My Disgraceful History: KKK

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Racism, Hate, Hate Groups, Black History all discussed.

The horrific events in Charlottesville August 12, 2017, where the beautiful Heather Heyer was killed, were despicable acts of domestic terrorism. An outspoken beacon for ending racial and xenophobic behaviors, she will be honored always for her sacrifice to the cause of equality and peace.

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Hero, Heather Heyer

My Sordid Family Legacy

These clashes between the “right/alt-right/white supremacists/white nationalists/Nazis/etc. brings out, once again, the shame I hold in my heart because of my family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan.

My great-grandfather, Eddie Johnston, came from Sweden when he was young. His family (whose name was Johnson) had been bigoted before they even got to Ellis Island. When my great-great grandfather was asked his name, he added a T to his last name… because far too many blacks in America had the last name Johnson.

Memories of Racism

  • I remember when my family moved from northern California to Orlando, Florida in 1966; I was 5 years old. As we drove deeper and deeper into the south, I saw more and more segregation. I had no concept or context, of course, but absolutely remember the different water fountains and different bathrooms. Today, I am horrified at those memories.
  • In 5th grade, Mrs. Moore made it clear where she stood on the race issue. We still had no blacks in the school… the first and only black person came the next year… but as she taught American History, she lingered on the south’s views in the Civil War segment.
  • A friend of mine, Angel, brought in something that she wouldn’t even show me, but went to Mrs. Moore to ask if she could share with the class. I was near the desk so could hear it all, still not putting it into context for several more years. Angel had brought in some Civil War memorabilia, all southern in origin. I can still hear Mrs. Moore saying, “I believe the same as you do, but we aren’t allowed to talk about those things.” I went to sharpen my pencil and saw a photo of the white hoods and a burning cross. It was the first time I had ever seen the KKK.
  • My Nana, whom I was named after, was married to my Johnston great-grandfather. I distinctly remember her seeing black children, pinching their cheeks and telling them what cute “pickaninnies” they were. How I wish I could remember the faces of those children’s mothers; they had to have been disgusted.
  • When we spent weekends with my great-grandparents, watching television became an adventure in racism. The Flip Wilson Show, one of the first TV shows that starred a black person, was popular, but my great-grandfather would holler epithets at the blacks on his show and kvetched the entire hour it was on.
  • You know the child’s game of Eeny Meeny Miny Moe, yes?

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When we played the game it was “catch a n-word by the toe.” I had zero clue what I was saying. When I had kids, they would play the game and sing “catch a tiger by the toe,” but there was not one time I didn’t flinch when they began singing the song, fearing they would say that horrible word. They’d never even heard that version of the rhyming game; I still braced myself.

  • Peppered around the south are Brazil nut trees. We called them “n-word toes.”

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heavy sigh

Add the KKK to My History

I was about 10-years old when my racist great-grandfather lay dying in a hospital from emphysema. The stories began being told about his life, one of which was his history with the KKK. Apparently, he had been an active member in the 1930s and 1940s when my family lived outside New York City and then again when my great-grandparents retired to Florida in the early 1960s. Hints that he might have been a grand wizard wafted about as well.  I have no idea either how to find out if that is true nor do I have any desire to learn more about his/my shameful history.

How I Was Raised

My father, a Cuban, was called the n-word in high school (in Miami) and my mom’s family became apoplectic when they became engaged. Not sure if my mom had some inherent understanding of racial issues, but she was a supporter of civil rights issues in the 60’s. Not that she could march or anything having 3 kids one right after the other, but she said she did speak up as much as possible with friends and family.

For whatever reason, we just didn’t say the n-word at home. Except for what I mentioned above, I cannot recall ever using that word to describe anyone or use as an epithet.

It took until junior high, which bused in blacks, before I heard the word used regularly. I didn’t connect the word with racism until long after I graduated from high school. I remember, in high school, hanging out with band members who “joked” about being in the KKK, how they were looking for local meetings and even talked about burning crosses. I sat mute, confused and lost. How much more oblivious could I have been? I’m baffled at my inability to see the graphic evil stewing around me.

