The Miracle of Philip Chandler
An uplifting yet realistic account of a victim and his loved ones struggling to recover after random violence.
Eve Chandler plots her life in palm-sized notebooks of pink paper. In a tight script, she records every phone call she makes, every call she receives. Each visitor is remembered in ink; every occasion, special or mundane, remarked upon.
Now, Eve sits with her husband, Jim, on a brown couch in the family room of their ranch-style home in Pine Hills, just west of downtown Orlando. She balances a notebook on her knee and looks out over the swimming pool, turning green with algae and disuse. Eve draws a breath. On a fresh sheet of paper, she starts another entry, a list:
Manuel Arroyo …
Nine names in all. They will be her sons pallbearers.
It is Tuesday afternoon, July 20. In a hospital room in Sanford, Philip Chandler's heart is slowing. The intensive care nurses, their raspberry uniforms a shock of color in the silent room, stare at a video screen displaying the teen-agers vital signs, willing his reluctant heart to beat faster.
Sixty beats a minute would be healthy. But Philip's heart is easing him out of this world.
Forty beats a minute …
Despite 72 hours of aggressive emergency medicine, he is getting worse.
Thirty beats a minute …
It wont be long now. Maybe a few hours, maybe one more day.
Twenty beats a minute each one a tiny drama in which it is never certain that the muscle will squeeze hard enough to pump blood.
Philip lies deep in a coma, a machine breathing for him. Nurse Judy Constable looks down at his pale form, his thin arms drawn up, his head too heavy for his neck, his brown eyes staring wide at nothing.
Why, he's a little bird, she thinks.
THE SMACK OF THE SCREEN door woke Eve at 8 o'clock that Saturday morning. Philip was home. The smell of pancakes drifted from the kitchen, where Jim was cooking his favorite breakfast.
Philip had spent the night with his best friend, Jason Gunn, but he was eager to get moving again, making the most of these hot summer days and his new drivers license.
He needed a haircut, and he wanted to play a game of basketball with his friend Manuel. Jim pulled $7 from his wallet to pay for the cut, and Eve handed him $7.50 of his allowance. Philip was off again.
Eve stopped him with a reminder that he hadn't washed the clothes he would need for work that afternoon. The Little Caesars uniform, reeking of tomato sauce and spices, was still out in the garage where he had taken it off the night before.
Eve let him get by with putting the clothes in the washer.
I'll dry them for you, but you still need to clean your room before work. Philip hugged her and Eve kissed him goodbye.
Her son stepped out the door into the steamy blast of a July day. It wasnt even noon, and already the temperature was passing 90, the humidity right behind. Eve waved from the porch as he drove off in Jim's red Mustang, then she ducked back into the air-conditioning.
Jim went to the grocery store while Eve busied herself in her home office, sorting through papers and catching up on letters.
She was alone at noon when the phone rang. It was Manuel, asking where Philip was.
Getting his haircut, Eve told him. He should be there soon. Manuel, noon, she wrote in her notebook.
Then another call, this time Philips friend Charles King, who wanted to know if Philip could give him a ride to work. Eve said she'd ask and made a note to remind herself.
By the way, he's supposed to go to Manuels. Have you heard from him?
Charles said he hadn't.
Oh well. He went to get a haircut. He probably had to wait longer than he thought.
But when Manuel called again at 1:20, Eve began to fret.
"Philip's not where hes supposed to be," she told Jim when he came through the door minutes later. She sent him out looking while she started phoning Philip's friends, thinking maybe this once Philip had changed his plans without calling.
Jim's 35 years as a police officer told him it was too early to worry — teen-age boys were seldom where they were supposed to be. But his 16 years as Philip's father told him different. Philip knew how they worried about him. He had left movies before they had ended to avoid breaking curfew.
With a bad feeling, Jim drove first to the barber shop. Then he traced the route to Manuel's house. He drove over to Rosemont, where another of Philip's friends lived. He looked for the flashing lights of a patrol car that might indicate an accident.
But he was just marking time. If there had been a wreck, he knew, someone would have called already.
To clean his room, get dressed and make it to work a little early, the way he liked to, Philip would have to get home at 2:30.
That's when Eve began to panic.
"Be careful!" she had called out as Philip left for work the night before.
"I can take care of myself," Mom, he said, as always.
"I'm sure you can, Philip. But if somebody has a gun, you're going to do what they tell you."
By 2:31, Eve was ready to call the sheriff's office, but Jim doubted their fears would be taken seriously after only three hours. They should wait a little longer.
Eve took out her pink notebook now covered with line after line of anxious phone calls she had made and wrote one final note:
I'm really worried. This is not like Philip. He always calls if hes going to be late. I'm afraid something bad has happened to him.
An hour later and seven miles away, three women were stopped at a traffic light on East Colonial Drive when they saw the strangest thing.
Something, maybe a hand, was reaching up from the trunk of a small red car in front of them, squeezing through a hole at the back window where the center brake light was missing.
What was going on? Was somebody stuck in the trunk?
As the women watched, they saw a girl in the back seat switch places with one of the teen-age boys up front. He began punching down into the hole, putting a lighted cigarette there.
One of the women memorized the license plate so she could tell the police.
But the teen-agers were laughing and waving at them, the other women said. It was just a stupid prank. The light changed and they drove on.
Jim and Eve were married in Eola Park on Sept. 30, 1973, after a 43-day courtship.
As a friend led them through their vows, Eve grasped the strong, masculine hand shed first admired from a neighboring pew at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Pine Hills.
Eve brought out the laughter in Jim. In turn, he was the strength she craved. Every morning, Eve stretched up to kiss Jim goodbye and watched from the porch as he drove off to work. And every day, she made a mental calculation of exactly how long they had been married.
By Day 180, she was at her doctors office trying to find out why she wasnt pregnant. Eve, the youngest of 16 children, soon learned that she could never bear any of her own. She was devastated.
Eve began another calculation, counting the days until she and Jim had been married three years and could qualify to adopt a child. As soon as they could, they registered at the Children's Home Society and were approved in December 1976. "But don't expect any news for one year, maybe more," the social worker told them.
Then on April 13, 1977 a Wednesday, Eve remembers a phone call interrupted her soap opera: "How would you like to have a little boy?"
Yes! Eve said, barely hearing the woman's admonition that the baby had been born prematurely and still had medical problems.
The baby weighed just 4 pounds, 11 ounces when he was born, with his umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck, so tight the doctor had to resuscitate him. Alone, never seen by the high school girl who gave him up for adoption, the baby spent the first three months of his life at Orange Memorial Hospital.
Two bouts of neonatal meningitis nearly killed him. When they didn't, the nurses took to calling him the Miracle Baby.
Eve and Jim called him Philip Clayton Chandler.
His eyes were crossed, his feet turned in and he squalled as a nurse placed him into Eves arms for the first time. Eve cried, too.
On the way home, they stopped at Walgreen's to buy bottles and formula. Then Eve called her own mother.
"Mama, Guess what!"
"You got a baby."
"Yes! How did you know?"
"I could tell by your voice. I can't think of anything else that would make you sound that happy."
Eve worked with Philip, turning his feet out each time she changed his diaper, looking into his face and making eye contact to straighten his eyes. Jim handled the 4 a.m. feedings it was faster and easier to feed Philip himself than it was to wake Eve.
After two weeks, Eve went back to the Children's Home Society.
"Where's Philip?" the social worker asked. "You were supposed to bring him back in."
"This is Philip on my lap."
The woman looked again, trying to reconcile the smiling, chubby baby in Eve's lap with the sickly child who had left the hospital only two weeks before.
Philip grew tall and skinny, and every year Eve hung a new picture until the dining room wall was covered with a dozen 8-by-10s. Every one of them showed a happy boy with a smile so broad it took over his whole face, sending his thick eyebrows arching above his dark eyes.
From the start, his parents told him he was adopted, but with his angular face and dark, curly hair so different from Jim and Eve that almost seemed unnecessary.
They enrolled Philip in Heritage Preparatory School, an intimate private school run by Tabernacle Baptist Church. He was not an outstanding scholar, not a jock or a class leader. But he always had plenty of friends who liked him for acting goofy and for being the one person they could tell their troubles to. Philip was a good listener, and he always cared.
