Hi-Desert Star – 2/16/18
‘Held Together’ tells a village’s account of a personal tragedy
by Jené Estrada
Four years ago the Joshua Tree community was struck when news spread that local apothecary Jenny Qaqundah, known as Jenny Q, was hospitalized and comatose after a routine medical procedure left her with a deadly infection.
“It was literally a 1-centimeter stitch that brought the infection into my bloodstream,” Jenny Q said. “After 48 hours I was in shock and all of my organs started to shut down.”
Jenny Q, the owner of the Grateful Desert Herb Shoppe & EcoMarket, spent sixth months in the ICU and lost both of her legs, five fingers and time with her wife and daughter. Now, 50 surgeries later, she has decided to tell her story.
“Held Together,” a book by Jenny Q and friends, tells the story of her disability and road to recovery through accounts by Jenny, her family and community members. The book is filled with poems, essays and stories about how the community suffered together and healed together.
“I put out a call for submissions to my greater community from Facebook,” Jenny Q said. “I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do yet but when I received (the submissions) I started to cut them up, almost like making a quilt of some sort, and then I took my writing and interwove them so everybody has their own words.”
She said she chose to include the community in her book because she was not the only one affected by her illness. She wanted her book to be as raw and as realistic as possible.
Many of the things she wrote in the book are memories she has not even shared with her loved ones yet. She recalls coming home from the hospital and being surrounded by friends who were trying to help her family. That was when her post-traumatic stress disorder was kicking in. She remembers lashing out and feeling angry because everyone around her got to have a life while she was stuck in a bed.
“I’m terrified because I completely undressed myself. I talked about the injuries that I sustained that are not all visible. I’m talking about being Arab and gay and how difficult that is and how hard that is on my mom who cannot accept that I’m gay and how hard it’s been on my wife and my daughter,” Jenny Q said. “It’s just saying, ‘Here I am.’ I am totally naked, just trying to connect with other people that are in the dark.”
“Held Together” is now in its final stages and Jenny Q is seeking donations to help self-publish and promote the book. The fundraising is being co-sponsored by the Joshua Tree Music Festival and Joshua Tree Living Arts.
In June there will be a release party to celebrate “Held Together” and its musical companion “Trust and the High Wire,” which was written by Jenny Q’s wife, Myshkin. Myshkin composed this new record throughout Jenny Q’s hospital stay and through the healing process afterward. The record will tell the story through song from Myshkin’s eyes.
Jenny Q hopes that with this book she can reach other people who have experienced PTSD and have become disabled. She also hopes this book touches the community, for without them she doesn’t believe she would still be alive.
“Every day for maybe two months they told my parents, ‘She will die today,’ and then one day they said to my family, ‘Medicine is not keeping her alive. She shouldn’t be alive,’” Jenny Q said. “The community truly all kept me alive with their prayers, with their money and with supporting and feeding my family. My story is a community story.”
To donate now, visit joshuatreelivingarts.org and at the release party in June you will receive a gift from the author.