d People & People of Faith,
This is a continuation of a prior message,
http://www.AKidsRight.Org/wordpress/archives/12 , about NonViolent
Action and the time I spent in jail last year. I share this so others
can understand what the experience was like and learn from my
mistakes. This was an extreme action and something I don’t recommend
or want to repeat, but it may be appropriate in certain situations.
You are welcome to comment at the BLOG or via direct FEEDBACK to me.
Good Media - Good Story - No Regrets!
Before going on with more details. A few thoughts regarding the big
picture. This story could have had a bad sound bite, “$60,000
deadbeat ends up in jail — good riddance!” But there was a lot of
good press and other media. Why? To hear me talk about how corrupt
judges and lawyer were, or feminazis, or patriarchists, or the evils
of my former spouse, the divorce industry, or me being a victim? No.
I talked about how deeply I loved my son. How I’d spent almost
everything I had to maintain contact and be a loving parent. About
proceedings that never even recognized my Civil Right to be a FIT &
EQUAL parent… Without that, how could Justice ever be done?
As parents, we are blessed with one of the most powerful story lines,
“Loving parent in search of their child. Sacrificing to find them and
be reunited…” But somehow we forget. We get caught up in the anger
or in legal terms and practicalities — also, we don’t act. We write,
we talk, but we don’t “do.” We don’t “show.”
As difficult as this whole experience was for me, there were no second
thoughts. Yes, I was worried the pain/sacrifice would be too much and
my Faith too small (my personal weaknesses). I never doubted it was
the right action.
Nasal-Gastric Tube Insertion
You know what they say, “watch out what you ask for!” That really hit
home on my first day with the “tube”. As a matter of fact, I almost
didn’t make it past the first day!
Like many of you, I had never seen one of these tubes. I thought it
would be a relatively serious medical procedure. Hardly! It was done
in the normal examination room. I just sat on the table. The tube
itself was clear plastic, not very different from the small
polyethylene tubes you see at a hardware store. The doctor took time
before the procedure to explain everything to me. It wiggles its way
up your noise, through your sinus passages, down the back of your
throat, through the esophagus, and actually into your stomach.
She put a little lidocaine on the end and, told me to tilt my head
back, and started pushing it up my right nostril. About 2-3 feet went
inside me and I felt every inch — I’ve a very active imagination! As
she was pushing I was told to keep drinking from a cup of water, to
insure the tube ended up in my stomach — and not in my lungs.
When I walked back to my cell it definitely felt strange. I could
feel every swallow, it felt like I had a case of bad strep throat –
but I didn’t know the half of it. They took a chest X-ray to confirm
placement. I had to wait till evening to be fed.
I’m Ready to Quit, I’ll Sign - Get this thing out of me!
It went in on Wednesday and I hadn’t eaten anything for 9 days and
very little water. They wanted my stomach to get used to something
before they started the feedings so I took some jello. It wasn’t that
much, but after about an hour I began to feel terrible. I remember
the Doctor telling me, “John, we really don’t want you to vomit with
that thing in you…” I kept feeling more and more pressure in my
stomach and didn’t know what was going on. I was watching TV and had
gotten up to walk back to my cell when I just started heaving and went
down on my knees retching.
The guard was worried about keeping the floor clean and yells,
“Murtari, do it in your cell!” He sent out a call for the nurses and
I barely got back to the ‘porcelain phone.’ I’m heaving again and
again, but nothing is coming out. I was weak, dizzy, and
uncomfortable from this garden hose down my throat…
I thought, “When the nurses get here I’m telling them to pull it out.
I just can’t take it anymore. That’s it!” And…. if the nurses had
shown up quickly, that is probably what would have happened. All done,
Thank God prison medical care is slow! It took them about 10 minutes
to show up. I guess I just needed to be burped like a baby. After the
heaving my stomach settled and I felt fine. I never had a problem
with vomiting again and told the nurses I was fine. Right!
Life with a tube
Two things. You feel every swallow and it can hurt. The other thing,
which gets into some anatomy — is that the tube is placed into your
stomach, past the little esophageal sphincter valve which normally
closes off your stomach from your throat. Stomach acids can leak up
your throat and give you a wicked case of ‘heart burn’. This means
you always sleep at an up angle, especially after a meal you keep your
body up for at least an hour.
Keeping the tube in position is difficult. In a hospital they use a
string and a clip to hold it — no strings in jail! We might strangle
someone. Mine was held with surgical tape to my nose and I needed to
re-tape it twice a day. The initial tube would move easily.
Also, during a feeding, since the fluid was cold you could get a
little/lot of mucus (or should I use the medical term snot) coming out
of your nose — a real treat!
Sleeping was a whole other adventure. I had the tube tied off and
coiled around my neck, but I could barely get into a comfortable
position, and then the swallowing pain….
What a difference a millimeter makes!
In my 4 months I had three different feeding tubes. The first one
lasted about a week and was growing more uncomfortable each day.
Before starting a feeding the nurses would put air through the tube
and listen to my stomach using a stethoscope to confirm placement.