Sometimes, when the little kids passed Philip in the hallways, he would playfully grab them, holding on until they declared he was King of the School. His teachers knew him for, among other things, talking out of turn.
Jim taught Philip to play basketball, the way he played it when he helped Apopka High School take second place in the state tournament in 1954. And when Philip turned 14, his dad started teaching him to play guitar. Philip's long, delicate fingers seemed made for the instrument, though he favored Metallica over his fathers country tunes.
Soon enough, Philip and his friends had formed a band they called Straitjacket. Sometimes they practiced in the Chandler's garage. Jim and Eve didn't mind. They liked having the boys around.
As Philip grew, Eves friends would sometimes fuss at her, telling her she doted too much on the boy.
You can spoil a child with things, Eve would say. But you can't spoil them with love.
The afternoon Philip disappeared, Bob Ware, the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist, fell to his knees. Eve and Jim can't take this, he prayed. Please let him live long enough to acknowledge that he remembers them.
As she talked, Eve kept her chair turned toward the dining room window, her attention on the street outside.
"Has he ever …" the deputy began.
Eve cut him off. "No, he has never run away. He has no reason to run away."
Philip was wearing a white T-shirt and white shorts, she told the deputy, imagining that every car she heard outside would be the red Mustang pulling into the driveway and bringing him home.
Describing her son to this uniformed stranger, who took notes of his own, made Philips disappearance suddenly official, broadcasting her worry outside the comforting circle of family and friends. Eve cried, but Jim wore his cop face, talking officer to officer, trying to convince the deputy that it was not too soon to issue a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for his son and his car, though it was only 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
Finally, the deputy accepted a photograph of Philip and left the Chandlers to wait.
At 5:40 p.m., a phone company operator called the Chandler's unlisted number to relay a message: The Seminole County Sheriffs Office wanted to contact them in reference to a red Ford Mustang.
Eve sat by Jim's side on the brown couch in the family room as he dialed the police: The car had been recovered at the intersection of George Avenue and U.S. 17-92; it had been occupied by three teen-agers, two of whom were in custody. The police needed one of the Chandler's to come to Maitland and identify the car.
The thought that Jim had been pushing aside all afternoon hit him again like a fist in the gut: Philip is dead. Philip is dead.
Jim and Eve drove to Maitland in numbed silence. Jim wanted to say something reassuring, but he couldn't. Philip was dead. There was no comfort to give.
It was nearly 8 o'clock, but still muggy when they stepped out of the family car, a huge white Mercury Grand Marquis. The red Mustang sat by the side of the road, caught in the swirl of the squad car lights.
A Seminole deputy told the Chandler's what he knew: About 6 p.m, three teen-agers were driving up 17-92 in the Mustang when a patrol car pulled up behind them. The teen-agers kept looking back, checking the rearview mirror so often that he finally called in the tag number. When he found out Orange County was looking for the car, he turned on his lights. After a short chase, the Mustang turned onto George Avenue and jumped the curb; the three teen-agers ran. Deputies nabbed two of them a 16-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. They sat handcuffed in the back seat of the patrol car.
There was no sign of Philip.
Have you checked the trunk? Eve asked.
The deputy said he didn't have the key. Jim walked over to the Mustang with the spare set. Eve walked with him, scared that Philip would be inside, almost as scared that he wouldn't.
She didn't breathe as Jim popped the lid.
But the trunk was a mess. Plastic bags, magazines and books were strewn about, the spare tire and lug wrench shoved aside, the mat rumpled and twisted.
Jim saw Philip's wallet in the mess. He picked it up. It was empty, his $7.50 allowance gone.
Jim tried to stay a detective, to notice details that might be helpful. Like the way the carpet by the rear window had been picked at all around the hole where the center brake light should be.
The Seminole deputy wanted to turn the car over to the Chandler's, but Jim stopped him.
Somebodys been in this trunk. We need a homicide detective out here.
Jim walked back to the Mercury and slumped heavily in the drivers seat, feeling tired and older than his 58 years. He thought back to a case he handled early in his career. A little boy 9 or 10 years old disappeared one day. He just didn't come home. Four weeks passed with no trace. Then, his body washed up on the shore of Lake Mann. Jim had to tell the boy's parents.
Eve sat in the car, too, calling friends on a cellular phone to tell them what she knew. She called all the hospitals in Orange County, describing Philip. She stared at the teen-agers in the patrol car. They had told the deputy they found the car, key in the ignition, at a Sanford apartment complex, but Eve just knew they were lying. An image flashed in her mind. Philip, his legs drawn up, crammed in the trunk and gasping for air.
They had stuffed Philip in the trunk, and they knew where they dumped him. She looked at them with fury. And when she caught their eyes, they looked away.
"Where's Philip!" she demanded. "Where is my son!"
CAROLYN RICHTER checked the clock in the security office 5:30. Her shift was almost over at the DeBary Campus of Daytona Beach Community College. It was time for a break.
She stepped out of the office, and that's when she saw it a figure lying in a heap on the hot asphalt about 150 feet away. It was a boy, a white T-shirt pulled up over his face, no shoes on his feet. When Richter pulled the shirt down, she saw foam coming from his mouth. His eyes stared beyond her.
He's dying, she thought as she ran to call 911. Then she stood between the boy and the sun to shade him until help arrived.
Within minutes, paramedics had lifted the boy into the back of an ambulance. Richter held one of the intravenous lines that dripped cool fluid into his veins. The boy's chest heaved, his breathing erratic. Someone checked the pockets of his white shorts for identification. They found nothing but 50 cents.
The ambulance rushed him to the nearest hospital, Central Florida Regional in Sanford, calling ahead to alert the emergency room. He was admitted as John Doe.
On the examination table, the boys face was flushed, his body hot to the touch. How hot, no one knew the thermometer could measure no higher than 108 degrees.
Dr. Dennis Natale assessed the patients vital signs.
Blood pressure was a low 62/40, indicating shock. His heart tripped at a dangerous 170 beats per minute. His pupils were unresponsive, his breathing irregular.
Natale noticed, too, the light whiskers on the John Does chin. A young man, perhaps no older than his own son of 17.
The heat was killing him, Natale knew. He was probably past any help they could give.
Even in a Central Florida summer, Dr. Natale had never seen a case of heat stroke this severe. Was this a drug overdose? Natale wondered. It looked like one.
The emergency room team had to get the boy's temperature down, his blood pressure up. One by one, the patients organs were shutting down. His brain swelling. His liver malfunctioning. His kidneys failing. His heart could be next.
The nurses covered him with towels soaked in cold water. They piled ice on top of that, nearly slipping on the cubes that skittered across the floor. Intravenous lines dripped fluids into the boys veins to increase his blood pressure and cool him more. They pushed a respirator tube down his throat and fed oxygen to his lungs.
For an hour, eight people worked the John Doe until he reached a precarious stability in his blood pressure and heart rate.
Then Dr. Natale noticed a clenching of the fists and a turning outward of the arms. Its a phenomenon called decerebrate posturing a near-certain sign of serious brain damage.
The insult to the system is too great, he thought as he prepared to pass the case to the intensive care physician. I don't think he's going to survive.
The boys body temperature was under control now, but he was bleeding profusely, and keeping his blood pressure up was a struggle. The heat had damaged the platelets, the bloods clotting cells. The liver, too, had been damaged and was no longer producing its clotting factors. Throughout the patients digestive tract, tiny blood vessels broke a normal occurrence, but now they bled freely.
Intensive care nurse Lynn Drysdale looked at the boy's face his eyes open, his pupils pinpoints and thought about her teen-agers at home: There's a mother connected to this child somewhere.
EVE LET HER MIND GO CRAZY, wondering where Philip could be. He had been thrown in a river. His body had been dumped in a ditch. He was lying by a road somewhere, needing her.
If I just knew where my baby was. If I just knew where my baby was.
It was 10:30 p.m., and the Chandler's were back home. Eve's friend Estella Penny came to comfort them, and Jim's sisters were on the way. While Eve was in the kitchen getting tea, Estella went to Jim on the screened porch.
"What's the chance of Philip being found alive?" she asked.
Jim shook his head.
"The Lord is good," Estella said. "We'll just have to pray about it."
