On August 29th 2018 our house phone rang at 4 am, we ignored it thinking more than likely it was a wrong number because no one we know would call at that time and if they did for some reason they would leave a message. When the machine picked up the caller hung up without doing so and we assumed just that it was a wrong number. So with my husband and I having only about two hours sleep before getting up to start the day attempted to fall back asleep.
A minute or two later my husband got out of bed for some water and I turned over to get comfortable thats when my cell phone rang. This made me realize something was wrong because the calls were minutes apart and the chances of wrong numbers at both our home and my cell were slim to none.
When I picked up my cell phone the caller ID read “NY state Police Department”, partially baffled and now nervous because what could the state police possibly want or have to say especially at this hour I answered the phone. That is when a conversation that crushed my families life ensued.
“Hello” I said nervously
“This is Sergeant (We will just call him Sergeant) from the New York State Police, I am trying to contact Mrs Dagee am I speaking with her?”
“Yes how can I help you?” a sudden pit formed in my stomach, in no way could this be a non urgent matter.
“Mrs Dagee we found your name in the phone of a Raymond Arlugo stating you were his sister is he your brother?”
“Yes did you find his phone somewhere? I tried contacting him yesterday with no success, he doesn’t have a home phone can you keep it at your station then later we will come pick it up?”
“Mrs Dagee, there has been an incident and we would need you to come to your brothers home immediately if possible”
“At 4 am you need me to come to his home if possible? Why is that? Would you please tell me what this is about? What do you mean by incident?
“Mrs Dagee, I rather not go into details over the telephone, if needed we can have a trooper come and escort you”
TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED!! My voice was now raised due to sheer fear. My brother lived alone with my nephew he lived a quiet life anytime the word incident is mentioned it can be a wide range of things but of course you always think the worst.
I must have been louder than I thought because my husband came running to our bedroom, I rarely raise my voice so he must have been startled as his tone louder than usual asked “Whats Wrong Are You OK?”
I just looked at my husband held my hand up in a “Hold on” type motion, there was a brief silence on the phone that seemed to last for hours when the words I never thought I would ever hear were said.
“Mrs Dagee, we received a phone call earlier about a disturbance in your brothers apartment, when we arrived we found him deceased. We have your nephew with us he is OK but we would need you to verify if this is or is not your brother and take custody of your nephew”.
I will be there in no more than a half hours time, please tell my nephew I am on my way.
I hung up my phone looked at my husband who still unaware of what was said on the phone, had this half scared and half confused expression on his face then I told him.
“You need to get the kids ready for school before work, call my job tell them there has been a family crisis, call Julian’s school tell them he won’t be in today I will speak with the Principle to let them know when he will return.”
“Sam what happened to Ray? I am going to go with you let me call Miss Lazar next door she can get the kids ready for school”
I stood getting dressed without saying a word then turned around looked my husband in the face and told him “No I need to Go Handle this, I will Text you once I know more”
“Sam answer me tell me what is going on now!”
“Elliot Raymond passed away, that was the state Police, they are who called on the house phone. I need to get Julian and I want to do this alone.”
“Samantha I am coming with you, I am calling Miss Lazar”
“ELLIOT I HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE!!”
I kissed my husband, grabbed my car keys then headed towards my brothers home. I was completely numb inside, I know what happened I didn’t need anything official, he had been telling me for months.
“Samantha i’m getting tired”
When I arrived at his home it was like a scene from a TV show, police cars outside, police standing around talking while neighbors looked on from the street. When I got out of my car Julian who thankfully was sleeping at a friends house next door when this took place, ran over and hugged me with all his strength while tears flowed. The Sargent I spoke with on the phone walked over an introduced himself.
Once Julian calmed down a little, he went with a female Trooper who held his hand while the Sargent and I walked up to my brothers second floor apartment. The Sargent warned me to prepare myself but at that point I didn’t need to, I had prepared myself the entire ride over.
There he sat in a chair, head leaned over to one side wearing his good clothes in one hand he held a photo of Julian, in his lap was a photo of us as children and in his left hand a 38 revolver. On the side table next to him was a note that read.
“I tried, I am sorry for everything but I am tired more than words can express. I begged the doctors for help, they humiliated me and even laughed when I told them this pain was unbearable. I just wanted to be a Dad to Julian.
Samantha make sure he knows I didn’t leave him to hurt him, I just didn’t want to embarrass him anymore.
I know people will say “If he loved his son then he would have stuck it out” but you need to understand what Ray had been through in a short amount of time. When he wrote the words embarrassed its not that Julian ever told him “Dad you embarrass me” that was Ray feeling ashamed of not being able to function on a daily basis to be an active part of Julian’s life.
It was in just an eight year span of time Ray had one medical condition after another without a break in-between.
In 2011 Ray was in an accident that caused a brain hemorrhage that needed emergency surgery. It would be the third cranial surgery of his life, he had two neuro surgeries a few years earlier for epilepsy.
