Corey

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

I thought a lot about that statement above before I committed it to paper. After all this is a sort of memoirs for me to process a journey into blindness that still leaves me with the question of why God hates me so much, why me. I am tired, so tired. I am tired of fighting it, especially alone. The saddest part of my life is having to reconcile the fact that not a single person cares about me. My life is all blurriness. I go weeks without talking to a single person and I am more and more isolated every week. It is that more than anything exhausting me. Even writing this blog there is the certain knowledge that less than five people if any will actually read it.  For the last six weeks or so there is a cruel God like pattern that someone out of the blue will ask to come get me and then back out. It has happened at least once every week for the past six weeks. In the future I will just say no to anyone who asks because the rejection hurts so much. What I want is to fall asleep and not wake up. I know God has a special place in hell for me but it will be exactly like life is now isolation and loneliness for eternity. If I had access to really good drugs I would probably. The only things keeping me from this is that certain knowledge that no one would know or notice and that means that my dog would end up dying from dehydration or starvation. I could never do that to her and right now she is the only one I talk to, the only thing that gives me any confort. There are also the words of my mother who is still the voice in my head that no matter what you just keep going. I don’t even feel depressed, I am eating, showering, swimming and sleeping. It is just bone crushing loneliness. Sometimes you just need someone to love and care about you, to make an effort for your benefit to be more than a joke or an afterthought but there is that fucking magnifying glass. Loneliness and isolation are exhausting.  I am so tired but I will persevere. I will find a way.

Corey was one of several kids that came to the hospital during the crisis months where every day I feared that I would get injured or die. The hospital was a scary place, like some weird war zone where the combatants were all kids. Corey was a big African American kid. He was one of a few kids that others did not pick fights with because he could seriously handle himself. You could look at Corey and understand how some kids just didn’t have a chance but to be street kids. He didn’t look like much to me or anyone else. There was something burning though inside of him. It took me a while to see it. It started through something simple. We started playing basketball with the kids in the big gym that we had. It helped burn off a lot of aggression and it became a privilege that you had to earn. I will say that I played a lot of basketball from the time I finished playing football my senior year in high school. During my college days I played as much as eight hours a day and I made a lot of contacts working with kids all over so I could and would play anywhere even the worst neighborhoods. I knew someone everywhere.

Corey used to ask me what I was reading because I always had a book. We started talking about books and he asked me about Black History which happened to be something I had read a lot on and so we talked a lot about Freedom Summer, Martin Luther King Jr., SNCC, Core and the Black Panthers.  I gave him my copy of Malcolm X. We spent at least a half hour on each of my shifts talking about history about his cultural history. Corey asked if I would take him on an outing and I got permission shortly before he went back to Indiana, in fact he already knew the date he was leaving.  Corey and I went to three places that day, the first to a really good barbershop because he needed a haircut bad, the second to a friend of mine’s house whose mother cooked us lunch. She loved Corey and hugged him which is something he needed. Finally we went to see the Malcolm X movie that was showing in theaters. When I took him back he thanked me for the best day ever. The day he left he asked that I not be there and said his goodbye the night before, tough as always shaking my hand and thanking me for everything.

Corey is one of many that I don’t know what happened to them later. I like it that way because it allows me to think the best of them. I would like to think he is still burning inside still seeking knowledge.

 

A Most Dangerous Place to Work

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

As I have been writing this blog for a while now my general format is to now say something about the vision loss or the challenges I face. Honestly though it has not been a very good week. I ride this life adjustment like a carnival ride, first I am up, then down then I am spun all around. I have good days and I have bad days. I have been swimming every other day for a few months. I swim because it helps relieve the boredom, gives me something to do. I took two days off and swam Saturday instead of Friday and that was the first time all week I actually spoke to another human being. It just takes a toll after awhile. I am getting used to people telling me that they will come get me for a happy hour, or for lunch or to stop by. I know people are just being nice and I rarely actually think that they might follow through. It is always out of the way or an inconvenience to come and pick someone up and then to have to watch out for that person. I know it is a huge burden. I try and not get my hopes up but I always do and I almost always cry when they back out or never follow up.  I would like to say it does not hurt and I try so hard to take the high road and respond to take the burden away from them by saying no worries, or hey life happens and smile and go on. Down deep though it hurts and after a while I just don’t think I can handle any more rejection. And so its been a bad week or maybe its just been a bad life. Remember the magnifying glass, I am aware of it at all times.

Inevitably things caught up with the Mental Health industry for all the insurance abuses. Every one from cooks to administrators knew what was going on. For a while my hospital had me filling out billing slips for any groups that I ran and then required me to run so many hours of groups. They all had to be co-signed by a Master’s level therapist. I knew a psychiatrist that billed twenty hours a day despite working barely seven. Psychiatrists loved to sign on with nursing homes and then prescribe whatever medications the staff wanted and got paid a nice fee. Eventually the system was going to crash and it did hard. The hospital went from being full to barely having any patients at all.  They had to do something to fill the space. They moved the adults to the small unit and the adolescents to the big unit. Finding adolescents was always easy if you wanted to make some sacrifices.  So the hospital made a deal with a company named Century who acted as a middleman for hard to place kids, most of them wards of the states.  The staff of course were told it would be a good thing. Of course we were.