They knelt on the floor.
At 11, Jim and Eve silently watched the late news on Channel 2. Philips school picture flashed on the TV screen, and the anchorman called the disappearance a strange case.
At the hospital in Sanford, a nurse watched the news, too. She thought the missing boys picture looked familiar, and when the anchorman mentioned that Philip had left home for a haircut, she thought of the hair clippings on the T-shirt that the John Doe had been wearing.
By midnight, Jim's sisters had arrived from Auburndale, bringing husbands and children with them. The living room was crowded. They sat and talked about anything but Philip, a respite from grief, the way families sit at funeral homes and avoid mentioning the dead.
Eve couldn't stay still any longer. She withdrew alone to the kitchen and started a fresh pot of coffee, all she and Jim had put in their stomachs since the pancakes 16 hours ago. She busied her hands by emptying the dishwasher.
In the other room, someone laughed. And though Eve knew it was just a way to try to make the night seem normal, it made her mad. There was no room for laughter in her house.
She slammed the silverware drawer shut.
Where is my baby! She was sobbing. Jim and his family ran to her. She fell into his arms.
If I just knew where my baby was! If I just knew where my baby was …
This time, Eve didnt have to wait long for an answer.
No more than a half hour passed before an Orange County deputy knocked at the Chandlers door. It was 2:30 a.m.
"Hes been found," the deputy said. "He's in a hospital in Sanford."
The next few minutes were an elated rush of slipping on shoes, running to the bathroom and deciding who was going to ride in what car. During the half hour drive to Sanford, hope seeped through the cracks in Jim and Eves despair, as if they hadn't heard the rest of the deputy's message: Philips condition is serious. You need to come right away.
Dr. Kevin Scanlon tall and thin, just five years past residency met them in the waiting room outside the hospitals intensive care unit. He was blunt, ticking off a list of medical emergencies threatening Philip: the soaring temperature, the coma, the liver damage, the internal bleeding, the erratic heart rate.
As she listened, Eve prayed silently that Philip had passed out immediately and had known no pain.
Eve didn't want to listen but had to hear the doctors words: Very, very serious… . In a very deep, deep coma.
With the last of her hope, she demanded, "How do you know that's our son in there?"
But minutes later, when she saw him, there was no doubt.
Philip lay in a narrow bed in Room 6, in the corner of intensive care. The respirator covered his mouth. Two tubes carried fluids in. A catheter carried fluids out. His face betrayed no thought, but his body was twitching and tense. Blood poured from his nose and mouth, turning the white towel beneath his head to crimson as quickly as the nurses could change it.
Eve wanted to hold him, but she couldn't reach around the tubes and machines that kept him alive.
Whoever did this is not human, Eve thought. They are the lowest form of life.
In a small conference room nearby, Dr. Scanlon explained to the Chandlers that the next three days were critical. For those 72 hours they would do all they could to keep Philip alive, in case there was some slim chance of recovery. If Philip made it through the next three days, they would meet again to discuss how far the doctors should go to prolong his life.
The Chandler's nodded, but in their hearts they were certain there was nothing in Philips bed but his mortal shell. He's already with the Lord, Eve thought as they began another vigil. This is just the machines breathing for him.
During the next three days, Philip's high school picture was everywhere. On the television. In the newspaper.
In a hotel room at Walt Disney World, a woman named Karin saw the story on the news. How could one kid do this to another? she thought. She looked at Philips picture on the TV screen. Her son would be that age.
Eve wouldn't watch, wouldn't read, wouldn't listen to the talk in the waiting room. Each time she thought of Philip trapped in that tight, dark space, she could feel the heat, and the fear so oppressive she couldn't breathe.
Jim got his information from the Orange County homicide detective handling the case. The third suspect who dodged officers after the Mustang crashed turned himself in and gave a statement. One cop to another, the detective gave Jim all the details:
Terence Jenkins and Michael Daymon, both 17, had stopped Philip as he came out of the barber shop, threatening that they had a gun. They had forced him into the back seat of the Mustang. Sometime later, they shoved him into the trunk of the sports car, forcing the 5-foot-11 teen-ager into a space 5 feet by 3 feet, and just 1 foot deep. Somewhere along the way, the boys stole his shoes.
Then they picked up one of their friends a 14-year-old girl and just drove for hours during the hottest part of the day. When the afternoon temperature peaked at 95 degrees, the detective told Jim, the heat was magnified to 130 degrees in the trunk.
Terence Jenkins told investigators that he and his friends had stopped the car at the community college to open the trunk so Philip could get some air. When they saw his condition, they dropped him in the parking lot and fled.
Daymon and Jenkins were charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery. The girl was charged as an accessory. They were all in jail.
Jim buffered the information for Eve. Even so, she cried whenever they talked about Philips ordeal. She prayed silently that he remembered nothing.
Together, Eve and Jim moved into a hospital room next door to the intensive care unit. Room 343 had two beds, but the Chandlers rarely slept. It was a place where they could go and close the door. Sometimes they had to get away, even from the friends who crowded in night and day, once filling three waiting rooms and spilling over into the halls.
Every hour, they visited Philip, though Eve found it hard to look at him sometimes: Philip, I'm so sorry this happened to you. You didnt do anything wrong. This wasnt your fault.
In case Philip couldnt hear, Jim took his sons long fingers into his own rough hand. Eve ran her fingers through Philips mess of curly hair. I love you. Doctors and nurses bustled in and out. The Lord is with you.
Each time, before they left, Eve leaned down to Philip. Arent you going to give me a hug? she would ask.
They were careful about what they said in Room 6, concerned that Philip could hear and understand. But in their own room, Jim felt the bitterness creeping in.
Why did God let this happen? Why doesnt He listen to all these prayers?
Pastor Bob Ware did his best to offer spiritual comfort. It was OK to ask those questions, he told them. Christ asked the same on the cross.
Ware reminded them that 16 years ago at Tabernacle Baptist, he put his hand on Philips head, saying, Lord, we got this child as a gift from you, and today were giving him back to you, to do with as you please.
Back at church, Ware met with the youth group, about 50 children and teen-agers, many of whom had known Philip for years.
If you have anything you want me to say at Philips funeral, write it on a piece of paper and give it to me. Ill keep it and try to say it.
But the teen-agers refused to write anything down, insisting Philip would not die.
Youre wrong. Philip is not going to get well. I'm sorry. Philip wont be with us unless God performs a real miracle.
Indeed, as the 72 hours drew to a close, there was no change. Tests showed no function in any part of the brain. Dr. Scanlon rubbed his knuckles on Philips sternum deep, painful stimuli, in medical terms and got no grimace or frown. No reaction at all.
It was time to talk with Jim and Eve again. They were drawn and pale and exhausted. Jim had collapsed once by Philips bed. Eves angina was coming back, and pains would clutch at her chest. Still, they had to talk about life support.
In the hospital conference room, Dr. Scanlon told them that neurological recovery seemed remote at best. They could expect a cardiac arrest within two days, if not hours. What did they want him to do if Philips heart failed?
Philip had a living will, they told him. He did not want to be resuscitated. What about donating his organs? Philip had an organ donor card. They would like that. Dr. Scanlon said he would notify the harvesting team.
This time, Dr. Scanlon hugged them as the consultation ended.
PHILIP HAS TOO MANY FRIENDS, Eve realizes, as she makes her list. She writes 15 more names in her pink notebook. They will be honorary pallbearers, she decides, with seats up front at Philips funeral.
Now another thought tugs at her mind. She calls Pastor Ware and asks him for a favor. She wants him to call the Childrens Home Society to ask the adoption agency to find Philips birth mother and tell her what has happened. Philip always wanted to meet her.
Then she calls Estella and arranges for her to pass Philips birth mother off as a friend, should the woman want to attend the funeral service anonymously.
Eve and Jim pray and read the Bible. Jim reads the book of Psalms: Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
Eve relies on Matthew 11:28: Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
There is no rest now. Its time to go back to the hospital to sit with Philip while he dies.
That night, July 20, Jims sisters sleep in the intensive-care waiting room, wanting to be there at the end. But it doesnt come. Not that night or the night after.
