Henry, his Dad Chris, and me
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On April 27, 2010, I was having a business lunch with two colleagues at Aubrey’s in Bearden (Knoxville). I had the ringer on my phone turned off so it would not disturb my meeting. Given the fact that I am a mom, and especially because I had a critically ill child about whom I was worried beyond explanation, I only very rarely turned the ringer off. But I did sometimes do it for short periods while I was in business meetings, and I did it that day.
I had texted Henry that morning at 9:14 am, writing, “Hi sweetie. How are you today? Give me a call.” He had never responded – very unusual for my son – so I was on edge. So when I left the meeting to walk back to my office, located in the same office complex, I immediately checked my phone and saw that I’d gotten a call from a strange number. There was some kind of voicemail, but it was garbled and I couldn’t understand it, but I could make out that it had something to do with Henry. When I got into my office, I shut the door and called the number back. I can’t recall whether I called from my cell phone or office phone. A woman answered, and I explained that I was Henry Granju’s mother, and that I understood she had called me. I don’t remember the exact words she said, but it was something like, “Henry’s overdosed on drugs and it’s don’t look good. He’s at the hospital.”
(NOTE: When I was interviewed on camera for “Henry’s Story” just a few months after Henry died, I mistakenly said that the call had come directly from Henry’s phone. What I meant to say – and what I hadn’t learned until quite a while after Henry was taken to the hospital that day – is that the woman called me from her own phone, but that she had apparently gotten my number from Henry’s phone, which she kept when paramedics took him unconscious from her house. My listing in his phone said “Mom.”)
I didn’t even ask for any other details, like what hospital. I hung up and knew IMMEDIATELY how bad it was. I have no idea how I knew, but I just did. I ran – literally – out of my office and down the hall, gasping for air. I careened into the office of a coworker who is also a close friend and tried to explain what had just happened. He immediately offered to drive me to the hospital, since I was clearly too upset to drive myself.
We went down to the parking lot and got into his car. As we pulled out, I realized that I had no idea where Henry was. My friend wisely suggested that the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) would be the most likely place he would have been taken, so I tried calling there first as we drove in that direction. I reached the ER and explained that I was a mother checking to see whether her teenage son had been brought in. The very, very nice person with whom I spoke checked quickly and confirmed that Henry had arrived there shortly before. I asked his condition, and she gently explained that she didn’t want to discuss it with me over the phone, and that they would talk with me when I got there.
Of course, I then feared that he was already dead. I was hysterical as my friend’s car grew closer to UTMC. I called my sister and asked her to immediately get in touch with Henry’s Dad, Chris, as well as my husband and other family members. I then also texted Chris, his wife Melissa and my brother, telling them what was going on.
We pulled up at the hospital, and my friend let me out at the ER doors while he went to park. I ran in, and up to the front desk, explaining that my son was there, and I needed to see him and to find out what was going on. The clerk immediately assured me that my son was not dead, but alive. She knew that was the only thing I wanted to know at that moment. And let me just say right now that from the very first UTMC staff member I spoke to on that terrible day until the very last, each one was as kind, compassionate and communicative as they could possibly be. I was hysterical and crying and not easy to understand, but they held my hand every step of the way, even as they heroically worked to save Henry’s life.
Before I could go back to see him, the admitting desk needed some information. They had his wallet, which contained only his driver’s license, so they knew his name, and that he was 18 years old, but that’s all they knew. After only a minute of answering questions about insurance and our address, a very nice male ER staffer led me back to the room where Henry was being treated – in the treatment area of the ER.
There are no words to describe to you what I felt when I walked in that tiny room and saw Henry for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect it to be as horrible as it was. I had heard “overdose” from that woman, but no one had yet explained to me that Henry had also been physically assaulted, so I just wasn’t prepared for what I saw.
Henry was lying on a treatment table, comatose. He was on a ventilator, with the tube down his throat and taped around his mouth. Both of his eyes, which were closed, were purple and swollen, and a significant amount of bright red blood was continually oozing from both of his ears. He had already had his clothing removed, and was wearing a hospital gown, which hung on him. It had been pulled down so that his chest was visible, and I could clearly see a large patch of bruising, with a scrape in the middle of it. Several medical personnel were working over him, adjusting wires and tubes, and wiping the blood away as it ran from his ears. I burst into tears and involuntarily cried out, “Henry, Henry, No! No!” I held onto the edge of the exam table and began kissing and stroking his beautiful mop of curly, brown hair, just as I’d done tens of thousands of times since I first held him in my arms. I was trying to pull myself together and not wail out loud. I distinctly remember seeing one or two big splashes of water, my tears, fall onto his face and run down his neck, mixing with the blood from his ears.
(NOTE: 6 weeks later, after my son finally died, having never again left the hospital, I thought back on this moment – my tears falling into my child’s blood – as I read the comments by the Knox County Sheriff in the newspaper in which he essentially denied that my son had suffered any physical injuries that mattered, and explained that their investigation into what might have caused these non-existent physical injuries was essentially over.)
At that point, Henry’s father, Chris had arrived, and he was led back to the room, where he found me standing over our comatose, bleeding, bruised child – still weeping inconsolably. I saw the terror on his face as he walked in, and we immediately gave each other a hug. Just then, a doctor, Dr. A came into the room and introduced himself as the treating physician. He asked us to come into the hall with him so that he could explain Henry’s condition to us.
Next: Justice for Henry – Part 4