This recovery took almost six months. Once he started feeling better, in 2012 Ray started having pain in the front of his neck. The pain would be dismissed by the dozen different doctors from a primary physician, ENT and Endocrinologist.
It was not until Ray ended up with massive swelling that required him to be placed on an intubation tube did they discover a massive benign tumor pressing against his vocal chords. Then to make matters worse Ray also had Thyroid cancer which caused not only weight gain but an enlarged heart due to viral cardiomyopathy.
Those conditions would be treated in New York City, Ray would finally start being his old self by the end of 2012. There were several months Ray was not only was feeling like his former self but even participating in community activities, coaching Julian’s little league team.
While working on his home in the spring of 2014, the ladder Ray was standing on lost footing and Ray would fall 15 feel onto the concrete. The fall broke his collar bone and fractured his shoulder to the extent reconstructive surgery needed to be done. Which took Ray almost a year to recover from.
Once Ray had recovered from the fall he again went back to his normal life, even while recovering he did things on a daily basis that didn’t require him to use his bad arm, he went to physical therapy and when it came to Julian he made sure he never missed an event be it baseball, soccer or at school.
When an oil slick in the road caused him to lose control of his car in the summer of 2016, Ray broke his left hip. Once again he was back to surgery, physical therapy and life on a daily basis even using crutches he never missed an event when it came to Julian. he had recovered fully from his broken hip by the start of 2017 then started to feel tired all the time.
He would address the tiredness with his primary care physician who would do some lab work and tell him it was nothing but a B-12 deficiency. Every day Ray would got to the doctors office and get B-12 injections until feeling better. The one day while we were all at the park during the summer, Ray cooking on the BBQ grill suddenly collapsed and went into convulsions.
We would call the ambulance, Ray was admitted to the local hospital where they informed us damage from his 2011 accident left underlying damage that had caused him to become an uncontrolled epileptic.
Over the next six months Ray would have continuous seizures until they found the right medicine for him. He had been seizure free for almost five months until one day helping our elderly aunt and uncle clean out a garage Ray went into a Grand-Mal seizure and while doing so fell onto some storm windows opening up a massive cut on his stomach. A large portion of the glass was sticking out and Ray needed emergency surgery to have it removed.
The surgery while saved him from any impending immediate danger left an infection that Ray soon was diagnosed with Sepsis. He then was admitted into the hospital to treat the blood infection and a have the infected tissue surgically removed. This would happen to him three times in four months.
A week after being home in June of 2018, Ray with his latest stomach surgery healing from the inside out would have another seizure and fall down. In the fall Ray not only broke his jaw but his front teeth as well. They wired his jaw shut then a dentist removed his teeth that were broken at the gum line.
One night in late June ray sent me a text asking me to pick up Julian because he was in pain and needed to go to the emergency room. I did and Ray went he was diagnosed with chronic pain, told to see his primary physician then prescribed 2 five milligram percocet pills.
When Ray went to his primary physician, (A Doctor I don’t know why Ray continued seeing after he mis-diagnosed him so many times including his cancer) the doctor told him to just take some Tylenol then seek a pain management doctor in the area.
Over the next several months ray had seen five different pain management specialist all of who stated “We Only Treat Orthopedic conditions, the insurance companies only allow us to bill for one condition you don’t meet the guidelines.”
I personally had brought him to several of these doctors, one laughed when reviewing his medical history and told him “Yeah well I guess your out of luck”.
I sought out more doctors and each time it was the same thing “We only treat orthopedic conditions” or “We can do a trigger point injection but only one area we can’t treat your shoulder and hip and jaw”
When I asked why not they would all respond “Because we don’t some relief is better than none take it or leave it”
He was desperate for some relief so Ray would get the injections, yet the pain from all his other conditions grew out of control. He would occasionally go to the ER for some relief, all that did was get him branded a “Drug Seeker” and on occasion he would get one or two pain pills prescribed. Then he would look for another pain management doctor all quick to make an appointment, all quick to give the same answer despite their website stating they treat all conditions.
As summer passed his pain increased, it would become so bad ray laid in bed with tears in his eyes and would ask us to take Julian for a few days so he could play with the kids.
Once August arrived Ray could hardly walk, the pain in his hips, his stomach, jaw and shoulder had become unbearable. He was taking 6000 milligrams of Tylenol to get some relief and he was taking melatonin to get some sleep which by then averaged maybe two hours a night.
When I would go visit Ray and Julian, bring him his mail it would be nothing but bills from doctors who did nothing to help relieve his conditions. His phone rang every hour even more than that from all these doctors who never helped him that wanted their co-pays.
I went to go see ray on August 15th, he could not get out of bed, he had been having seizures because even walking to his kitchen to get his meds was a 45 minute ordeal so he often skipped even attempting to do so. We started having Julian over five out of seven nights a week and when I would bring ray someplace for some help they again treated him like a drug addict.