In Room 6, a strange thing has begun to happen. Philips heartbeat has picked up just a bit. The nurses, in their raspberry uniforms, see it on the monitors. Jim and Eve are not excited. Philip is not getting better, just lingering, like Jims aging mother in her nursing home.
Eve is no longer keeping notes. Shes too exhausted from staying up past midnight and waking up by 6 a.m. But she calls her twin sister, Lula Hayes, in Georgia every day, and Lula chronicles the news:
07/23/93 He had a good night; temperature is 100 degrees; oxygen level at 60 percent. He is leveled off. Heart rate is erratic; removed respirator to see if he could breathe on his own, but he took two breaths and struggled, so it was put back on him.
07/27/93 Losing weight; feeding tube through nose blue milk shake (Mother told him that it is blueberry, which he loves). Mother talks to him lots. Still has fever; fungus in lungs caused by antibiotics; bruise on upper part of leg; 5 cuts on lower part of leg; bruises on upper part of arm.
07/29/93 Sonogram revealed pancreas is swollen; gall bladder has sludge in it, but not stones; blood in stool; blood transfusion today; temperature is down to 102.7 degrees; fever is caused by breakdown of central nervous system; EKG revealed a heart murmur; neurological damage is irreversible; will do another EEG; heart is fine now stabilized.
The doctors still give Jim and Eve no hope. Philip may be stabilizing physically, they say, but his coma is too deep, has lasted too long. At best, Philip will live out his life in a coma, fed by a tube and turned in his bed to prevent sores.
Quietly, though, the intensive care nurses have begun questioning that prognosis. Their shifts are 12 hours long, and from their station, they can see through the glass wall of Philips room. Sometimes, they think, for just a second, Philip catches their eyes with his own. There is a brightness there, an awareness they have trouble defining. Hes looking at you, not looking through you, they tell each other.
One morning, nurse Cindy Ernest walks into Philips room and, she is certain, he follows her with his eyes. What do you think? they ask each other, certain of what they are seeing. Certain, too, that they are seeing what they want to see. They dont trust themselves, and they dont tell the Chandlers.
Jim and Eve have their toughest decision to make, and they dont need to have it complicated.
On Saturday, July 31, the Chandlers are given papers to sign, granting permission to remove Philip from the respirator. Philip is being weaned from the machine, but doctors arent sure if he has enough activity even in his brain stem to control the coughing needed to keep his lungs clear of mucous. Within 24 hours, Dr. Scanlon and a neurologist tell the Chandlers, theyll find out if Philip will die or if he will exist in a vegetative state.
Dont believe it, Estella tells Eve. Hell recover.
Eve tells her to stop. She doesnt want to hear such talk. Either way, this will surely be the end of Philip.
Three of Philips friends have come to visit. Eve makes them go in, one at a time, to tell him goodbye.
Charles King, a tall lanky boy with a flop of brown hair, stands crying.
I cant do it.
Yes, you can, Eve tells him, feeling cruel. Youll feel better later.
Jason Gunn, whom Eve calls her second son, understands. But Isaac Alvarez is stubborn, trying to be tough as he clenches his square jaw and tells Philip it has been good knowing him, like a soldier saying goodbye to a buddy in an old war movie.
Then, Isaacs face brightens as he comes out of the room. I just know hes going to make it. I know hes going to make it.
At 1 p.m., Jim and Eve sign the papers, then go to their room to wait with Estella. At 1:15, a nurse comes to the door to announce, Hes breathing on his own.
Ill be right back. Eve runs from the room to see him.
Looks like hes making it, Eve tells Estella. Then she permits herself a smile, a private imagining that Philip could get better.
For Jim, though, this is the worst day since Dr. Scanlon told them Philips heart was failing. There is no sign that Philip will come out of the coma, and Jim knows he wouldnt want to live this way. With death, there is grief, but its followed by healing. But with Philip in a coma perhaps for a natural life span the only thing that could follow grief would be a cruel hope forever nagging at his mind.
The rest of that afternoon and into the evening, they spend 10 minutes in Philips room every hour. Eve reads poetry to him. Jim holds his hand. Best of all, with the respirator out of the way, they can finally hug Philip properly.
Each time she leaves, Eve leans down to his blank face and tries to get his glassy eyes to focus on her own.
Philip, can you give me a hug? Then she gathers his limp form into her arms.
At 12:30 Sunday morning now, two weeks since Philip left for his haircut Jim and Eve go in to say good night to their son. It is time to try to sleep. They are alone in the room, and the intensive care unit is still.
Eve leans in, and one more time she asks, Philip, can you give me a hug?
Slow and shaky, but with a purpose, Philip lifts his arms from the bed and drops them around his mothers neck.
It is eerie, like being hugged by a dead man. Philips face is still emotionless, his eyes fixed at something far away.
Jim, did you see that?
Do it again.
Eve asks for another hug. Philip responds the same.
She is ecstatic, laughing and crying. This is the miracle she prayed for, but didnt dare hope for.
Jim, can I please call the nurses?
No, Jim says. This moment is for them. He thinks of all the stories of faith and answered prayer that people have shared with him in the past two weeks. Now, Jim thinks, were becoming one of those stories. His hopes soar, too. Surely God wouldnt carry Philip this far only to drop him.
Jim steps in and asks his boy for a hug. Only after he gets it does he tell Eve to call the nurses.
Philip just gave us a hug, Eve exults in the hospital silence. He really did!
One bed, three chairs, a wheelchair for trips to physical therapy, and a four-drawer chest stocked with T-shirts, shorts and socks. Speckled gray wallpaper, speckled blue carpet, a plaid privacy curtain to pull around when the nurses change his clothes, and five cans of ULTRACAL to drip through his feeding tube. Outside the window, a water fountain splashing without sound.
This is Philips world, his room at the Florida Hospital Rehabilitation Center.
Propped up on pillows, his bed at a slant, Philip stares, unblinking, toward the calendar on his wall. TODAY is 13, FRIDAY, AUGUST. He is alone in the room, and behind the pale mask of his face a thought laps like a wave at the edge of his mind.
A thin arm reaches up from the bed, slow and wavering as if it were moving underwater. Philip draws a shaky hand across his mouth to check for saliva. He doesnt want to lie here drooling.
Then he bends each leg and flexes each arm just a bit. They all work. Reassured, he stares toward the calendar again.
n the wall, below a television that he doesnt watch, is a school picture of himself blown up to grainy poster size that he doesnt look at. He is 5 feet 11 and 140 pounds in the photograph, a skinny high school junior, holding an electric guitar.
A mirror, hanging beside the photo, shows Philip today 103 pounds of translucent skin and knobby limbs. Not talking, not walking, Philip is like a Polaroid photograph himself, one just beginning to develop. The medical experts cant tell the Chandlers how closely the final picture will resemble the son they knew.
Eve, though, expects an image as perfect as before.
This is the end of his first week in the rehabilitation center. Inside this quiet, contained space down the hall and around the corner from the bustle of the rest of the hospital doctors and therapists are trying to figure out how much of Philip is left inside this rag doll body.
Eve is not waiting to be told.
Good morning, Philip, she announces, sweeping into the room with Jim right behind. Wake up, you lazy thing!
Philips eyebrows dart up.
Wheres my hug? He reaches up to her and she talks into his ear. Make one of Jasons funny faces. Here comes a funny face. She sticks her tongue out at Philip, and his smile widens.
She notices he is wearing a restraint, a flannel vest of blue plaid that ties to the safety rails on the sides of the bed.
The day nurse, Benita Brewer, bustles into the room and starts talking before Eve can ask.
Let me tell you whats going on with Philip. Hes trying to get out of this bed. Thats great, but we dont want him to fall.
He tried to brush his teeth this morning, Benita tells Eve and Jim, and in the shower he tried to wash his hair. Eve exclaims over each accomplishment, but Philip doesnt react. He has reverted to his favored posture, lying on his right side, knees slightly bent, hands at his chin, head bowed down. Still, with his parents nearby, he wears a faraway smile, like some vague but happy thought is drifting across his mind.
Once Philip is dressed, they sit nearby. Eve begins sorting the days mail, another stack of get-well wishes and testaments to prayer. Eve has started keeping notes again. She pulls out a pink pad and writes the name of each sender. At home, shell file the card alphabetically, with the others.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Chandler, Eve reads to Philip.
