Sunday, October 21, 2012

Losing Jason: Part I

On October 31st, 2010, my best friend Jason Ryan Schippers a.k.a. Fish passed away due to surgery complications. It’s been difficult to come to terms with this, but on the 2ndanniversary of the events, I wanted to let my thoughts and emotions out via this blog. Each posting will coincide with an occurrence from that date two years ago. This is not going to be easy to write, post or read. This is my view and emotions from this. I don’t know what this will accomplish, but telling this story is something I feel compelled to do.

Part I: Learning There Is A Problem

Jason and I had been out of touch for a little over a year. I take full blame for this. I judged him for something that I had no right to. He had always trusted me and confided in me. We shared things with each other that we didn’t share with anyone else. Unfortunately I did not handle a situation well at all and a separation was placed between us.

The funny thing was we never really separated fully. We were not in official contact, but we both “cyber-stalked” each other via Facebook. I even started a Twitter account just to follow him. I did not tweet at that time, but just followed people. He was quite active on social media so it was really easy to keep up with how he was doing.

Jason had moved back to Denver, which was a place he absolutely loved, and was doing quite well. He seemed to be happy, enjoying his job and had started a great relationship. It was always great reading these tweets and knowing that he was doing great. I wished I could share that with him, but was too prideful to admit being wrong and get my friendship back to where it always needed to be.

On October 21st of 2010, he started tweeting about getting a biopsy:

Biopsy is today & might not get results till Monday. Scared is an understatement. I'm unplugging till then. If you need me call/text/email.
-       @schippers

At this point I wasn’t really concerned. Jason had some previous medical issues that I was aware of, but nothing that I was too worried about. He had always come through without any problems. He was one of those guys who always took good care of himself. He didn’t smoke. He drank on occasion, but never to a horribly foolish level. He was a runner. I chalked it up as a previous condition that may have flared up and it’ll be taken care of.

He didn’t tweet the rest of that day, but the first two he sent out on the 22nd had me a little more on alert.

So biopsy didn't work yesterday. Too much blood. Surgery today to try & get biopsy & figure out where all blood is coming from
-       @schippers

let's hope the simple surgery get it figured out. i don't want the 6-7 inch incision & them spreading my ribs. ouch.
-       @schippers

Maybe I had watched a few too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, but I was started to get a little concerned.  Words such as blood, biopsy, surgery and incision freak me out. However, just as I was starting to worry, he sent out this tweet:

            i don't do bar crawls, i do hospital crawls.
-       @schippers

This tweet relaxed me a ton. I mean, he was joking about doing hospital crawls! I had assumed that whatever the issue was, the minor surgery found it and rectified the situation. Easy, right?

Despite the worry and concern I had, I still did not reach out to him. There’s no good reason for this, but since I assumed he was okay, there’d be time down the line to get us back on track. He was only 29. The thought of him not being around, never crossed my mind. He was too young to get concerned about things like that. In my mind the doctors would fix whatever was wrong, Jason would bounce back and our paths would cross again.

I had that calm for about a day. Then I saw a worrisome tweet (in case you can’t tell, I was in full cyber-stalk mode by this time) come through on the 23rd.

just about two hours till surgery. keep fingers crossed we can get a biopsy and figure out where the blood is coming from
-       @schippers

Now things started to concern me. He was going into surgery, which at this point I didn’t know what was being operated on. I felt lost. I didn’t know who I could contact. Keep in mind, I was still being foolish and not reaching out to the one I should have, Jason. I jumped over to his sister Angie’s Facebook account and started reading the updates. She had been out in Denver, as was his parents, to see him through everything. She had already updated her account with a surgery update.

hey everyone. Just wanted to let you know Jason made it out of surgery. They got the mass out and took 60 percent of his lung out. Which he hadn't been able to use for a while. as of what they can see its not cancer but will get the results next week. he should hopefully get out of ICU in a couple days but will be in for 7 to 10 days. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers keep it coming.

This post hit me hard. I’m not a smart guy, especially when it comes to the medical field, but removing 60% of one’s lung sounded terrifying to me. I’m also not the most open with my feelings and couldn’t talk about it to anyone. I was feeling guilt. I was feeling remorse and shame. There is no way he should be there, going through this situation, and me not be there. It felt wrong but I couldn’t do anything about it. I needed to let him know I cared, though. I wrote an e-mail to Angie. It was something that I had to do so he knew I was there with him, and hopefully this small gesture would get us back on track.