He had given up even going to see doctors from help by the 22nd of August because the last time he went to the ER by ambulance, they asked him that standard question about “Do you feel like harming yourself” and Ray relied “If I don’t get some sustained relief I am not going to continue living like this”
They stripped him naked placed him in scrubs then called a Psychiatrist because he had to be “In Mental distress”. He spoke with the Psychiatrist in detail and the Psychiatrist told the medical doctor that in his opinion Ray was just suffering from physical pain and needed some help.
They discharged him with a referral to one of the same pain management doctors who had already told us he only did trigger point injections and could not treat several areas “Take some relief because its better than none”
Over the next few days Julian stayed at our house, Ray would call several times a day to speak with him and I would stop over his house several times a day to check on him. he had stopped eating, he would make it to the bathroom then back to bed. He took 3000 milligrams of Tylenol every 2 hours for some pain relief. I would ask him “Ray what Can I do/ Why don’t you come stay with us at the house so you are not alone?”
In response ray would say “No you have your own family, Julian is having a good time there and with me being there it would just remind him of what home is like”.
I called several hospitals, his primary care physician and neurologist for some help on what to do and they all said the same thing “Well there isn’t much we can do call the mental help hotline”
I knew Ray would be angry at me if I did so but I had become worried and called the hotline who only stated “Has he said he is going to harm himself?” When I said no but explained his physical status I was told.
“Maybe he needs some out patient therapy someone to talk with, most of the time this is in their minds and talking gets rid of the pain”
Of course she was probably some volunteer who had no idea about medicine but another call a day later ended in the same result.
On the afternoon of August 27th Ray called and asked for Julian to be dropped off at home, he seemed in good spirits and when I was in the house all he said was “I am in pain but it will be OK I just want Julian home”
When I left I would find out Julian went to go play with some friends outside and one asked if he could spend the night and Ray told him yes. I can only imagine he had already made up his mind and he wanted to spend a night with Julian before he carried it out. Yet because Julian had seen him suffer so long and spent more time in the house due to Ray being unable to function Ray didn’t want to decline Julian an opportunity to have a good time.
I have no idea how long Ray sat looking at the photo of Julian holding that gun before he pulled the trigger. I don’t know why he didn’t call me and why didn’t I insist he came to stay with us.
Throughout all his physical injures and illness, Ray never took prescription pain medicine beyond what was prescribed when it was prescribed so he was not an addict. His body had finally needed something more than Tylenol for comfort.
It was in his medical records Ray had an allergic reaction to NSAIDS, Ray didn’t drink alcohol, he didn’t smoke cigarettes in fact he had no bad habits not even fried or fast food.
I was cleaning out Ray’s house the other day when the phone rang, it was his primary physicians office confirming an upcoming appointment. I said “You are asking about an appointment when the office knows ray passed away?”
“Oh yes I do see a note on the chart my mistake”
She said it as if Ray was no more important than a mistake when ordering the daily lunch special only to realize it was yesterdays special.
An hour later one of the pain management doctors offices called, when I answered I informed them Ray had passed and the woman had the audacity to ask me
“Will you be paying his outstanding balance of $31.74.” She didn’t even offer a half hearted condolence.
Once off the phone with the wretched woman seeking $31.74 for services not rendered I sat looking at a picture or Ray holding Julian and it all hit me at once, I cried like never before uncontrollably.
I wasn’t crying because I miss ray which I do with all my heart, I cried because while I was there to see what he went through on a daily basis it suddenly sunk it what it must have been like to be Ray.
He was a widower, raising a son alone and outside of his medical bills Ray was never in debt. He was never arrested, he attended church every Sunday, he never complained even when the people who were supposedly in a profession to help him didn’t.
He was broken down slowly and not by his physical conditions, ones that alone would have shut down most people let alone combined.
These people laughed at him literally, they called him an addict, yet not one of them have ever suffered his level of pain. They called him mentally unstable, they belittled him as if he was beneath them. Yet Ray while not a doctor of medicine was an educated man with a masters degree in forensic science.
Ray was a proud man who had finally decided he was not going to be treated like that anymore and he was not going to allow himself to be bedridden in front of his son crying in agony.
I don’t know what I could have done to help Ray any further than what I did and I will always blame myself. I look at my nephew and I see Ray in him, Julian stands tall he stood tall at rays funeral he didn’t cry he shook peoples hands as they left he thanked them for coming.
When we try to talk with him about Ray he puts on a front as though it was OK. We brought him to grief counseling but he does the same there. At night I head Julian cry alone in the bathroom, when he opens the door he pretends as if though he has no idea what I am talking about if I as him “Are You OK do you want to talk?”
The only thing someone had to do is help Ray with his physical pain, just admit their limitations if that was the issue. Instead they let him die they might as well have pulled the trigger and done it long before Ray did so at least he would have been spared some agony and kept his dignity.
I am going to tell his story and tell what happened at those visits where they degraded him. I will tell it because Ray cannot and he would not because he was not the type of man who complained.
He deserved better and those who were capable of helping him but didn’t have no shame they are not doctors, there is no excuses. It cost a man his life it broke a family it broke a child before he could even become a man.
WHEN WILL SOMEONE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THAT OR SHOULD NO ONE BE RESPONSIBLE?