Essay Glenn Greenwald Remembrance

Glenn Greenwald: Reflections on Family Health Crisis

ScheerPost is deeply saddened by the news of David Miranda’s passing and we offer our heartfelt condolences to Glenn Greenwald and his family. In remembrance of David, we are publishing this reflective piece from Glenn, which was written in November 2022. We extend our sympathies and support to Glenn and his loved ones during this difficult and tragic time.

By Glenn Greenwald / Substack

NOTE FROM GLENN GREENWALD: On Sunday in Brazil, a large news site published a profile in Portuguese about how our family has been navigating the ongoing health crisis of my husband, the Brazilian Congressman David Miranda, who on that date completed three full months of hospitalization in ICU. As a result, I published an article in Portuguese on the same day that provided some more details on his health condition and how we have tried to deal with it, and I added an English translation of it for those interested. I published here it on my Substack page and noted it on Twitter, but did not send this essay out to our email list of subscribers here.

I’m now sending it out to the full email list here in case there are people interested in reading it who have not yet done so. Recognizing that people subscribe here primarily for my political reporting and journalistic analysis, I have tried hard to avoid writing much about my personal situation even though — for obvious reasons — it has completely dominated and consumed my life since August 6. Given my recognition that we all have problems of our own to deal with, I have tried to write about this only when necessary to explain the relative lack of content published here since he was first hospitalized.

But this essay ended up including some things I have learned and thought about differently as a result of having to confront this indescribably difficult challenge. For those interested only in political content, we have as much coming as possible consistent with my current abilities — including some new freelance contributions and, most excitingly, the very imminent launch of our new prime-time, daily live broadcast on Rumble, which paid subscribers here will have exclusive access to for the first few weeks as we test-run the show (once the show launches on Rumble in its final form — which should be late November — it will be fully available to the public, free of charge). So I am publishing this new reflective essay I wrote over the weekend for those interested in reading it, while emphasizing that the focus of my writing, as much as I can muster within the limits of our family’s needs, will continue to be on the set of political and journalistic controversies and causes I regard as most consequential:

Today marks three full months of David’s hospitalization in ICU. He continues to be hospitalized in serious but stable condition. The hospital that has been treating him from the start, Clínica São Vicente, continues to have available official updates on his health.

The difficulty in providing updates about David’s condition is that the nature of his disease, and his recovery process, is extremely dynamic. It can change radically from one day to the next and has done so many times. He can spend a week showing dramatic improvements that make us and his doctors believe he is finally approaching the exit of ICU, only for complex and potentially dangerous complications to emerge without warning, which abruptly change our outlook and his trajectory.

This has happened many times since his hospitalization on August 6. That is why Sunday’s profile in the Brazilian news site UOL — on how our family has dealt with David’s health crisis — bears the headline “emotional torture.” That is the best phrase to describe this process. David spent the last week once again showing significant and encouraging improvements, leading us to believe — or at least hope — that he was starting to permanently exit the zone of danger. But on Saturday night, a new and potentially threatening pulmonary infection was discovered, diminishing if not crushing our growing enthusiasm from the last week. This is the cruel roller-coaster that has shaped David’s recovery process from the start.

As the UOL article explains, David had been experiencing various forms of abdominal pain and digestive problems for weeks before being hospitalized, but dismissed them as the by-product of stress from his work as a member of Congress in Brasília and his imminent re-election campaign. By the time he arrived at the Emergency Room exactly three months ago today, various organs of his gastro-intestinal system were severely inflamed and infected. That inflammation and infection entered his bloodstream (sepsis), and then traveled to and began to compromise and cause failure in one organ after the next: his pancreas, kidneys, liver and finally his lungs.

During his first week in the hospital, he experienced complete renal failure which required continuous hemodialysis. His liver and pancreas were severely compromised. His worsening lung problems required David to be intubated one week after being hospitalized. Once it became clear that he would require long-term intubation, a tracheostomy was performed to free him from having a tube occupying his mouth and throat; instead, the respirator would connect to his lungs through a surgical opening in his neck.

After that first week of hospitalization, where everything worsened rapidly, David was largely in a medically induced coma for the next month, to allow his body the maximum space and energy to recover. He clearly recognized visitors and reacted to what we said, but his state was essentially fully sedated.

Once David became stabilized and even began showing signs of improvements, he received less and less sedation. By the middle of September, he was awake and communicative. David’s sedation has been regularly reduced since then. After that first month, he has been fully aware of his situation, able to interact with his doctors and visitors, and has gradually became more and more aware, lucid and communicative.

During the weeks when he has improved most, he was able to breathe for days without the need for a respirator. He was able to speak in his own voice using a specialized tube that allows the air to be captured enough to speak. Our kids were able to visit him regularly. During those best weeks of recovery, we were able to spend an hour or more with him daily as he joked with the kids, playfully boasted of his strength, and in general shared moments of profound and deep affection.

For the last six weeks, David has been able to receive and interact with visitors on a daily basis. That includes his large extended family, our closest friends in the world of politics and journalism, his oldest friends from childhood, and — when it makes sense to do so — our children. David has always been a person who most values human connection, and these visits give him enormous strength and joy.