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Somewhere along the line, my mom gave me the book, Black Like Me… a not so subtle teaching of stepping into another’s shoes… black shoes. I remember reading it as if it was yesterday.

After my parent’s divorce, my dad married a deep south-thinking bitch. When she met my Dominican husband, her face pinched tight and she asked, “Are you black?!” the word “black” spit out like a bitter pill. Somewhere in me, I sat up straighter and mentally stuck my tongue out at her.

In fact, his grandmother was black, 2 of my children being brown, the last white like me.

Confronting My Own Racism

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It took (too) many years coalescing all that I’d seen and heard into some semblance of understanding.

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I’m sitting looking at the blinking cursor, not even sure where to go from here.

pausing some more

I need to amend a sentence I wrote above.

“I cannot recall ever using that word (the n-word) to describe anyone or use as an epithet.”

Amendment: Out loud.

After not using that word in my life, how did it jump into my mind when I was frustrated or angry with a Black person (usually in the car)? Where did that (disgusting) habit come from?

The 1980s were a really introspective time for me. I tackled issues like boycotting, feminism, inner-homophobia, non-violent communication & childrearing… and began exploring my beliefs (and lies) about racism and xenophobia.

(This is much harder to write than I expected.)

I am the embodiment of white privilege. I might have Cuban blood and a Latinx surname, but I have been indoctrinated in the ways of the white culture.

Despite working with Latinx migrant and immigrant women for a couple of decades, learning Spanish, and being able to make platanos maduros, I remain steeped in whiteness.

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My Apology

I acknowledge there is very little I can say to alleviate the damage done by me and my family, but I have to apologize, nevertheless. I am deeply sorry to everyone affected by those in my family… and perpetrated by myself, even inside my mind. I do not want forgiveness, would never ask for it because I do not think forgiveness is in order. I want blacks to know, in my heart, I do apologize every day. I try to use the privilege I have to rectify, support and lift up the blacks I see and interact with. I am so, so sorry. There are not enough words to express myself.

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Some Things I’ve Learned

“For a black American, a black inhabitant in this country, the Statue is simply a very bitter joke… Meaning nothing to us.”

James Baldwin, Ken Burns‘ America: Statue of Liberty

Black Lives Matter is an amazing group that holds black people in the esteem they deserve. I love their goals of ending the country’s systematic incarceration, ending police violence with regards to black folks and being “unapologetically black,” fighting for reform of the justice system that is overwhelmingly against blacks and standing tall in their shared problems and successes. I’m listening.

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It makes my heart ache seeing what’s happening with this country because of 45. Each of us has a role to take in ending the pain and growing chasms tearing our country apart. I cannot march, but I can write. I need to write more.

“What’s different, he said, is that the world now has a history of what Nazism is and what it led to, which it didn’t have 75 years ago.

“We don’t have the ability to pretend like it’s not happening,”

Listening Hard

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My Wall-E-esque Life: Part 1

“Fat Acceptance” has been a catch-phrase for at least 40 of the years I have been alive. In 2 parts, I share my experiences and lessons learnt being a part of the…

Fat Acceptance Movement.

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I’ve been fat ever since I got my tonsils out when I was 7-years old.

Fat kid, teen, adult and now a “mature” adult.

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Trials (and Errors)

I’ve done dozens of diets, been prescribed Black Beauties & other speed (starting at age 8), belonged to many gyms, taken Phen-Fen (with success, but with heart valve damage), tried Topamax (fail), used Wellbutrin (fail), had a Roux en Y Gastric Bypass (with fabulous success, then epic failure), done hypnosis & acupuncture (fail & fail), become a daily Mindfulness Meditation fanatic (fail for weight loss/huge win for pain relief), have tried to have anorexia, then bulimia, hand-written hundreds of thousands of journal pages, letting them “hold” my pain, shame, revulsion, self-hate, wishes, fears, hopes &, eventually, resolution with my size.