The first admitted was a fourteen year old girl from Indiana. She did not look like much but during the admission process she told the nurse to “suck my cunt” and walked away. She might be the most vulgar human being I ever met.  From that point on we admitted anywhere from three to five kids a day. We admitted four kids from Little Rock all from different gangs and suddenly we had fights every day multiple times a day. Then we admitted a skinhead, a big kids who was willing to take on all comers. People got hurt, kids, staff. We were badly understaffed and used a lot of temps. A lot of these temps walked away during the shift and refused to come back. I worked the three to eleven shift so there was not a lot of staff around anyway. We spent most every night going back and forth between the residential unit and the adolescent unit because there would be trouble at both places. Eventually the two staffs met and agreed they would have to take care of their own units because it was just too dangerous. I met my ex-wife there. She worked in Utilization Review right outside the adolescent unit. She could usually give me a heads up if it was a good day or bad day. I usually paused there before entering. I was never sure if I would walk out at the end of the shift and it is the only place I ever worked that I was afraid of or thought too dangerous.

The staff went through a lot of changes. We hired a lot and many quit. We had this awesome girl who worked there that broke down seriously one night because she was so scared and had already been injured once before. We did get control, leaders among the staff stepped up with ideas that we implemented. Yes I was the leader of the three to eleven shift. It was my idea not to keep going back and forth to the residential unit to help them.  It was also my idea to make quicker decisions to get problem kids in seclusion quicker. We also started pressing charges when kids assaulted us and when we had police lead away a few problem kids who were usually crying and begging to stay the remaining kids started to realize there were a lot worse places to be, Things just started to get better and a new CEO helped a lot because the first thing he did was get rid of the director of nursing who had made the deal with Century in the first place.  I don’t know why I didn’t get hurt/ I did have a kid punch me but it did not hurt and he became the first kid removed from the unit, bawling and begging me not to do it. I did eventually get hurt, but it was plying basketball with the kids long after we got control of the unit. Ultimately this injury allowed me to have a lot of conversations with the CEO who liked me when I was working light duty on the phone up front. You can always depend on change.

 

Danny

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

Floaters.  For some people getting floaters is just part of getting old. There are all kinds of floaters and the older you get the more gravity starts to effect us and so you may or may not get floaters. Floaters are generally not a good thing. The eye is full of a jelly like fluid which does not do a lot outside of help the eye keep its shape.  The eye is one of the most perfect parts of a human being, the closest thing to your brain. It is also fragile. One of the risks of cataract surgery is retina tears or detachments. Mess with the eye a little bit and you are at risk. You see your normal lens contracts and expands like a camera lens. The lens that replaces this in cataract surgery is flat and thus there is space for gravity to send a little jelly back behind it. When this jelly starts to ping off the retina you get floaters. The first floater I had I thought was a crow dive bombing me. Floaters put you at great risk for a tear. It does not mean you will get one but your risk is higher. The jelly is sticky and it will stick to the retina and pull it away. There are also other kinds of floaters but your eye would have to be damaged to see them. Your eye has a blood supply so if you tear your retina you will  have blood in your eye that will dry and congeal and create floaters. I call them trash floaters. My right retina was torn so badly that I had a few of these trash floaters in my eye. A couple of them hid behind the lens so after my second surgery they were still there. When I had my last surgery and the oil bubble was placed I asked my doctor to get as much as she could. There are some places that will blind you if they go in and try and suction them out. Luckily my doctor got them.

Long before I left the adult unit for the adolescent unit I knew about Danny. Danny’s reputation was all over the hospital. It used to be that insurance was so good that some places could keep problem adolescents for a long time. We had one girl that had been on the inpatient and then the residential unit for more than fourteen months.  There were also some wealthy kids whose parents just paid for them to stay. Danny had been on the adolescent unit a long time and it was his second admission. There were many times I would work overnight and Danny would be in restraints in the seclusion room. I felt for him because I just thought there should be another way. With Danny I truly believe that his reputation was worse than he was and there was so little tolerance for him. He couldn’t even be a kid. Treat someone like an animal long enough and they will act like one. Danny was not a big kid. He was only fifteen. I admit I did not do a lot when I moved to the adolescent unit to try and win Danny over. I was just myself. I used to bring a lot of music in when I worked and the adolescents liked to play them and I let them as long as they were respectful and doing what they were supposed to. Danny was drawn in by the music I had and he started talking to me about music. We exchanged all sorts of information on bands we liked and Danny started to trust me and so that’s how I started to impact him.

Danny was a lonely kid who did no seem to fit in anywhere especially at home. I found him to be incredibly smart and sensitive. His therapist actually coopted me and we started working on things together and Danny made a ton of progress. When he was discharged he made his parents wait until I got there so he could say goodbye. I don’t know if any kid ever sobbed so much on my shoulder as Danny did that night. It is a powerful thing to impact another human being so profoundly. Danny attended my aftercare meetings for a long time, sometimes he was the only kid to show up and I think those were the best nights. When things got bad at home Danny would call me at the hospital. He never said things were bad he would just ask what music I was listening to and I think it just made him feel better. Sometimes the best thing we can do for another person is just be there.