Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Joe Malone 1969-2006

It has been about two months since my good friend, Joe Malone died. Though, we were only friends for less than a year, his death hit me hard. Joe, was 36, and like me, had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, was trached, and used a ventilator to help him breathe. He was a free-thinker, a non-conformist, and had an open mind about many things, much like me. I was able to have intelligent conversations with him on many subjects. We both shared a constant drive to learn. He was also a lover of animals and nature, as I am. I looked forward to our continuing friendship.

This all ended very suddenly on a January night in his apartment in the Point Loma area of San Diego. His death had nothing to do with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, but human error. As he backed up his power wheelchair, on his way to use his computer, he hit something which disconnected his breathing tubes from his vent on the back of his chair. He could only be off his vent for a minute or so. The nurse on duty at the time reconnected the main tube to the vent, but one of the smaller tubes was still disconnected, and she failed to find it. She called the nursing agency and they called 911. His roommates tried to get air to his lungs, but were unsucessfull. When the paramedics arrived, they were unable to revive him. He died the next morning at the UCSD Medical Center in San Diego.

I found out about his death when I logged on to Yahoo!Instant Messenger to chat with him, which we did quite often. The night before, I was unable to reach him; because he was in distress at the time. I typed a greeting to him, and was shocked to get a response from one of his roommates. She informed me that Joe had died that morning. I went cold and I had a sinking feeling in my gut. Seeing the words, "Joe Died" hit me like a ton of bricks. I was angry that my good friend had been snatched away, but then I realized this is the reality of DMD. But when I found out that human error, and not DMD killed him, the loss was even harder to deal with. But, for one little tube, he would still be here today. It was a tragic accident for Joe, his family, his roommates, and the nurse whose inability to reconnect his vent tubing led to his death.

Joe lived for today and made the most of his life. A favorite quote of Joe's was by Joan Baez who said " You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now."


Jean Conner said...

Johnnie, I think of you nearly ever day. I try to send you an E-Mail hoping you will get a smile on your face and in your heart. You are a delightful person to be around. The few times I have been with you, I always leave with a feeling that you have touched my life in someway. After reading your blog on "Joe" I realize even more how amazing you are. Love Jean Conner PS. The Nana of your Neice and Nephews from Texas.

Terri said...

It has been a little over a year now since Joe passed away. He was a good friend of mine for many years although online. I wrote to him as you did but in my case to let him know that the night before my son's oxygen level had begun to drop. I wanted to let him know that Alex was on bipap and that if things didn't improve, he would be intubated. Ironically, my son's stats suddenly began to drop around the time that Joe was also in distress. It was so much a shock to lose Joe and almost lose my son at the same time. I feel selfish for wishing he had been there for me and so sad not to have been there for him.

Zetetic said...

This is an old post, but Joe's story seems brand new every time I think about it. And it makes me angry. I probably didn't know him as well as you, but his loss still hit me hard. It's difficult to accept something so senseless, his death didn't have to happen.

Don said...

John, you don't know me but I am Joe's brother Don. I came across your blog and was touched by your kind words about him. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him and how much I miss him. He was a good man and all who met him came away with something positive to share with the world. He had a zest for life that was contagious. I gave the eulogy at his funeral and I used alot of stories reflecting that. Joe was my brother but he was also my role model and my hero. I hope you continue remember him and I hope that you are able to hold on to and convey that same zest for life to the people around you. I know that I still try.