I remain in resolution.

I will never diet or take diet drugs again. Ever.

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Time & Money

Thinking about the masses of time and money I’ve spent trying to lose weight makes my head spin.

Time

  • Going to the gym
  • Writing out menus
  • Researching rules and techniques for success
  • Real life or online support group meetings, including social networks talking about losing/gaining weight
  • Shopping slower to read labels and make sure food is “appropriate”
  • Learning new cooking methods
  • Fighting with family about the change in foods in the fridge and cupboards
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artist: Sapphire4723

Money

  • Gym membership
  • New cookbooks
  • Membership fees & apps
  • Tools for success (exercise equipment, pedometer, walking/running shoes, gym clothes, etc.)
  • Tossing all the “bad” food in the garbage
  • Buying all the “good” food
  • Probably eventually buying more “bad” food for my family because they whined so much about foisting my diet on them
  • $28,000 cash for RNY gastric bypass (GB)

Can I include the time and money (including the taxpayer’s) for the years of therapy discussing and crying about all of this?

money drain

Positive?

I was a Fat Activist in the mid-late 80’s, mostly in the lesbian community. I’ve written about being fat-positive for almost 3 decades.

In the beginning, when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was healthy… labs were fine, no diabetes, my joints or feet didn’t hurt. I crowed (bragged, was arrogant) about how it was the fat-hating that made fat people sick and die, not the fat itself.

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Reality

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Now, at 56-years old, I see how delusional I was. I am well on the road to dying before most people in my family did, and they all had diabetes, too. My future resides in my memories of my Cuban relatives & the diabetes complications they endured before dying. Heart attacks, going blind, having toes, then feet cut off, eventually dying in a coma because the body just gave up.

I see it coming as if it was a roaring train heading right for me.

Litany of Pain

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Here are my fat-related illnesses and issues:

  • Type 2 Diabetes (diagnosed at 34 years old), now on 2 insulins and metformin
  • I heal terribly because of the diabetes, often needing antibiotics for residual infections
  • Stage 3 Kidney Disease from the diabetes
  • Pain with every step I take
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis in my feet, which have broken 3 times just from walking for exercise, and one foot breaking while swimming
  • Broke one foot falling off the Wii Fit Board trying to exercise… needed 3 surgeries to repair
  • Arthritis in my lower back, was on opioids for 8+ years for the back pain, becoming incredibly addicted, finally getting clean 3 years ago (yay me!) Now I use Mindfulness Meditation for pain relief, though many times I wish for some Norco.
  • It took me years to find surgeons I felt safe with to get my 4 hernias repaired (one surgery) and then my gallbladder out (a separate surgery, with 3 hospital visits afterwards because of infection)… several turning me away because of my enormous belly size (blessedly, I found the docs and those issues are resolved)
  • Bone loss from possibly 2 main sources: lack of exercise & the GB
  • Walking with a walker, but should be in an electric wheelchair, my feet hurting so badly
  • Using an electric wheelchair when I shop

Nautilus

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My world has gradually become smaller and smaller. After 32 years in birth work (where I hurt daily as well), I am now a sedentary Phone Sex Operator. I live in a small space and leave the house only for doctor appointments, physical therapy, shopping and seeing my doggies at mom’s house.

Writing that makes me sad.

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Part 2 On Its Way

In Part 2 of My Wall-E-esque Life, I will talk about the place the Fat Advocacy Movement does have in our lives. While it might not be health (despite the incessant refrain that it does), it is most assuredly have an enormous place in our physical and emotional world.

More soon!

Fat Girl Stories: Hiding Food

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Binge Eating & Food Hoarding discussed.

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If I died right this moment and someone had to go through my room, either throwing things away or giving them to my kids, they would find, in several different locations, stashes of candy.

Quite the mind-fuck seeing the candy juxtaposed with the insulin and metformin, isn’t it.

rolling my eyes

Learned Behavior

I come by the behavior honestly.

