This is the second half of Patrice's story, that I first wrote in March of 2006. The first part is called, "The Last of The Mohicans ~ a tribute to Patrice".

He is still in the hospital in Boston and as of last night, still "doing the same".....

Patrice Blemur, or “Patty Boy”, was a student of mine at Orlo Vista Elementary who was involved in a car accident last January (2006) and is still in the hospital (see “What Will You Do That Will Last Forever?”). He was in critical condition after the crash and was not expected to make it. After surviving his massive injuries he remained in a coma, but his prognosis wasn't good. After coming out of the coma he wasn’t expected to have any brain activity. After regaining some brain activity he wasn't expected to do much better, like talk, feed himself, and move around.

I say he will. This is the story of a journey between the two of us that we are still traveling today.

After almost two months at Arnold Palmer here in Orlando, Patrice is now in Boston at the Franciscan Hospital for Children. I call him at night and if his Dad's there, he'll put the phone to Patrice's ear and I'll read him a story. If not, the nurse will tell Patrice that his teacher called to say goodnight. I tell my students that I will be there for them every day until they graduate to the next level. Until he gets better and moves on the 6th grade, I'm still his teacher and I'm still required to believe in him and give him my best. That is Samurai Teaching.

The first day I went to see him after the crash I was scared out of my mind. I heard very bad things and that he wasn't likely to make it. I gathered myself in the elevator and when I walked in his room, I saw nothing of the happy and smiling boy I had just seen in class. He was swollen all over, his chest was caved in, and was covered in bandages. After carefully stepping over the dozens of wires and tubes coming out of him, I put my hand gently on his chest and kissed his forehead, whispering, "You listened to me in class. You're going to listen to me now. You are going to make it!"

This was our daily routine every time I came into the room. I would gather myself in the elevator, shaking off the fear and doubt that this time I would see an empty bed. Sometimes he had been moved for testing, and I wanted to scream "Would it be so hard to make a big announcement that, ' Just in case anyone is coming to see Patrice Blemur he has been taken for testing?'" "No worries. Have a seat and relax. He's still alive and will be back soon."

I would tell him how everyone was doing, rattling off each of his fellow students names and what they did or said that day. I would pass on the get-well wishes of the teachers and staff. I'd show him the new pictures I brought done by fellow students, my children, or myself. Then I’d would sit by his bed and read stories, often in different voices or as one of his favorite cartoon characters. I'd call my own children and say goodnight prayers from his bedside. After a few hours I would say goodbye the same way I said hello, look for some kind of response from him without ever get any, and leave.

Eventually I would go home and be a wreck, saying "I can't do this anymore". I'd wake up and think of how much I needed to give to my students, how I would find the time to see my own children, and how much harder it was getting going in that hospital elevator where I would start shaking more and more trying to summon the courage to be strong. I had to ride up alone, not wanting anyone to see me. All I really wanted to do was cry my eyes out on someone's shoulder.

At night after leaving Patrice I began to drive my motorcycle like a maniac, angry and hateful that this had happened to a child, and that I wasn't able to help him. I came as close to crashing as I could, until one night I bounced my head off the pavement seven times, the marks still on my helmet, and leaving me with a severe concussion. Someone made me aware I was trying to bargain with death, trying to get it to come after me so it would leave Patrice alone.

A couple of weeks later I was explaining to a nurse that Patrice liked a show on another channel. I was doing the voice of "Jorgen" from "The Fairly OddParents" with my back to Patrice. The nurse started hitting me and looking over my shoulder. I turned to see Patrice blinking his eyes, as if he were trying to focus. He couldn't move any other part of his body, but that day he looked like an Olympic athlete to me.

His family and I were cautioned several times not to get too excited. "He's not able to register any brain activity on the tests. The blinking is an involuntary response. There is no evidence that he will ever be more than a" ......I hate this word.....a "vegetable."

I can't repeat what I said in my head at hearing this, or the tirade I would let out alone at home. No! Patrice had become too much! He had made so much progress that his achievements will be remembered forever in the "Patty Boy Blemur" Award. He had "Become Big" and this wasn't O.K.! IT WAS UNACCEPTABLE!

But that night I did stop leaving the hospital trying to get death to chase me, and I began to realize the parallels in my life with his. Two wrecked marriages had left me in my own coma that I was just coming out of, untrusting and broken. Now I would heal. Together, we would heal. And both of us were going to make it.

Two more weeks passed. As usual, I sat by his bed, put his hand in mine, and read. One night I stopped reading and put my head down on the side of his bed. I was tired and the words were moving on the page. I still had the concussion and it was giving me a splitting headache. I don't know how much time passed but I woke up to someone squeezing my fingers.