Well, they couldn’t hear it. Took another X-Ray, and they couldn’t
They pulled it out and then I was looking forward to another one. The
Doc used my left nostril and the tube was a little bigger “he
thought.” Well, this one went in very hard. He was pressing and it
was hard for me to keep my head in position, finally it just about
jammed when it got to the right depth — I could really feel it. He
told me, “John, sometimes your sinus passages are a little different
for each side, a much tighter fit here…” Tell me about it!
This one hurt from the start, but at least it was jammed so tight I
didn’t have to worry about movement.
Drowning on the Beach in Wonderland
Honestly, up to this point, I’m not really proud of my conduct. Got
lucky a few times and made it okay. But the next 9 days I stood my
ground and just took it….. I’d had two close calls and I wasn’t
going to quit now.
Within a few days the new tube was very uncomfortable. I was only
sleeping for an hour or two at a time. My throat was on fire and I
was really feeling the acid reflux. They gave me medication. I had to
stay very ‘propped up’ to avoid pain. I had a hospital bed and the
end was up about 30 degrees, the only problem was if I relaxed I would
slide down and the acid would hit….
In a few more days it got to the point where I just didn’t want to
swallow. I kept a little bowl next to my bed and a roll of toilet
paper. When the fluid would build up in my mouth I would just spit
into the paper, after a while that bowel was a sopping mess.
Days weren’t too bad, I could walk around, sit in a chair, but the
nights were never ending. I was gagging on the fluid so much I just
couldn’t get any rest. I would sit up in bed or lean against the
wall, it was slow misery. I’d put in a ’sick call slip’ to see the
Doctor, but had to wait a few days.
There were about 3 nights that were just fantasy land. I wasn’t
dreaming, it’s the closest thing I could think to a delirium. I felt
I was drowning and needed to swim, needed to grab something, but at
the same time I knew I was in my bed, not on a beach. I had to force
myself to realize I was in a jail bed, not drowning.
When I finally saw the doctor, he looked down my throat and said,
“We’ve got to remove it now.” They waited a few days before inserting
More than anything it made me appreciate what has always been said
about NonViolent Action, you have to be motivated by love, by a
positive goal. If you are doing something out of anger/spite — it
just won’t last.
At the beginning several guards told me, “Murtari, your wasting your
time, we get hunger-strikers all the time, nobody cares, die if you
want to!” Well, they were wrong. This wasn’t the angry prisoner, but
a loving parent…
Finally, into routine!
The new tube was smaller and went into my right nostril. We lived at
peace with each other. It stayed in me for the rest of my jail time,
about three months.
I then got into a routine, exercise three times a day after every
feeding. Jumping jacks, sit-ups, and push ups. I also walked for
half an hour twice a day. I knew I had lost a lot of muscle, they
were feeding me a lot of calories and I needed to recover.
I had a book of the Psalms sent into me and would pray at regular
intervals. The letters many of you wrote were great and it became
just a matter of ‘doing the time.’
In the back of my mind I was worried about my friend, the tube. I
asked the Doctor if my valves and swallowing would return to normal
after it was removed. He said it “should.” I thought, “John, you
could walk out with permanent acid reflux AND swallowing might always
feel funny…” It didn’t matter.
Very, very fortunate
There were no side effects. I left in good health and the ability to
enjoy Christmas with my son. He turned 14 in February and I flew out
to see him. On June 14th he will be here, God willing, for Summer
vacation. We get six straight weeks together! We are very, very
So many people were helpful, I can’t mention them all here for I’m
sure to leave someone out. Many are mentioned at the web site,
http://www.AKidsRight.Org/support_jm.htm — my heartfelt thanks.
A special thanks again to Teri Stoddard, a mom out in California,
teri@AKidsRight.Org, http://www.sharedparentingworks.org/, and a BLOG
at Men’s News daily, http://teristoddard.mensnewsdaily.com/ She was my
daily life-line to the outside and did a lot of work that helped make
this a positive story for all of us….
Just Giving Back - I’ll Sign!
Don’t thank me too much. My decision and choice was pretty easy. I
remembered all the pain and tears the system had caused Dom and I.
The indignity and injustice when I was thrown in jail for six months
back in 2000. But we still love each other, I get big hugs! This may
sound strange, but the pain I willingly endured wiped the slate clean
for all the suffering we’d been given. The system and I were ‘even’.
I hear so many of your stories. Children who have been alienated and
hate you. Living every day of your life knowing you ‘had’ a child.
Knowing that once gone, childhood is never “made up.” I don’t know if
I’d be able to survive what some of you go through EACH AND EVERY DAY!
Both Domenic and I know how very lucky we are, what might have been.
In a very graphic example, if the Almighty had given me a choice and
said: Live like many of you, have a child who is ‘gone’ — or, have
the gift of a child who loved you through it all. I would easily sign
up — give me the big fat tube from H$ll!. What I am doing is just
showing the appreciation for what I have. It is worth more than
anything else in life.
Also, as I have said to so many. Keep the Faith, keep the door open to
your children. Do not give up (as I almost did so many times in this
story), and even if you have — get back up and try again….
“The NonViolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them self respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they didn’t think they had. It reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.” — Martin Luther King