Growing up, mom was periodically on diets. When she was, so was the entire household. I called the feast or famine cycle, “Celery or Eclairs.” Either mom created delicious baked goods or we had celery and carrots filling the refrigerator. It didn’t take long to learn to bulk up for the famine that was surely to come in a couple of weeks. As a ravenous fat child, I scavenged for calories when we were supposed to be eating far fewer of them.

You see, my mom hid candy, usually plain M&Ms, in her drawers, under her marabou-lined lingerie. Being a nosy brat, I scoured the room, looking for the candy, then eating it when it was finally in my greedy hands. I didn’t process the information that mom would know I had eaten it when she couldn’t find it. That was irrelevant. Eating it was the goal and eat it I did.

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crispy M&Ms keeping company with my meds

Hoarding

When I was in a relationship (pick one), invariably my partner would have issues with my food intake. Reading my Facebook Memories makes me wince as, nearly every 2-3 days, I was starting yet another new diet or forcing myself to go to the Y.

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When I went to the Y, I would ride the exercise bike until I sweat, go as long as I could, then get off and get in the car to go home.

And then began the fight, the tug-of-war to eat before I went home. Carl’s Jr. was open; I could go through their drive-through. I could go to the grocery store and get something quick to consume. Whatever I chose, I wouldn’t be able to eat it all, so would need to either throw the rest away or bring it home with me. (Another wrestling match in my head.)

I hated throwing the food away, especially when I could eat it later. So I’d tuck the leftover burger or sourdough baguette and cheese in my gym bag and hope Zack wasn’t awake so I could hide it in the closet.

My shoe holder (a long canvas bag that hold 12 pairs of shoes) was my favorite hiding place. Fuck, that is gross looking at that now. Then, it seemed like a brilliant idea.

I had to move slowly so the wrapping didn’t crinkle too loud, betraying my plan.

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Visceral Reactions

I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to explain how much I hate discussing food with anyone, partners most of all. My body tenses as if I was about to be assaulted, every hackle raised trying to protect my Self from the (invariably) negative and judgmental bullshit about to come out of their mouths. Yeah, yeah… I know… “they mean well.” Well, it doesn’t feel well. It feels horrid, defending myself, my size, my food choices, intake and why am I still fat even after dieting/exercising/having a gastric bypass/using medications/etc.

Don’t I know what eating so much/exercising so little is going to do to me? Don’t I see my Cuban relatives as the Cautionary Tale for my own future with diabetes?

Today’s Freedom

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my low glucose drawer

I haven’t had but the briefest mentions of my weight with anyone besides medical people in over 2 years… and it has been heaven. Sitting and writing, even this far out, I can still feel the intense tightening of my muscles as I remember the inevitable tap dance discussion of my weight and food the moment someone began with, “Honey, I am worried about you.”

I’m not stupid. I was a health care provider. I’ve read the articles and papers about being sedentary and fat. I know my life span is infinitely shorter because I don’t “exercise and eat right.”

But the freedom from the stress of discussing it cannot be described. Doesn’t that account for something?

It does in my world.

Blindsided: The Fat-Shaming Doc Visit

trigger-warning

Written 10/12/16 about 10/10/16 Gastro-Intestinal (GI) doctor visit.

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So, while I have been fat my whole life and have had my share of medical fat-shaming from fat-hating doctors, it has been a very long time since that’s happened… whether from their shifts in attitude via Continuing Education about inclusivity  (or at least learning to keep their mouths closed about their attitudes)  or because I learned to open my mouth to shut it down.

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Unknown date of un-remembered hospitalization. PICC Line insertion successful.

The GI Doc

I had signed AMA out of the hospital 12 hours earlier when the doctor, small, a person of color (no clue the origin, but shouldn’t matter),very pretty walked into the Exam Room.

“Oh, my! You look awful,” she said. I’d seen her 3 times before, but I am memorable by what I wear (tie-dye) and being bald. And I am very, very nice to care providers.

“You look like you haven’t slept in weeks!”

“Uhhh, I am at the tail end of a 2-3 month Manic Episode, so no, not sleeping much.”

