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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fairy Dust Needed Today for a Frozen Skull

Long after the prison doors clang shut, the headlines vanish and the lawyers have moved on to other cases, the crime itself is still right where it always was--at the epicenter of a heartbroken family. Paul Patrick was shot by a serial killer in Phoenix in 2006. That wretch is now behind bars. I sometimes cross paths with the excellent lawyers who put him there, when I walk the halls of justice in downtown Phoenix. They are on their way to other courtrooms with other cases and so am I.

But when Paul Patrick walks, it is down his own hall, with the help of two professional aides. And a camera nearby to record it. Because it is a momentous event, Paul taking a few steps. The 12 gauge shotgun in Sam's hands blasted away a good deal of Paul's torso. The eighty or so lead pellets still inside Paul have a tendency to move around and cause him a great deal of trouble. Earlier this year, roving pellets brought him so near death there was only one chance to save him, and that was by attempting to remove half his skull. His mother--whose vigilance is the only thing that has kept him alive on many occasions since the day he was shot--said she just wasn't ready to say good-bye to him yet, so she authorized the almost ridiculously desperate procedure. Against all odds, Paul survived. He has been living without his skull for 9 months now. There is just skin covering the right half of his brain. Any stray elbow or falling nightlight could do him in forever.

Today, the neurosurgeons have decided it's finally time to put the skull back. There is no need to explain how risky this procedure is, I think it speaks for itself. Will it bond? will it swell? will it get infected? will it still fit?

Today is a day people can "light a candle in a dark room" for Paul. Justice and the news machine have moved on. But Paul is still living the same case. He has no choice. I cannot do what I fervently desire, and that is to sprinkle fairy dust on the hands of the surgeon, on the freezer that has kept his skull for almost a year, on the tubes and machines that will keep him alive for the next few days. What I can do is leave no stone unturned in finding people who will blow him a kiss, cheer him on, tell him a joke. Anyone who wants to root for Paul today or send him a Christmas wish can do so here or at the FaceBook page. He and his mother will see the messages, I promise.

Paul's would-be killer has expressed a lot of remorse. He's doing his time, which will be for the rest of his life. But what I learned from this trial is that those things are a tiny part of crime-fighting. Paul fights the crime every day, every minute, for the rest of his life, too. Sam's remorse can't help him now. But your love and well wishes can.


  1. Paul, please know that so many people will think you and be cheering you on! Even though I don't know you personally and we may never meet, it doesn't change the fact that I wish I could rewind time for you. But since I can't, I am with you in spirit!

    As for his would-be killer...it's good that remorse is felt, but all the regrets will never give Paul his life back. Why can't these people think it through BEFORE??!!

  2. Thank you very much, Kim! I am printing your comment out and bringing it to the hospital this very day. Mwah!