You will not recognize my name, for I have never met you … When I heard the news that Philip was beginning to come out of the coma, I fell on my knees, crying like a baby and praised the Lord for his kindness, love and mercy. I truly feel in my heart that the Lord is answering our prayers and that Philip will have a FULL recovery.
Philips breathing sounds congested. She reaches for a tissue and puts it to his face.
Blow your nose, she says. Good!
Then she brushes his hair so she can take a picture. Smile, she says. Philips eyes lock on his mother. For just a second, he comes into focus, resembling the schoolboy holding the guitar.
ON MONDAY MORNING, JIM AND EVE meet with the team of 14 doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers who are working on Philips case. They have observed Philip since he was moved to the head-injury unit at Florida Hospital nine days after coming out of the coma.
Jim is nervous. This reminds him too much of the daily briefings with Dr. Scanlon in Sanford, where the news was always worse than Jim expected it to be.
In 10 minutes, the experts at Florida Hospital lay out all they know about Philips condition and the prognosis for his recovery. Its not much.
There isnt a lot of medical literature about brain injuries caused by heat stroke almost no one with a temperature as high as Philips has survived.
Early tests show diffuse damage to his brain caused by a lack of oxygen. Locked in the trunk, Philip got so hot that the protein in his brain cells was altered, allowing fluid to pass through the membranes and causing the brain to swell, creating pressure on the blood vessels. Meanwhile, his blood thickened, pooling in his torso.
No blood, no oxygen: Permanent brain injury.
Though the dead brain cells can never be replaced, some of the injured cells might begin functioning again on their own. Philips progress may be dramatic from week to week, even from day to day.
Already they have seen some hints that his personality is returning. Philip cannot talk, but he smiles, especially when fussed over by the young women therapists. He laughs silently when his buddies visit. He sticks his tongue out for yes and shakes his head for no, though he answers simple questions correctly only half the time. And during a recent workout, he kicked at his therapist to let her know he was tired. These are all encouraging signs, but this spontaneous recovery wont continue. How extensive is the brain damage? When will Philip talk? How much will he recover? The doctors dont know.
It is a miracle that Philip did not die that first night. It is a miracle that he came out of the coma. God, in answer to prayer, has directly intervened to change the course of natural events. The miracle will continue, she knows.
The experts tell Eve that Philip wont be home until November. Wont they be surprised, she thinks.
Jim is more guarded. Some nights, as he sits silently by Philips bed, each breath is a small sigh. God has performed a miracle, surely. But maybe this is as far as it goes.
Events in the next week seem to bear out Eves expectations. Theres a new notch on the yardstick of Philips progress every day, another picture for Eves scrapbook, another note on pink pages.
Thursday, during speech therapy, Philips chapped lips mouth his own name.
Later, Jim and Eve fuss over him, pulling up the white stockings that help his circulation, coaxing him to practice taking deep breaths so he can talk again.
What time is it? Eve asks. Show me with your fingers what time it is. Can you see the clock? Its on the wall about 10 feet away, a round schoolhouse clock.
Philip keeps his head down, but his eyes sweep the wall. He holds up his index finger.
Yes, it is 1 o'clock! I think you knew! How about that. He can see pretty good if he can see that.
And tell time, Jim adds.
But Eve is already out the door, rushing to tell Benita and the therapists.
Friday, though, caps the week with a turn that Eve finds so exciting she insists the hospital issue a news release.
In the morning, a therapist performs a test to see if Philip can swallow without choking. As soon as he can, hell supplement his 2,300-calorie daily tube feeding with solid food.
Philip passes. Hospital food is his dubious reward. Its also a victory for Jim and Eve, who had been skipping lunch and delaying dinner because they wouldnt eat in Philips room as long as he couldnt.
For lunch, Philip is served boiled chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots and tapioca pudding.
He goes straight for the chocolate chip cookie.
Eve starts calling friends to tell them of his latest accomplishment, like a mother with a new baby. But in the late afternoon, the strain shows.
Eve pulls a chair beside him and, closing her eyes, leans her head on the rail of the hospital bed. She has a affeine withdrawal headache that the decaf served at this Seventh-Day Adventist hospital wont cure. With her glasses off, Eve suddenly looks her 49 years. She stares now, too, her unfocused gaze looking past the door, her fingers methodically rubbing his hand. No longer the cheerleader of recovery, shes an exhausted mother with nothing to manage right this minute.
She looks at Philip, silent in his bed, and she wonders what he is thinking. Is he happy here? Does he miss his friends, his school? Is he remembering what happened to him?
Philip is exhausted, too. But at 5 oclock when Jason Gunn and Isaac Alvarez come into his room, he struggles to straighten himself in the bed. He reaches down to the rumpled sheets, trying to cover his stockinged legs, brushes at his bed-head and tugs at the hideous plaid vest until his parents understand he doesnt want to wear it in front of his friends.
Isaac, all dressed in black, pulls up a chair and sits so his head is on the same level as Philips. Talking low so the grownups cant hear, he starts nearly every sentence the same: Remember …
That night they climbed the church roof and drank
Dr. Pepper until the cops ordered them down? Philip laughs, silently. That time they got their teacher off
the subject with an irrelevant question and kept him off the subject until class was over? Philip laughs again. Earlier this summer when they watched A Few Good Men?
I want the truth! Isaac demands, imitating Tom Cruises big line in the film.
You cant handle the truth, Philip mouths, imitating Jack Nicholsons reply. He laughs again, his mouth wide open, his head bobbing.
More friends arrive until they surround his bed, and all you can see is one foot sticking out from the covers. Two of the boys are fascinated by his feeding tube and the monitor that beeps with every drop.
Hey, Philip. It sounds like a microwave.
Yeah, youre done, man.
THE NEXT MONDAY, AUGUST 23, is the first day of school at Heritage Prep, and the same friends who gathered around Philips bed sit in the auditorium of Tabernacle Baptist and plan their schedules. The juniors, Philips classmates, take Algebra II, Spanish II, Chemistry, Chapel, American Government, English and Choir.
The juniors make plans to get the best lockers, talk about the woeful condition of the football team and catalog who among them has a restricted license and who has the real thing.
Under the wan fluorescent lights of a therapy room six miles away, Philip says Mom for the first time since his coma. Eve cries.
Everything is going to be all right.
PHILIP HASNT TALKED FOR A month and a half, Eve jokes, and he has a lot to say.
Actually, Philip says little on his second day of speech, and its no wonder. Every word is a rough approximation, a patchwork of syllables that he struggles to produce.
His speech therapist works with him. Whats your name?
Philip takes a breath, deep and deliberate. He keeps his right hand on his T-shirt, as if he needs to feel his chest swell to confirm the accomplishment.
Then he breathes out, and the wind of his exhalation nearly drowns out his answer: Vilub … Shanlur.
Tell me how youre feeling today?
Egg … zell … ent.
Philip has trouble coordinating his diaphragm, vocal chords, tongue and lips. That explains the monotone and slow pace of his words. Philip has other problems, too. There are times he hesitates, as if he cant find the right word. Other times he answers a question by repeating the end of it:
Do you want to eat lunch now?
Eat … lunch … now.
Philips difficulty isnt purely mechanical, his therapists suspect. More tests should tell them if this will be part of his permanent brain injury.
Eve isnt hearing any of this. Finally Philip can communicate, thats the main thing. She worries about his monotone he was always such an animated speaker before but shes sure this is just a phase in regaining his speech. Hes even reading now, big words like occupational therapy and neuro lab on the chart of his daily activities. You are amazing, she tells him.
HE TELEVISION IS ON, THE sound low, when Jim and Eve enter the room on a Wednesday night, Philips third day of returned speech.
Inspirational messages flash across the bottom of the screen. Welcome to Florida Hospital… . The world is a looking glass and gives back to each person a reflection of his attitude… . Its not what happens to you in life. Its how you respond to it… .
Eve turns off the set. Its rude to watch TV when people are visiting. Isnt it, Philip. The fluorescent light gives a green cast to the sheets on the bed where Philip rests. Mom and Dad settle in, enjoying the peaceful lull of days end.
Philips voice, a novelty still, comes as a surprise.
Mus … tang.
What did you say?
He wants to know what happened to the car.