She went over the paperwork, labs & prescriptions from the night before. She looked at me pretty harshly and said, “You really need to be in the hospital. You are extremely dehydrated.”

I told her no one said anything like that the night before, but I would probably still not have stayed.

She said, “Stubborn.”

Dehydration?

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The reasons she said I am dehydrated:

  • chronic diarrhea despite 20 Immodiums and 3 Pancreatic Enzymes a day
  • vomiting a couple of times a day
  • taking Lasix to pee! (because of the ankle swelling from the Risperdal)

I would have never recognized the signs of dehydration because they were in the labs! I guess the NP the night before didn’t think I was that dehydrated because she never even said the word to me. My pee is crystal clear; strange. She said that was why my HR was 124 upon discharge. I am sure I shrugged.

Medications

She said I needed to get the ER prescriptions filled (the Cipro and Bentyl) and she added Prilosec, Lomotil and Zofran.

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This is what my New-Taking-Now meds look like (as they lay against my ballot which went in the mail yesterday!).

“Good-Luck with That.”

“You need to have your gallbladder taken out as soon as possible, before it gets infected.”

Okay, true. Emergency surgeries on fat people have an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.

But there was more to her sentence above.

She ran two of them together, “You need to have your gallbladder taken out as soon as possible, before it gets infected… but I am sure you won’t find a doctor to touch you because of your size.”

blinking as I watched the contempt drip from her lips

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think you will find a doctor in our area to do the surgery because of (again with the disdain) – the risks.”

I told her I knew that Bariatric Surgeons (who do Weight Loss Surgeries) are ALL GI Docs and I would find one to take my gallbladder out.

“Good luck with that.”

She gave me my paperwork, prescriptions and her bulldozer-sized hatred of fat people… and walked out.

I sat there and cried.

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raw Raw RAW

I am strong. Most of the time.

Right now in this (decreasingly) manic place, I feel flayed, nerves on the outer surface of my body. No ability to control what or who hits them. I merely react to the sensations.

This one was an animal claw dragging down my chest… slipping in and gashing my heart as it went by.

I had not felt such shame in eons. And I see doctors all the time! I mean, really, probably not for at least a decade have I been medically fat-shamed. (Many medical & personal fat-shaming experiences to come in future posts.) I felt hideous in those moments after she smashed shit down my throat, squishing it with her heel as she left the room.

Pondering

I stumbled out of the building, crying still, and drove home.

I began to find my Power, many minutes too late and useless at that point, but I thought, “For fuck’s sake, I cannot possibly be the fattest person on the face of the earth who needs abdominal surgery.”

And then I got mad, but it was a gradual dilution of the mad into the shame where, for a time, if they were able to be separated, you could see they were half and half. Now, 2 days later, I am more mad, but in retelling it to my Insurance’s Case Manager, I cried from shame so hard she kept having to say, “Breathe. Breathe.”

I have been given 3 Bariatric doctors’ names… one in Orlando, one in Tampa and one in Miami. I told my Case Manager I would go anywhere in Florida to get it done. Even if I had to go to Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville. I called the doc here in Orlando, explained the situation to the Office Manager and she said she would talk to him and get back to me tomorrow. I told her I knew it was not his usual surgery, that I had had Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) in 2001, but was fat again and needed help, please.

We’ll see what happens.

I will find a doctor to help me.

i-am-powerful

 

Open Letter to the Tapestry of Pulse Responders & Healers

I initially wrote this on my Navelgazing Midwife blog, but it needed to be shifted over to here. It was written on July 4, 2016. I remain endlessly in awe of those that responded to the call for help in saving lives on June 12 and  13, 2016.

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Touching Life

I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.

I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.

The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.

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Pulse Survivor Angel Colon speaking at ORMC Press Conference.

I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together those first 24 hours, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.

Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.

Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.

Thank you to:

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– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.

– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.

– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.

– Local law enforcement agencies throughout Orlando, especially the Belle Isle Officers.

– The Special investigators who are still at work.