I know it is hard for some people to understand how someone so young and otherwise healthy could end up spending so much time in ICU. Unfortunately, this is more common than we think: certainly more common than I realized before this nightmare descended on our family. Infections and severe inflammation that spread by blood and that end up compromising multiple organs are among the gravest and most dangerous conditions one can suffer.

It is only David’s relative youth and strength — physical, mental and spiritual — that has enabled him to navigate past some truly terrifying moments. But none of that would have happened without his being fortunate enough to have a superb and extremely dedicated team of doctors, specialists and nurses which all human beings deserve when they are ill but which most people on this planet are denied. Even with all those advantages, there have been many moments when we thought that the worst might happen. I wish I could say, but sadly still cannot, that David is past those most severe risks.

But since the beginning of this ordeal, I have always placed the most faith and hope not in medicine or science of doctors but in David’s strength. His whole life has been defined by having to battle and overcome impossibly difficult challenges. I’ve seen that strength — of will, of character, of spirit — up close every day for the last 17 years that we have been together. Even during the days or weeks when he is not doing well in the hospital, I can always see that strength in his face and feel it in his hands. In the most difficult times, that is what gives me the greatest hope.

I don’t know what the outcome of David’s hospitalization will be. Nobody does. But I have always believed and still do that David will fully recover and come home to us. The one thing I am sure of is that this will change David in profound and positive ways the way it has for me, our boys, and everyone in David’s life who has suffered through this with us.

I have nothing to offer that is new. But there are insights that one can know — not know only rationally but in the deepest and most visceral way — only by enduring deeply frightening and emotionally painful battles like this.

Be grateful for everything you have in your life, and never take it for granted. Every day after waking up, I try to have my first thought be positive rather than negative: that I am grateful that David is in our lives today, that our kids are healthy, that we are surrounded by so many people who love and support us. One never knows what will happen tomorrow. I think often of how David and I treated August 5 like any other day in our marriage — we each worked, probably squabbled about nothing, may have neglected to celebrate our love — because we had no idea that this would be the last full day we would really spend at home in a normal way for months. Every moment that I spend laughing with our kids, or finding ways to support them, or receiving such affectionate support from them, are moments that I try to embrace and value.

I have also been so moved and grateful for the wave of human decency from every corner. That David’s phone and inbox are filled with love, positive thoughts, prayer and support from people all over the world and from every ideological camp in Brazil is probably a testament to the love he inspires. It’s impossible not to like David, and this outpouring of sentiment from the unlikeliest of places is a reflection of his inherent and defining goodness. But I really believe it’s also a reflection of the inherent goodness that most human beings possess, even if that goodness often struggles to find expression through all sorts of social and psychological barriers.

David’s dream was always to be a father and have a large family. That was never mine. David spent years trying to convince me that being a father would be immeasurably gratifying, and that my doubts about whether I could do it well were invalid. He recruited friends to help in this persuasion campaign. And when I finally agreed in 2016 that we would adopt together, I was still unsure about whether I was prepared to make what I believed would be great sacrifices in order to do it well — sacrifices in work and career, in selfish freedoms, in the ability to live life spontaneously and even recklessly.

The thing for which I am most grateful is that David succeeded in that persuasion effort. There is nothing that I value in life more than our kids and the family we created together. David taught me how to be a father, and I have had to find ways to do it on my own these last few months while he was unable. As hard as this has been — and it is impossible to overstate the difficulty of having to find ways to provide the right emotional support to very different kids as they suffer through the fears and trauma of seeing their father hospitalized for this long, knowing the gravity of his illness — it has been the most gratifying thing I have ever had to do. I can say with certainty that the kids that David and I have raised together have helped me at least as much as I have helped them since this all started.

I don’t know how I would have managed to cope with any of this without them and without the motive to support and protect them which gets me out of bed every day. When it comes to what makes life worthwhile and meaningful and fulfilling, there is nothing that even approaches the same universe in which the love one has for family resides. There is nothing that I spent my whole life being taught to crave and chase — financial stability, career success, fame, access to elite precincts — that provided even minimal emotional comfort or spiritual fulfillment during this ordeal. I would trade all of that in an instant in exchange for having David back at home with us healthy for any amount of time. Experiences like these leave little doubt about what matters in life and what does not.

We are very grateful for all those who sent messages of support and love. I have shared as many of those as I can with David and I have no doubt it has helped him. David’s recovery process is going to continue to be long, arduous, difficult and full of unforeseen challenges. I continue to believe in his full recovery even while knowing that nothing is guaranteed. But nothing is guaranteed for any of us other than the present moment. And all any of us can do is try to maximize the value and the joy of our present.

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Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, “No Place to Hide,” is about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to co-founding The Intercept, Glenn’s column was featured in the Guardian and Salon. He was the debut winner, along with Amy Goodman, of the Park Center I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2008, and also received the 2010 Online Journalism Award for his investigative work on the abusive detention conditions of Chelsea Manning. For his 2013 NSA reporting, he received the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting; the Gannett Foundation Award for investigative journalism and the Gannett Foundation Watchdog Journalism Award; the Esso Premio for Excellence in Investigative Reporting in Brazil (he was the first non-Brazilian to win), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award. Along with Laura Poitras, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. The NSA reporting he led for the Guardian was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service. Greenwald resigned from The Intercept in October 2020.

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