Hey Angie-
I know that things with Jason and I got bad, most likely irreparable, but just let him know that the Wahl's are hoping he's doing good. I don't really know what's going on but your headline doesn't sound good. Our prayers are with you guys. :-)


It wasn’t much, but she told me thanks. Later on that day he sent what would be the final tweet he ever sent:

            sitting in a chair, on morphine. mourning the loss of most of my right lung.
-       @schippers 10/24/10

Jason and I doing one of our
many DX impressions

His humor was still there. As usual, or so I thought, he was fighting through and would be fine in a matter of days. That night, my son Marshall (who was a little over 1 year old by then) and I went over to a friend’s house. Marshall would sleep while a group of us would watch UFC 121. I don’t remember much about the event, just knew that it was one Jason would have been pumped for. Brock Lesnar was defending his heavyweight title against Cain Velasquez, and as WWE nerds, it’s the type of event we would have gotten together for. I had introduced Jason to the UFC way before that, but having our “worlds” collide with Lesnar, was always fun for us. We even attended UFC 87 in Minneapolis with our friends Rick and Mike to see Lesnar. I kept reliving these moments in my mind that night. When Lesnar lost that night, I got an unexplainable feeling. I couldn’t shake it on the drive home. The entire drive (Mike lives about half an hour away) home I kept thinking about going to Colorado to see him in the hospital. We didn’t have any extra money at that time, and with Rachel working that weekend, it would be almost impossible to do the ten hour trip with a one year old. I wanted to go, but something held me back. I blame my pride and ego. My true self, my caring nature and love for my friends, was pushing me the right direction. Unfortunately I didn’t listen. My ego took over and decided that I’d wait until he was better and then I’d see him when he was back in town.

I’ll never forget that Sunday. I was hosting a fantasy basketball draft at my house and we were all just having a good time. I don’t remember who said it, nor what was said, but a comment about Jason was made. It wasn’t malicious or mean, but given my sensitive nature regarding him, I recall snapping back with “Hey, the guy just had surgery to remove half his lung. Let’s show some respect.” Those who were in the room that knew him seemed surprised at the revelation. I was somewhat taken aback by that as these were guys who still maintained contact with him and yet, no one seemed to know what he was going through. It was strange to me that there was that unknown entity around.

For the next week I was obsessed with Angie’s Facebook account. She kept everyone updated on his good days and his bad. He was awake, eating doughnuts and just being Jason the first couple of days. Then something took a turn for the worse. He had been sedated for a few days and they were trying to get everything worked out.  I would sit at work, with my screen minimized, just refreshing her page. I was praying and begging for some positive news. I walked around with a heavy heart, just begging for my friend to be okay.

Rachel and Marshall on his first
Trick or Treat Halloween

The night of October 30th, we took Marshall out to trick or treat for the first time. He was dressed as an adorable little tiger, and we got the best picture of Rachel and him we’ve ever gotten. There was so much happiness and fun in the air. For a few hours, I was whisked away in the Halloween fun. As a family we went door to door, teaching Marshall about trick or treating along the way. He was nervous at first, but once it clicked, he was all systems go! When we were done, we went over to our friend’s Jeff and Lindsey to hang out. I ended up getting extremely drunk on the now banned Four Loko beverage. When we went home, we put Marshall and Rachel to bed and I immediately went to Facebook. Angie had posted a little earlier that he was stable, so I replied that it was great news and hopefully things start to improve. I put in an old WWE DVD, Best of Saturday Night's Main Event (Jason and I were wrestling nerds, remember), and passed out on the couch. For the first time since his Twitter account went silent, I had a better vibe. He was going to be fine. He would wake up soon, get healthy, come back to Iowa to visit and we’d reconcile. Maybe I was being idealistic, or maybe I was just drunk beyond logical thinking, but I just knew things were going to be good. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In just a few hours, I would receive a phone call that would forever change my life.

Previous Entries: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V / Part VI / Part VII

1 comment:

  1. Such an incredibly touching post, and Jason would be proud and thankful for such a great friend. Thank you for reminding us that life is too short to sweat the minutiae. I look forward to your October 31st post and thank you so much for sharing!