim had been in contact with her professor regarding her situation. He had responded to her request to make up what she missed during her week in ICU by saying that she would receive zeros on all of her assignments. He demanded that he was not in the habit of accepting late work, and he was choosing not to make an exception in Kimberly’s case. Moreover, he advised her that any work she had during the coming week must be turned in promptly to be counted for any credit. When she protested, saying that she was in the hospital and only had the use of a single arm, he retorted that she would simply have to find someone who could type up her assignments for her.
I am an educator. I understand wanting students to turn assignments in at the designated time. I also realize that life happens and that students sometimes need additional time. A student who always asks for additional time can be a problem. Any student who is hospitalized as a result of life threatening event, however, I would be more likely to create a plan to get that person back on track.
That text began the conversation that brought down the rest of my morning, which then turned into the rest of my afternoon, and then the bulk of my evening. The group had begun responding to texts, stating how insanely unreasonable we feel his actions are before we Mel, the kids, and I had even sat down to breakfast. By the time we finished, she and I were embroiled in the conversation, agreeing that his policy was unreasonable in this circumstance.
Kathy, my father’s wife, had been consistently responding as we went back and forth about how to deal with the issue. She was beside herself with frustration. She and my mom both commented on how upset my dad had been the night before. He had come in from out of town to see Kimberly; he had arrived just after we had left. When it was time to leave, they went all the way back home rather than stay in a hotel for the evening. Throughout the night, my dad couldn’t sleep. He was overcome with fear, grief, and sadness over what was happening to his daughter. He has never been one for texting, and so it was no surprise that he was not actively involved in the group chat.
And then he chimed in. “One great thing about social media is that we can bombard the school and that teacher with so many negative comments that we will chase students away from the school. It may not bother that ‘teacher’ but it sure as hell will bother the school.”
My father is a very successful businessman. He did the rounds at a nine to five job until eventually retiring, and then went on to buying, refurbishing, and reselling or renting out houses. From there he bought a pair of franchises and developed a strong base of operations in several cities across the state. He understands how important the Better Business Bureau can be, and how negative publicity can destroy an organization.
He was not, however, ready to start there. He texted immediately afterward stating that we should take an effective course of action in which we contact the Dean of her particular school to see if she could potentially get some form of relief through her. Because of my background as an educator, he recommended that I spearhead the effort.
Over the next several hours, I tried to find as much information as possible in order to prepare a decent email. As I continued, it was obvious that communication with the public was not a priority for this University. I looked for her professor’s email address. It was non – existent online. I tried to find the chair of his department. Each web page gave me a different name, but none of them provided email addresses. I looked for the Dean of the school. I found her, but once again there was no email available. I searched for any person who may somehow be available for a discussion. I found names, titles, job descriptions, and bios. I found no email addresses and no phone numbers.
I had begun my quest for information in the mid morning and was not able to find anything until closer to mid afternoon. In the time in between, I had fed the kiddos lunch and put the littles down for a nap. My wife took our oldest out for a romp around town just to get the two of them out of the house for a few hours. I knew that I had to wait to send whatever I wrote because I had promised her not to send anything without letting her look over it first. When it comes to family, I can sometimes get a little hotheaded.
I had been hesitating getting in touch with Kimberly because of my fears over her mental state, so instead I called my mom. As luck would have it, she was at the hospital with Kim. She asked her for the email address of her professor, which she then read back to me. I opened up my school Outlook and began to craft an email.
Here is what I eventually wrote:
I am writing you today concerning one of your students, Kimberly Harper.
On Labor Day, Kimberly suffered a brachial aneurysm. She was rushed to the hospital in Murfreesboro, then transferred to a hospital in Nashville where they performed emergency surgery to stop the internal bleeding and attempt to ascertain the cause of the problem. They placed a stent in the artery and a drain in her arm. Up to this point, her left upper arm had grown to the size of her thigh. She remained in ICU through yesterday, Saturday, September 8th. She still lacks the use of her left arm and has remained hospitalized.
Her vascular surgeon had initially planned on performing surgery on Thursday, September 6th, but ultimately decided to push the date back by a week to Thursday, September 13th in order to consult with another vascular surgeon as well as an oncologist.
Kimberly has a genetic disorder known as neurofibromatosis. The vascular surgeon offered an article detailing a case study of a patient who was five years Kimberly’s junior with the exact same genetic disorder and the exact same cause of hospitalization. In that case, the surgery went exactly as planned, the recovery went as well as expected, and the patient died of complications from the aneurysm four days later. I am providing a link to the case study from the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery for you here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/230949900801600224
I understand that last week during this ordeal Kimberly missed three assignments. I further understand that you have told her that she will not be allowed to make up any of those assignments and instead will receive zeros. I respectfully request that you reconsider your stance on those assignments, as well as allowing her to make up assignments which are due for this week as she prepares for surgery.
Upon responding, would you please include the following as I have not been able to find them on the university’s website:
- A copy of the class syllabus
- A copy of the ****** University Faculty Handbook
- The name and an effective email address of the Department Chair
- An effective email address for Dr. *********(the Dean of her school)
- An effective email address for Dr. *********(VP of Academic Affairs)
Thank you in advance for your prompt reply.
After I finished writing the email, I saved it to my drafts and awaited Mel’s return. I paced the floor, made changes, got up the littles from their naps, watched Octonauts, and paced some more. When she returned home, I went into the study and got my laptop. She read through, suggested a few changes, and then said she thought it was pretty effective.
I hit send and then began the wait for his reply.