Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Mama!

We are now back from our annual vacation to Florida. We always rent the same house for spring break in the Fort Myers area. We have been renting this house for seven years now and have found all the things that we love to do. There is the day bike ride through Sanibel Island, Vanderbilt Beach in Naples, a day shelling cruise and several other things. There are our favorite restaurants, and reliving the memories from years past. This year we did all of that, but I found myself more contemplative. It is reminiscent of the vacation year before Zachary came home. I spent a lot of time trying to envision what it would look like next year. First, our oldest will not be with us. She has joined the air force and has committed for four years. She will leave for boot camp probably this summer. Second, there will be the addition of Alex and Grace. I looked around at what we would need to worry about safetywise, the pool, potted plants, sliding doors etc... I paid attention at the beaches to see where strollers would work, and where they wouldn't. I looked at the menus at our favorite restaurants to see what they would eat, on and on...

One thing though that made me smile all of vacation was the resurrection of the game,"My Mama". This game began when Zachary was about 3. He is very bonded to me. He loves my lap, and to snuggle in bed and always wants to be close to me. Jack was the same way, and when Zachary was younger, Jack would run across the room throw his arms around me and say,"My mama!". Zachary would then come running and the two of them would try to see who could be closer. Zachary, although now he is 6 was more clingy this vacation. One of his friends was recently hit by a car an killed. It has been hard on him and he just feels better being close. Nonetheless, it sparked off the my mama game. Jack is nearly 16 now, but still loves to tease his little brother with it. Anyway, one night Zachary told me he had developed a strategy for when the babies come home. Zachary would lay across my chest so Alex and Grace could lay on either side of me. He said they were little and needed mommy too. He went on to explain Jack could lay on the floor as he was now big. The whole thing was just funny.

Then, we came home. My fabulous friend Whitney, living in Haiti sent me a picture of Alex and Grace. She apologized as it was maybe not the best picture of them. It turns out they were both wanting to sit on her lap and the picture was the result. Alex's face was quite close, and Grace behind him looking a bit unhappy. I disn't care that the picture was not the best. It got sent immediately to Tim with the simple caption,"Ummm...I think we have two more players for 'My Mama!' nothing would make me happier.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A while ago I talked about "only in Haiti". In that entry I was able to uncover some equally strange "only in America" folk remedies I had seen recently. In keeping with that, in the last few months I have bore witness to something that is fairly commonplace in America. Four months ago, I switched hospitals. The company I work for staffs five local ER's. I was asked to help in a new place and I jumped at the change of scenery. It was in this place that I became acquainted with a patient I will call Phil. Phil lives in the lobby of the emergency room. Most folks probably would not give him a second look as he looks fairly ordinary. He sits day after day in the corner, not usually bothering anyone. He spends his time watching TV and will leave at times to pick up his social security check or go get some beer. He apparently drinks fairly regularly outside of the hospital. To be honest, it took me a couple of shifts to realize it was the same guy in that corner. I finally asked someone who it was. Was he a patient who just kept coming in to be seen every day? Was he a visitor? No, he was simply home. Phil is schizophrenic and homeless. He has lived in the lobby for 15 years. Yes, there are days he is a patient, which was where I spoke to him for the first time. Phil needed someone to cut his socks off and care for his feet. One of my coworkers who knew him better went with me to do this. We kindly explained to him that because he was always in shoes, his feet were constantly wet. This was why his skin was breaking down on his feet and his socks had to be cut off. She reminded him he needed fresh socks each day. He seemed to understand. In fact, he proudly explained his shoes, which were in good shape. He had bought them himself at Walmart. They were real leather.

During the conversation I found myself trying to take in the enormity of it all. To never have the ability to remove your shoes because you simply have nowhere to go. Things got rougher for Phil though. A few weeks ago he was being seen as a patient and had a big outburst and broke some computers. He was asked to leave for a while. This too, was a pattern in the past I came to learn. Well, it was cold out and in an attempt to keep warm, Phil went to an underpass and lit a fire. He lost his balance and fell into the fire and ended up in the burn unit across town. He was there a couple weeks. One day, I went in for my shift and there he was in his usual corner, in blue scrubs, as his clothes had burned in the fire. This would not last long though, as Phil disappeared last week. No one seemed to know where he was. Through the last few days I was amazed at the number of folks who knew him. There were police officers out looking, the bank had said he didn't pick up his check, the Rite Aid staff said he hadn't picked up his medicine, and a few of the nurses, who as it turned out had visited him in the burn unit, had not seen him either. Yesterday, we got our answer. Phil passed away. He was found a block from the hospital in an outbuilding.

Although Phil did not have a traditional home, or proper long term mental health placement (only in America), I can't help but to be amazed at how many people he affected. The funny thing is, I really don't think Phil had any idea that he affected anyone, but he did. I have worked in many hospitals in 20 years of medicine, but I have never seen a hospital ever allow a homeless person live in the lobby, or send the hospital shuttle to take a person to the pharmacy. So,achieving that is major in and of itself. He made people want to serve and help him, and his imprint will be in our emergency room for a long time to come.