I didn't move and then I felt it again; weakly, but it was definitely a squeeze. I raised my head and looked over at Patrice. He was looking at me. I called his name and asked him if he squeezed my hand. He tried to talk but could only make noises from his throat. He looked scared. I sat up and squeezed him back, repeating myself that I was here and would keep reading, trying to see past the tears that kept coming out of my eyes and onto the pages.

He began to do a little more and a little more over the next few weeks; making more voluntary noises, turning his head slightly to look at his relatives, trying to follow them with his eyes, and squeezing my hand more.

Then one afternoon I went into his room to see him looking at me terrified. I greeted him and told him everything was alright, then noticed all his pictures were off the wall. I looked back at him with a startled look on my face and told him I would be right back.

At the nurses desk they told me he was being transferred to Boston in the morning to be with his father. I came back telling Patrice I heard the good news. He was going to be with his father who had been down every weekend to see him. Now they could be together! Two nurses came in and laughed when I told them I thought someone took my pictures down because they didn't like them. They asked me a question but I couldn't answer. All of a sudden I couldn't speak because a huge lump had formed in my throat. I squeezed Patrice's hand and walked out.

I went home and packed a t-shirt, toothbrush and another book. I stayed with Patrice that night. We talked about how he got his nickname of Patty Boy. This was his first year in America and it was very frustrating for him. What made it worse was having a teacher who didn't want to hear problems, but solutions. If he was behind the others then it made sense that he had to work harder than the others to get caught up. He didn't like that at the time.

When he came to me with excuses I told him I wanted results; that I refused to feel sorry for him and expect less. We used the ESOL modifications and nowhere in there did it say "Take it easy on this kid. He can't do it". He really didn't like that.

In fact, one day I had angered him so much that his body was rigid as he was walking to lunch. But he was walking in a perfectly straight line, hands at his sides (and balled into fists), and not talking or bothering anyone. I noticed this and let out in a loud Scottish/Irish accent "Will ya look at Patty Boy there, walkin' in a pahrfect line?" He refused to smile but did turn his head to look at me.

"I only wish my eyes could see everyone of you wee lads and lassies walkin' in as pahrfect line as my Patty Boy there." Patrice fought hard not to smile but did ask me my I was talking that way. "Why, you're an Irishman." He told me he wasn't and that he was Haitian. "What??!?" I exclaimed. "With your bright red hair and freckles covering your face, your as Irish as I am!"

Neither one of us look Irish, but he got the message. He was caught doing something good, and praised for it. I told him I learned that from a quote I heard years ago: "Twice I did good and that I heard never. Once I did bad and that I heard ever!"

Later on I tried to sleep on the pull-out bed, which was much lower than his hospital bed. When I took my hand from his so I could put my arm down Patrice would wake up and make noises. I then sat in the chair and talked to him. I thanked him for everything he had taught me, that I was going to miss him dearly, and that I expected him to keep making progress in Boston. I told him I wouldn't except any excuses, and he smiled at me.

Around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. he began to act so agitated that I called the nurses in two or three times. They assured me he was fine and not in any pain. He kept making noises from his throat and I asked him if he was trying to tell me something. His eyes said "yes" so I took out some paper and told him I would hear what he was trying to say.

Together we wrote a poem. It took awhile. The sun was coming up by the time we finished, but I think I just might have written what he was trying to say. Each time I would read it, he smiled as I began with the accent, blink in the middle, and cry at the end.

Here is our poem.

Patty Boy Blemur
One thing we know for sure
He gave the world his best
Now it’s time for him to rest

But he wanted me to tell ya
In fact I think he’s trying to yell it
That no dream is ever too small
No challenge is ever too tall

For it’s those who learn to DREAM BIG
And who have the courage to DO BIG
That are the ones who truly BECOME BIG

The size of your world is the size of your mind
So get to readin’, writin’ and learnin’
While you still have the time

Find out how truly special and smart you really are
Make the world a better place

Thank you and goodbye to Orlo Vista
I will never, ever, forget ya

Goodbye Patrice. I will never forget YOU.
Mr. Stuart
Your Teacher

March 2006


Debbie said...


Etayne said...

Wow. What a teacher you are. The world needs more like you.
Best wishes to Patrice. I'll keep him in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr.Stuart, this is a student of yours that is named Sandman.Well thats what you call me.Any way i would like to hope Patrice makes it even I realy know he would.Then I think onces he makes it then I Know he wil start to dream big do big and be big!Last i would like to say that I hope Patrice has a wonderful time with his father in Boston.Well I would like to say bye to you, and also like to say bye to Patrice the marvalous.

J.C.G said...

You and Patrice obviously have something special.Even though he is handicap,Patrice can still leave his mark on the world.I know he can.

Devan said...

Mr.Stuart, no matter what anybody says, don't forget that you ARE an amazing and incredible person. There truly is nobody in the world that is or will be like you. And I mean that. From, Devan