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Monday, July 28, 2014         

INCIDENTAL LIVES


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Carpenter walks to escape blahs of surgical recovery

By Michael Tsai

POSTED:


It's midafternoon on a breezy, overcast Sunday, and, hospital regulations to the devil, Henry is going for a walk.

Who can blame him? He missed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year because of a bowel obstruction that had his insides "tied up in knots."

And who's to stop him? Henry -- he won't give his last name -- is 6 feet, 260 pounds and as imposing as anyone you're likely to see wearing a hospital gown and dragging an IV stand.

"I told them I was going outside," Henry says, chuckling. "I didn't tell them I was going around the block."

So that's Henry turning the corner at the emergency room and ambling toward the physicians office buildings.

Pausing momentarily, he explains which tube is connected to his pain medication, which one delivers his liquid nutrients and which helps keep him hydrated. He lifts his top to reveal the thick tube that drains waste from his belly, the collapsed flesh around it as dark and puckered as old fruit.

A car slows as its driver turns to gawk, but Henry pays no mind. He's enjoying the fresh air.

"It's kind of hard being here," he says. "I don't sleep well at night. I guess it's the environment. In the morning I get up early and they do all kinds of tests. The rest of the day I just lay around and watch TV. Every day, same old (expletive)."

Henry, 53, grew up in Ewa Beach, the third child in a family of 10. His father, a mason, taught the kids to love nature and respect the value of hard work. Henry had no problem with either.

After graduating from Campbell High School in 1975, Henry tried to enter the military but -- always a big kid -- exceeded the weight limit by 3 pounds. So instead he got a job crafting two-prong fishing spears.

A few years later, Henry took his father's advice and became a carpenter, a trade he's stuck with for nearly three decades.

About 10 years ago he dropped out of the union, citing an unwillingness to, um, pucker up to the proper posteriors. And while work was not as easy to come by after that, he made ends meet.

In 2004, however, Henry suffered a bladder infection that required surgery. He had three more surgeries to address bowel obstructions and another most recently to fix a hernia caused by one of his previous operations. The procedures and their lengthy recoveries made it impossible to work more than the occasional side job, and Henry was forced to go on food stamps, a situation he only grudgingly accepts.

Henry has been at Queen's for three months and is likely to remain until the end of January. He can't wait to get back to Ewa Beach, can't wait to get back to fishing for ulua and papio.

"It's easy to get depressed here," he says. "I walk so I don't fall into that. They can think what they want. They can keep their equipment. I just want to be outside."

------

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@staradvertiser.com.






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