A friend sold it for them, they explain, because they didnt want to see it again. Jim and Eve answer carefully, not sure exactly why he is asking.
I'm … glad, Philip says.
I … would … have … given … them … the … car.
Eves eyes meet Jims. Philip remembers.
Jim gets up to close the door. Under those lights both bright and cold, Philip begins to answer the questions his parents have been afraid to ask.
Jim grasps his sons hand. Did they point a gun at you?
Philip points his finger at his temple and begins to cry, noisy sobs that make the room seem close. Jims hand tightens around Philips. And, for the first time since Philip left the house that day, the Chandler~ family grieves together.
Eve strokes his hair. Were you scared?
Yes. They … made … me … get … in … the … trunk.
Each word so slow, each word an indictment of what they did o him. Eve feels like shes back at the Mustang that night, staring into the empty trunk with her sickening knowledge. She can see Philip there in the suffocating heat, smothered by darkness. Hes suffering alone. Her chest hurts at the thought.
She prays, holding Philip in her arms. Did he pray in the trunk? Philip nods.
Did he remember putting his hand through the hole in the back? Yes.
Did he want to stop talking? He didnt have to tell them this. Did he want to stop talking? No.
Where … did … they … find … me?
Jim and Eve tell him about the parking lot, about Carolyn Richter, the security guard who discovered him and who came to visit him in Sanford. She put a holy card, bearing the picture of a saint, under his pillow when he was in intensive care. Philip starts crying again.
Do you remember riding around for a long time? Eve is hoping he passed out quickly.
Which one had the gun? Jim wants to know, because no weapon was ever found.
The … smaller … one.
They are in jail now, Jim tells him. They are in jail where they cant get out, and they are charged with attempted murder and kidnapping. They cant get out.
Dont … want … to … testify.
Jim and Eve stay with him until he sleeps.
AUGUST ENDS. PHILIP IS WALKING now, a therapist under each shoulder as he moves down the carpeted hallway like a marionette, picking up each heavy basketball shoe and dropping it to the ground. His friends are busy with school and visit less often, though one night they pack the room with 29 people the whole junior class and then some. Philip is more attentive, his eyes finding the person who is talking to him, though his gaze wanders if the conversation drags.
He is up at 7 a.m. for breakfast, a shower and morning therapy. And though doctors are testing for problems with his memory, he greets every nurse, therapist and doctor by name. Eve arrives by 10 a.m., but she is confident enough in his progress
to slip out in the early afternoon, running errands and taking care of the house. Jim is back at work as an Ocoee police detective, but reports faithfully by 4:30 to spend the afternoon with Philip.
There are once-a-week outings with other patients who are recovering from head injuries. Philip goes to Pizza Hut (his choice) and Red Lobster, reading his menu, ordering for himself, remembering to put the napkin in his lap and practicing his eating protocol: small sips, small bites, chew well, sit up straight.
And Philip has a new visitor now. Her name is Karin.
his is the Childrens Home Society.
For 16 years, Karin had waited for this call.
She never even saw the baby. She tried in the delivery room that Tuesday afternoon in 1976. She had lifted her head through the fog of sedatives, but a nurse pushed it back to the pillow. The next morning, a different nurse handed her some papers to sign and told her the baby was a boy. He weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces. He had respiratory problems.
The nurse left her alone.
The next day, they sent her back to her family in South Florida to finish high school. Karin knew shed done the right thing. Still, she left the adoption file open to her son, hoping one day he would care enough to find her.
Her life had gone on a marriage, a daughter, a divorce. Still, Karin would look at boys and think: Hes the same age as my son. Hes a teen-ager now. Is he a good kid? Is he in trouble? Does he have his fathers curly hair?
Since his last birthday, shed been thinking about him more and more. Finally she realized why. He was 16 now, her age when she got pregnant.
Karin held the phone in the long fingers of a trembling hand, o thrilled. This could mean only one thing. Her son wanted to contact her.
Ive got some real disturbing news for you, the woman said, and Karin started crying.
Her sons name was Philip Chandler, the woman said, and he was dying. He had been kidnapped, locked in the trunk of his car …
Oh, God! That was my son? She remembered the TV report about Philip when she was at Disney World.
Karin could visit Philip at the hospital in Sanford, if she wanted, the woman said. His parents didnt mind. She was invited to the funeral, too.
Shed think about it, Karin said, and hung up.
She thought. Should she see him in a coma? Or would it be better never to see him at all? How would she tell her daughter, Tara? How would his adoptive parents react? Why were they calling her now?
This was not her life. It was a made-for-TV movie.
Over the next few days, Karin fretted quietly, so Tara would suspect nothing. She told only her mother what was happening. Shed lost him once. She didnt want to lose him again. Before Karin could reach a decision, Philip came out of the coma.
She didnt know what this meant. With so much going on, she would be a distraction. But Eve insisted that she come for a visit.
Finally, they made arrangements for Karin to meet Philip on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Karin drove to Orlando with her boyfriend. She still didnt understand why Eve was taking this chance, introducing a complete stranger into the taut fabric of their lives. And though the letters from Eve had assured her that Philip had been wanting to meet her for more than a decade, Karin thought he might resent her for giving him away.
To make matters worse, Eve had given them wrong directions. Karin was nearly frantic when they finally arrived at the hospital, 45 minutes late.
Karin knocked at the open door. Philip looked up from his wheelchair at the long-limbed young woman with dark hair and dark eyes, the high forehead, straight nose and forthright chin.
He looks just like me! Philip thinks.
Before anyone can say a word, he throws his arms out to her.
You're Karin, arent you, Eve says, and they all laugh.
There are awkward pauses that afternoon. Philip still speaks little, and Karin fills the space in her low, direct voice. They look through pictures of him as a child. They talk about Tara, who cant wait to meet him. Karin tells him how lucky he is to have such good parents. How happy she is it all worked out.
Philip, Eve says, wasnt there something you wanted to tell Karin?
Karin leans in, smiling expectantly. She puts her hand on Philips chest and he takes it with the long thin fingers so like her own. She feels his chest heave as he struggles to expel a complete sentence.
Thank … you … for … not … having … an … abortion.
Karins eyes tear. Youre welcome.
Karin calls Eve once or twice a week and visits Philip again a couple of weeks later, bringing her daughter with her.
While Philip is in therapy, they watch videotapes of his progress, Tara amazed at how big her big brother is. Hes got the longest tongue, she says, seeing him in speech therapy. Hes got huge hands.
When he comes back to the room, Karin sits by the bed and looks through a photo album with him, asking him about his friends. Philip just stares at her, infatuated.
We dont want to tire you out, Karin says.
You … dont … tire … me … out, Philip assures her.
You know, Id like to come more often. Its just I have to work and all.
I … understand.
I just talk and talk and talk. I dont want to keep you awake.
You dont, he says, and pulls her close to hug her.
But he is worn out from therapy, barely able to keep his head up. Karin hugs him goodbye. Tara, too.
You want me to take your shoes off? Karin asks. Youll let me do that.
She and Tara tug at the basketball shoes.
Big feet, Tara says.
PHILIP FALLS BACK TO THE black bedspread and looks up at a teen-age boys proper vista posters of bikini models and rock groups pinned to a corkboard wall.
Its Sunday morning, Sept. 11 64 days since he left the house for a haircut.
Home, he sighs. Finally.
But not for good.
Philip is just stopping in to get dressed for church, his big post-coma debut.
Tabernacle Baptist is packed. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the choir sings. As the song fades, Philip walks in Eve at one elbow, Jim at the other.
He gets an ovation from the congregation, a football and jersey from the Heritage Prep team. Three local television stations videotape his entrance, and the preacher dedicates his sermon titled Why Do Christians Suffer to him.
Philip, just so all these young ladies can see you havent lost your good looks, can I get you to stand up one more time? Pastor Ware booms from the pulpit.
Philip grips the pew in front of him and, with Jims hand steadying his back, pulls himself up. A royal blue suit hangs from the peaks of his shoulders. Jims white shirt loops around his neck. His curly hair is tall today, threatening to overwhelm his delicate features. His expression is resolute. His lips are pressed together and pushed out, deepening the cleft in his chin. Theres a slight squint to his eyes and a knitting together of his eyebrows. Philip looks defiant, as if hes daring to be alive in front of all these people who had thought he would die.
