CARBORO, NC – With the few minutes each day that he’s spared gut wrenching spasms of intolerable pain and emotional anguish, James Michael Patrick Miller looks at family photos and listens to old cell phone messages. Last week doctors had given Miller no more than ten days to live and concluded that his final days would be agonizing and wretched. Today Miller grimaces as nurses spoon feed him his favorite pudding (chocolate) and when they have to move him he screams vulgar profanities so loud and heartbreaking that other patients on his floor have begun prayer meetings.
“It sounds like The Exorcist movie,” barked Hazel Humphrey in room 219, two doors down from Mr. Miller. “I have visions of his head spinning and priests crawling on the floor around his bed.” She nervously wiped her brow. “Luckily he isn’t a woman. Lord knows he’d be violating himself with religious icons.”
“I just wonder sometimes why we can’t just put people to sleep like we do pets,” remarked Don Hinkley Jr. in room 227. “The man is in bad shape. When he starts howling I have to turn my television up as loud as it goes. Then that bag across the hall starts complaining and they tell me to turn it back down. Just put that poor man out of his misery. And while you’re at it, gas that bag across the hall too.”
Mr. Miller was diagnosed three weeks ago with a disease that doctors describe as “horrifying,” but because of doctor- patient privilege they are not allowed to disclose his diagnosis.
A staff physician spoke with reporters outside the hospital.
“Let me put it this way, it’s a very rare disease. Fact is, there have only been seven similar cases recorded since Hippocrates started the whole medicine thing. I’ve never seen a disease with such terrifying symptoms. Even morphine won’t help. Mr. Miller has enough morphine running through his veins right now to kill five large horses. We just can’t ease his pain.”
The doctor paused to write on his clipboard and then continued.
“It’s the first time in my twenty-five year medical career that I’ve seen a hospital allow its doctors and nurses drink alcohol before seeing a patient. I’m not kidding. They have to get drunk to deal with the horror of that man’s agony.” The doctor shook his head and continued his rounds.
Mr. Miller and his wife Patricia Deborah have six children: James Jr. 25, Michael 24, Patrick 23, Lou 22, Patti 21 and Debbie 20. The Millers have been married for twenty-five years and all of their children still live at home. According to a nurse at the hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity, before Mr. Miller got sick he’d won an all expense paid, two-week vacation at Disney World for the entire family.
“They found out at the last moment there was an expiration date on the prize, so they had to cash it in last week or they couldn’t go,” the nurse said. “It was right after Mr. Miller became ill and from what I hear, his family argued about what they should do. I’ve been told that the kids really wanted to go to Disney World but Mrs. Miller had doubts about leaving her husband behind.”
Lars Petersen shared a room with Mr. Miller until the screaming became too much for him to endure. He described his experience.
“Everyday that man was getting worse. My God, the screaming was horrific. I’ve never heard cries of anguish like that. And when the doctor told him that his family wouldn’t be coming back to the hospital because they’d gone to Disney World, he just fell apart.” Mr. Petersen rubbed his eyes and sighed. “That poor man is dying and his family’s riding on a God damned roller coaster at Disney World?”
Mr. Petersen calmed himself with a sip of water.
“One day the doctor told him that his family was too upset, that they couldn’t watch him suffer so much. Then he smiled, handed Mr. Miller an envelope and told him the whole family had signed a very nice card for him.”
A confidential source at the hospital said James Michael Patrick Miller would probably die within thirty-six hours. Sadly, his family will not be with him. They still have seven more fun packed days left at the Happiest Place on Earth.