– Our National FBI personnel who keep finding needles in the acres of haystacks.

– The entire Orlando Fire Department, especially Lt. Davis O’Dell Jr., Orlando firefighter paramedics Carlos Tavarez and Joshua Granada, all of Fire Station 5.

– All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.

– All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.

– All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.

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miraculous 911 operators

– All 911 Dispatch Operators… my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.

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Orlando Regional Medical Center, June 12, 2016

– Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.

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Nine trauma surgeons and survivor Angel Colon speak to the media for the first time about the aftermath of the Pulse Shooting.

– The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.

– The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.

– The dozens and dozens of Doctors – ER, OR & ICU – for utilizing everything you’ve ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.

– The Orthopedics teams… your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so very much.

– The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.

– The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.

– The beloved Nurses – Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery… it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.

– All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed never-ending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.

– Residents – who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.

At Least 50 Dead In Mass Shooting At Gay Nightclub In Orlando
overwhelming response to need for blood

– OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.

– The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again… thank you for your skills and dedication.

– The Radiology team – your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.

– The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.

– To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay… doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.

– To you amazing Anesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists… while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.

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lab services

To ORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.

To the Other Orlando hospitals that freely gave a seemingly endless supply of personnel and supplies, especially Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Florida Hospital who responded immediately to the call for help.

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Dr. Joshua Stephany, compassionate Medical Examiner of Orlando.

To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especially Joshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.

To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.

To the Chaplains of the Orlando Police Department and the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.

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ptsd needs will be enormous as time passes

To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.

To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.

thecenterorlando

– To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.

To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.

– To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms… no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.

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Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse Nightclub, at a Pulse Benefit.

– To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.

– To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.

– To those wondrous people who gave blood in the days after the massacre. We do still need to fix the No-Gay-Men rule! Fix it NOW!

To the Hampton Inn & Suites for opening their doors and hearts in the immediate aftermath so survivors, family and friends had a place to congregate as they learned the fate of their loved ones.

– To the Translators who offered their love and gift of language to those who would have been lost without you… especially Eddie Meltzer who had the job of telling families their loved ones’ fate as well as helping them through the shock of learning their child/mother/family member/father/friend was also gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/queer. Your grace under pressure will always be appreciated.

ORLANDO PRAYER VIGIL
Religious leaders gather June 13 at the altar during the closing song, “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” during the “Vigil to Dry Tears” at St. James Cathedral for victims of a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Pictured from left are Jim Coffin, Interfaith Council of Central Florida; the Rev. Tom McCloskey, First United Methodist Church in Orlando; the Rev. John Harris, Downtown Baptist Church; the Rev. Robert Spooney, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church; Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan; Huseyin Peker, Atlantic Institute–Central Florida, Bishop Greg Brewer of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida; Imam Tariq Rashid, Islamic Center of Orlando and Retired Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic) See ORLANDO-PRAYER-VIGIL June 14, 2016.

Special note to the Religious Community… Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians… who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.

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Victoria Kirby York speaking eloquently about not only accepting the LGBTQ community, but embracing them into our lives and churches.

One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers’ pens.

To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.

Ongoing Love & Support

While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.

I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.

Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.

And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.

To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are:

Stanley Almodovar III, 23

Amanda Alvear, 25

Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Antonio D. Brown, 30

Darryl R. Burt II, 29

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28

Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25

Luis D. Conde, 39

Cory J. Connell, 21

Tevin E. Crosby, 25

Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50

Deonka D. Drayton, 32

Mercedez M. Flores, 26

Juan R. Guerrero, 22

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Paul T. Henry, 41

Frank Hernandez, 27

Miguel A. Honorato, 30

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Jason B. Josaphat, 19

Eddie J. Justice, 30

Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25

Christopher A. Leinonen, 32

Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49

Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35

Akyra Monet Murray, 18

Kimberly Morris, 37

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27

Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24

Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24

Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Shane E. Tomlinson, 33

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25

Luis S. Vielma, 22

Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37

Jerald A. Wright, 31