After church, Philip sits, tired but smiling, in the middle of a long table of family and friends at an Italian restaurant.
You know, Estella Penny begins, I never would have thought …
I know, Eve finishes. She is radiant with the days success. Doesnt he look good sitting there?
But that evening, Philips mood darkens. The Chandlers sit in the dining room, eating pizza before taking Philip back to Florida Hospital.
I … want … my … old … life … back, Philip announces, out of nowhere.
Philip, we cant change what happened to you, Eve tells him. Well never have our old lives back.
Philip sits silent.
Remember how Ive always taught you to think of others?
Well, youre going to have to start thinking of others, not yourself. Thats what your dad and I do. Were thinking about you and about others.
Dr. David Cox, the neuropsychologist, had tried to warn the Chandlers that this was likely to happen. Philip is more willing to accept his condition when he is in the hospital: Of course my brain isnt working right thats why I'm in this rehabilitation unit. The familiar setting of home magnifies his new problems. I'm home. That must mean I'm well.
But hes not.
And each time he goes home every weekend now Philip leaves the quiet comfort of the rehabilitation unit with its hand rails on every wall. He leaves the therapists who walk slowly beside him so he doesnt stumble, the nurses who show no embarrassment when he needs help getting to the bathroom, the doctors who listen patiently to every word no matter how long it takes to get it out. The world outside is loud and bright, with hard surfaces and uneven walkways. It is full of friends who talk too fast. They dont wait to see if he understands, they dont give him time to reply.
On the Monday after Philips first weekend home, Eve helps Philip back into bed after lunch.
Will … my … voice … be … normal? he asks his mother.
Yes, Philip, it will be normal. You have to be patient.
I'm … running … out … of … time.
Do you mean youre running out of patience?
No, he says in his monotone. I … mean, I'm … running … out … of … teen-age … time.
Dont … cry, … Mom.
Philip steps, blinking, into the bright afternoon, lets go of his walker and raises his arms high above his head. Victory. He is going home for good today.
It is the perfect gesture for the evening news, an image of triumph to wrap up the story. The cameramen move in. A crowd of Florida Hospital workers applauds Philip, providing a soundtrack.
Walker, left foot, right foot. The simple act of walking takes all his concentration. The noise, the cameras, the worrisome stairs up ahead, they all distract him.
Walker, left foot, right foot. A TV reporter pushes a icrophone in his face. What does this day mean to you, Philip? Can you tell me what this day means to you?
Walker, left foot …
Free … dom.
Walker, left foot, right foot.
It is Friday, Oct. 1, more than a month before doctors expected Philip to leave the hospital. Philips story leads the local news:
Philip Chandler is home tonight and doing better than his doctors ever dreamed …
After the news, Jim and Eve and Philip sit in their garage with the door open. They look out past the shade trees, wave to their neighbors, feed the birds, talk to all the friends who call to say they saw Philip on TV, that they've been praying for this day, that he just looked so good.
Everybody loves a happy ending.
PHILIPS HEAD SMACKS the pavement, hard.
Philip! Philip, are you okay? Philip?
Eve runs around the car. What happened? He just collapsed. He swung his legs out of the car, just like always, reached for the door frame and pulled himself up. Then he collapsed in the parking lot of the outpatient rehab center.
By the time Eve reaches him, the right side of his face has started swelling. His lip is bleeding, and a chunk of skin is torn from his knee.
Philip, are you okay?
She bends down to him. Philips legs are folded under him, his right arm pinned behind his back. He doesnt move.
Eve pulls his head into her lap.
She strokes his face. Are you okay?Are you okay? Hes coming around now, sobbing. Eve cries with him. What happened? Did he lose his balance? Did he black out? Was it a seizure?
It is two weeks since Philip left the hospital, his second day at the rehabilitation center. There are no TV cameras around now.
Eve holds onto Philip, his blood staining her white blouse.
A therapist runs out with a wheelchair. She helps Eve straighten Philips legs and lift him from the pavement. Its not hard. He still weighs only 115 pounds.
They take him inside and clean him up, then stretch him out on a therapy table. Philip lies there crying softly, embarrassed, frustrated.
After he rests, Eve drives him to the family doctor. Jim leaves work to meet them there. Philip is bruised, but there are no broken bones. His heartbeat, though, sounds irregular. Its worrisome. A cardiologist needs to check it out.
Is this ever going to end? Eve thinks as they leave. Jim's doubt creeps into her mind. Maybe this is as far as the miracle goes. She pushes the thought away and helps Philip to the car.
Philip seems shrunken in his wheelchair. His face throbs with pain, but worse is the humiliation of being pushed around like a baby in a stroller.
Hes glad his friends cant see him like this.
When Philip first came home, everything had started out so well like a holiday.
Friends came over, and Philips den was noisy again with the sounds of teen-age laughter and music being played too loud. The Orlando Magics Nick Anderson dropped by and presented Philip with a pair of size 11/12 sneakers, autographing the toe of each shoe.
On Tuesday, Jim and Eve were able to witness to all of Orlando about their personal miracle.
More than 200 people filled a Florida Hospital auditorium for a monthly worship service called Joy in the Morning. The local news stations covered the Chandlers appearance.
Eve could hardly believe she was in front of all these people. But as the cameras broadcast their testimony about faith in Jesus Christ, about forgiveness, about hope in desperate times, she thought that moments like this were the reason Philip was allowed to live. God has proved His power and mercy through her son. God is glorified through Philips victory.
The next morning, Eve sent Philip to Heritage Prep to spend a day with his friends - the first day of kindergarten all over again.
She didnt want to let him leave her. He was anxious to head out on his own. Though she was exhausted from hovering over Philip for four days, she couldnt rest while he was gone.
Philip sat in the back of chemistry class, dressed sharp in purple jeans and a red shirt.
After the teacher assigned reading, Jason and Matt started cutting up with their friend, talking about the visit from Nick Anderson, discussing Michael Jordans retirement and the negotiations over Anfernee Hardaways contract.
Philip laughed and nodded and passed around photos. But Philip the one who used to get in trouble for talking too much in class didnt say a word.
As much as he liked being with his friends, he couldnt help thinking how different he was. What do they see when they look at me? Do they notice the way I walk?
They crowded around him when he went down the hall. Do they think I'm going to fall? I'm so skinny. Do I look strange?
And his voice. He has heard it so many times on TV he sounds like a robot or something.
For four hours, he kept up appearances. Using his best balance, focusing on his friends when they talked to him, sitting up straight.
He went home wrung out and slept until Eve woke him for supper.
HILIPS BLACKOUT IN THE REHAB parking lot has Eve on edge. A cardiologist finds an irregular heartbeat, maybe caused by a small seizure. He recommends a neurologist.
Until she knows whats wrong, Eve will hardly let Philip out of her sight. He must have someone watching out for him. But Eve cant do it by herself.
She uses money in a special trust fund to hire an aide, Lynn Pape. Lynn is not a nurse or a therapist. Shes a motorcycle-riding widow who organized a benefit for Philip about a month ago. She doesnt really know the Chandlers, but when her husband, a city employee, was dying of cancer several years ago, Jim donated some sick days to him.
Lynn promises Philip a ride on her cherry-red scooter as soon as he is able to hang on tight. For now, theyll stick to the minivan.
They sing songs on the drive up to the rehabilitation center on Lee Road, starting every morning with the Mighty Mouse theme: Here I come to save the day! In the afternoon, when hes tired, she brings him a candy bar from the snack machines as a surprise.
And everywhere he walks, Lynn is right beside him.
October passes. Every night, Philip tells himself, there was progress today. Every night, he promises himself, there will be more tomorrow.
Karin calls often and brings Tara up for a weekend visit, weaving into the Chandlers lives. But Philips friends dont stop by as they once did. Philip sits alone in the den. He has thrown out his rock tapes and CDs, telling his parents a Christian shouldnt listen to that garbage. Now he watches movies on the VCR. Lately, it has been Aladdin, sometimes twice a day. He watches, mesmerized by the bright action and the hero who gets everything he wished for.
Eve hates to see Philip bored. She worries that his friends are forgetting him. They call and want him to come out to the movies or come to a football game. They dont understand when she tells them he cant. Hes home, isnt he? That means hes well.
The doctors still arent sure why Philip passed out that day, but theyre nearly certain it could happen again.
ON A THURSDAY LATE IN OCTOBER, about three weeks into outpatient treatment, Philips case manager pulls him aside to talk. Its a chance for Kim Marshman to sound Philip out without his parents there to speak for him. A chance to find out how much he understands about his own condition.
They sit together in a small room. Kim closes the door. Theres going to be a conference this afternoon, she tells him, with all the therapists and doctors around a table talking about him. His speech, although still slow and strained, is not as halting.
Can I attend the conference?
Absolutely. Its for you. This is good. Philip is at least curious about his condition.
Philip is using his best paying-attention look. His hands are flat and pressed to his thighs, his body curved forward and his head up. His mouth is set with a slight smile, held tight to keep it closed. He holds his eyes wide, his eyebrows up. When he blinks, it is hard and purposeful.
So far, what questions might you have for the people in the conference, Kim asks.
How am I doing?
Any specific areas?
In speech and memory group.
What else might you want to know in the conference?
Nothing. He shrugs and holds his hands out, palms up.
Kim reminds him of the five goals he came up with when they first talked several weeks ago: to run, to walk etter, to jump higher, to play basketball, to swim. All physical goals, she thinks, all related to the way he appears to others. Its typical of brain-injury patients to focus on their physical impairments, unaware of, or denying, the cognitive problems.
What about school? she prompts.
What about it?
When do you want to go back?
Think I'm ready, Philip says. Its hard to tell if its a question or a statement.
Kim says that next week a tutor will start teaching him while hes at the therapy center.
What do you think will be a little bit hard for you?
What about reading, Kim prompts. He is far below his grade level.
I can read.
Maybe Philip wonders about a couple of the neurological tests they've done to see how fast signals move across his brain.
I dont get things right all the time, Philip says.
Why do you think that is?
I'm not fast enough. My brain doesnt work like it used to.
Why do you think that is?
Because of my injury.
Philip wont say brain damage. He hates that. To him, its an insult, not a medical term.
You still have the thoughts, but the signals are a little slow. Its kind of like if youre going from your house to school and theres construction in the way. It might take you three times as long to get there, but you still do. Its like rush hour in your brain.
Kim pauses to see if hes getting it and then continues.
I cant believe it. Almost everybody asks me one more question. How long am I going to be here?
Philip smiles and obliges. How long am I going to be here?
So glad you asked.
Four to six months. Our crystal ball is a little fuzzy, so you might beat that time frame.
I will beat that time frame.
Its a deal, Kim says, shaking his hand.
Ill hold you to it. The tight smile is replaced by a squint of determination.
Youre a hard worker, Kim says.
Tisha said I'm an excellent worker.
Wow, Tisha doesnt say that about a lot of people.
If she had the perfect patient, it would be me. He points to himself and a sly grin spreads across his face. Of course, she was on TV.
They laugh, and Kim compliments Philip on his sense of humor. Its a complex brain function and shows thinking on a higher level. And it can be an important tool when therapy gets tough.
Of course, you dont have to be happy all the time. You can be sad.
Mostly I'm happy all the time. But sometimes I get frustrated.
One of the things I want you to remember is its okay to get frustrated. You dont have to smile all the time.
Philip smiles at her.
If you need somebody to yell at, you just come get me, and well come to this room and you can yell at me and I wont say a word.
Okay, Philip says, but he laughs at the idea.
I think youre doing really well. Youve got a long, hard road ahead of you.
As he walks out, Kim shakes her head. Philip doesnt seem to understand his own condition yet. And she doesnt trust this perpetual good humor. The Chandlers, she suspects, dont show anger and frustration to other people.
Still, she sees no way for Philip to avoid those emotions. Brain injury is cruel. The better Philip gets, the worse hell feel about himself. The clearer his thinking becomes, the clearer his perception of all hes lost.
Like his reading skills by the time Philip reaches the end of a paragraph, he may have forgotten the beginning. He cant solve problems that have several steps. It takes him twice as long as before to remember a grocery list of six items, although when he does remember it, it sticks.
The key to Philips trouble is attention the foundation of memory and learning.
Attention is not just concentrating on information you want, it is ignoring information you dont. Philip, like many people with brain injuries, is overwhelmed at times by the sights and sounds around him as if all the world is a crowded mall at Christmas time.
The doctors think there is a disruption along the neuro-chemical pathways that ferry information into the brain the same pathways involved with speech. Its as if one light bulb has burned out, causing a whole string of Christmas lights to fail.
Philip has come a long way in a short time and will continue to improve for at least the next year, maybe longer. He should be able to continue his education, to hold down a job, to live independently.
But brain injury is not a disease. Its like an amputation. There is a part of you thats gone forever. No matter how well he does, Philip wont be the same person he was before.
Some day, Kim knows, hell take her up on that offer to yell.
IT'S LYNN WHO CATCHES IT just a couple weeks later.
I'm not a baby, Philip tells her. I dont need you to walk beside me.
When he gets home that afternoon, Eve sits him down on the couch for a talk. Youve got to have someone walking with you because you could faint again.
Philip balls up his fists and pounds on his legs, so hard the sound echoes in the room.
I get so frustrated because I want to be normal again.
He will be, 100 percent, Eve assures him. It just takes time.
Those slime buckets ruined my life. The Lord told me to forgive them, and I have forgiven them. But I dont like them very much.
Philip, I dont like them at all.
I cant be bitter.
Yeah, because youd only hurt yourself and us. Those guys wouldnt even know you were bitter.
The following Sunday night, Jim finds Philip alone in his den no music, no television looking like he could use some company. Jim sits beside him on the couch, a new one with legs because the old one was too low for Philip to get up from.
For a while, neither says anything. They just sit together in the quiet.
How could they do this to me? He looks straight ahead as he talks. His lower lip quivers.
There are just bad people in the world, and you ran into a couple of them.
They should not see the light of day for a long time.
The conversation is punctuated by Philips sobs and long silences.
Jim breathes in small sighs, his hand on Philips shoulder. He lets the boy talk when he is ready.
They took something away I will never get back. I will never forget what happened to me.
IT'S A MONDAY AFTERNOON IN mid-November, and Philip is wandering through the house.
He blacked out again the night before, just collapsed in his mothers arms as he leaned down to hug her good night. He was out for just a minute, but he stared at the ceiling all night, too worried to sleep.
The neurologist thinks it may be a seizure. He prescribes medicine, but he also schedules follow-up visits. Just another thing to deal with.
Philip felt too tired to go to therapy this morning, so
he is staying home with Eve. Shes planning an early Thanksgiving dinner to honor the security guard who found Philip that July afternoon and five women who fasted and prayed for four days when it looked as if Philip wouldnt make it. They are all part of the miracle.
Philip wants so much. To drive. To go to school. To hang out with his friends on a Saturday night. To pick up his life right where he left it that morning in July.
Eve wishes she could make him see things the way she does. There will be a healing 100 percent. His voice, his thinking, his guitar playing will be restored. She believes this even if his doctors dont. Philip wants it all so bad that she must believe it for him.
She asks the Lord for that healing each time she prays. But mostly, she thanks the Lord that Philip is still around to pray for.
Hell walk into the kitchen to get himself a handful of M&Ms, and Eve will look up from the newspaper as though shes seen an apparition. Its miracle enough to have him walking through the house or calling girls on the phone. Or just sitting beside her on the couch where she and Jim planned his funeral less than four months ago.
On a pink notebook, Eve writes out what shell need for dinner tomorrow night: Call Publix, Call Black-Eyed Pea, Get corsages.
Philip sits in his den and watches Aladdin for the 11th time, wishing he was out with his friends, maybe playing basketball at Manuels or playing guitar in Isaacs garage. On the TV screen, Aladdin is flying away with the princess, all his dreams fulfilled.
What if he had three wishes, like Aladdin had? What would he wish for?
Philip imagines this for a minute, one eyebrow cocked in speculation. He holds out one long finger to begin counting off his wishes.
To be normal again.
He holds out two fingers and thinks some more, longer this time. Then he closes his hand.
Thats really all I can think of.