Sunday, March 15, 2015

From the Fevered Minds of Marginal Souls

      Oakhaven Nursing Center is a skilled nursing facility intended to care for the elderly during their twilight years. The average stay for residents is a shade under six months. I do not have to tell you how those six months more often than not come to a close. But during those six months, Oakhaven is entrusted with loved ones in the weakest state of their lives since infancy. Sick, damaged beyond repair, and often lost within themselves mentally, residents are completely at the mercy of people entrusted with their care. It is a sacred trust. Not one to be taken lightly. So it is terribly tragic when the sacred trust is violated in the most reckless of manner.
     If there was a way to avoid using the cliché calm before the storm, I desperately would, but the first half of the next day was the calm before the storm. Nicole B was mt sitter yet again. Beides her, I did not encounter anyone I had dealt with the previous day. Perhaps they had decided to back off in consideration of my necessary sedation after our last go around. This is the question I abruptly stopped pondering at around four o'clock in the afternoon when it all went to hell.
     Oakhaven management had this little trick. They would generally wait until Friday at nearly five o' clock to deliver bad news, make unpopular changes, or anything else a resident might want to protest. Then management would go home and hope any anger a resident might have blew over before Monday rolled around. This sort of thing happened to me on four occasions –the following is the first of those four—so I am confident is saying it was a deliberate strategy. Circumstances apparently warranted pulling one of those moves on a Wednesday, but still near time to knock off work. At least they got half of it, no?
     Nicole B was my sitter again. She had positioned herself outside the door, as per orders that still made no sense. Periodically, I would lean aginst the doorway and talk a few minutes. Things were going as pleasantly as possible until Betty, the CNA who worked the East Wing nurses desk approached with a fellow in a wheelchair. I did not recognize him, but knew him through the staff grapevine. He had attacked his roommate in recent days. Betty asked if Nicole B could be his sitter for a few minutes. She agreed.
     I have more often than not used real first names while telling my story. First names are fair game as far as I am concerned. There are not many innocent people in this sordid tale to protect regardless. But oddly enouh, this poor guy is. He spent less than six months at Oakhaven. During that time, his mental state deteriorated rapidly into parnoia, hallucinations, and violent behavior against residents and staff before he was finally discharged to a mental health facility. Why Brock and company allowed him to go on a rampage for so long is anyone's guess, but I give them full blame for what happened to me and several others. As I cannot blame this fellow, I cannot comfortably use his rel name. So I am going to call him Caligula. Yes, I know. Darkly humorous. This whole affair is becoming darkly humorous.
     The moment Betty left, I introduced myself to Caligula. He assumed this was his new room and got out of his wheelchair before Nicole B stopped him. He sat back down. She tried to keep him occupied with conversation. It became quickly apparent Caligula was off, but he did not seem anymore far gon than many dementia sufferers I had encountered since coming to Oakhaven. He ranted on about how someone had cheated him out of his house and stole all his money. That is how he wound up here. I have heard all sorts of fanciful stories about how residents wound up at Oakhaven. Caligula's was not even the strangest.
     But his story became stranger when he declared 'the boy who paints” at Oakhaven stole $200 from him, then threatened to stab him in the heart. While I still leaned in the doorway, I switched sides to make sure I was as close to Nicole B as possible. Caligula could get out of his wheelchair and had twisted thoughts. I felt like some distance between use was necessary. 
      I was not the only one who discovered distance between oneself and Caligula was a good idea. A young CNA named Courtney dropped by because the sight of the three of us was so odd. Caligula grabbed wrist and begam kissing her hand. Courtney could not wiggle free, so she tried talking to him friendly before sternly ordering him to let go. He only loosened his grip enough for Courtney to yank herself free.
     We spoke for a few minutes, ignoring Caligula, before Courtney went on about her business. Ashley came up only a moment or so after Courtney left. She was only as aware as the rest of us our status. She probably just wanted to ease my mind about Caligula being there. She had dealt with him before, as I realized not only by her distance from him the, but her remark that he has made comments to her he should only say to his wife. As if I needed an example, he responded by asking her for oral sex. Of the “duck my sick” variety. So I could add perverted to Caligula's personal description.
     There was not much that could be said after that, so Ashley went back to work. Nicole B and I looked at each other with a mix of bemusement and horror. After a few silent moments passed, Brock and Kendra walked by without acknowledging any of us. Just as well. I did not want to talk to either of them. They were going to the west wing nurses' desk. Someone mercifully retrieved Caligula in short order. He was taken to the nurses' desk, too. I assumed he must be moving to the West Wing away from the roommate he attacked. I feared for whoever was going to be stuck with him.
     Guess who that turned out to be?
     Nicole B was told to bring me to the nurses' desk. I got a sinking feeling, but I still did not suspect I was going to be forced into a new room, much less with Caligula. I plopped down on the couch adjacent to the nurses' desk. Caligula was about six fee away, tucked behind the desk. I soon learned why. We were not sitting there for more than ten minutes, but he tried to escape three times in that such period. Each time, a nurse or CNA brought him back, but he would do it again. Calgula had no control over his impulses. His impulsiveness was extremely dangerous, too. When Paulette came to tell him he was being moved, she could not get his attention because he was too busy grabbing at her breasts as she knelt by his wheelchair.
     Then it was my turn. Paulette asked me to follow her into the dining hall. I had already figured out what was happening, but here is hoping I was wrong. The moment we sat down, she told me I was moving to a new room and caligula was now my roommate.
     “No, he is not," I said.
     “Yes, he is," she laughed, misjudging how seriously I was taking this.
     I told her this move was improper. They were not giving me notice. I told her about the crazy things Caligula had said. I told her about his behavior towards Courtney and Ashley. Good Lord, Paulette could not even tell him he was moving to a new rom for him fondling her beasts! All protest were for naught. This was going to happen against my will. I walked back out to the couched and collapsed in it.
     “What's wrong?” Ashley asked me.
     "I am being moved to a new room, and he is my roommate.”
     “Calm down, Jamie,” Ashley told me. 
     " I need an Ativan.”
     Ashley dutifully arranged for me to have the sedative. As I waited for her to return, I watched two CNA push my bed, with everything I owned piled up on top, passed me and towards my new room at the nd of the hall. As if I could not feel any lower, I sank even further with the violation of people just going through my things and tossing them around without a care. I never liked Oakhaven, but my dislike was rapidly descending into a hatred. These people were horrible.
     Ashley returned with the Ativan. I took it, hoping for instant relief, but I knew it would not work that way. She could feel the anger radiating off me. I suppose she wanted to defuse it as quickly as possible.
     “This has nothing to do with you being suicidal,” she said. “It's medical necessity.”
     “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
     Keep the term 'medical necessity” in mind. I was not in shape mentally or emotionally to challenge Ashley on its meaning, I later pressed many others to explain it. Most were highly evasive in this case. Looking into it on my own, “medical necessity” is usually used to justify a quarantine, ut it's slippery enough to be used in justification of just about anything a health facility wants to do. Since no one ever wanted to give me a clear reason for endangering me like this, “slippery” is the proper term here.
     Nicole B asked me if I wanted to go to my room now. I did not, but I cooperated nevertheless. I note with some humor my new room was the last room on a dead end hallway. Was that supposed to be a cute metaphor for the guy on suicide watch? Probably not. These bozos were not that clever. I strolled around the room once we got in. I was to have the bed closest to the wall, furthest from the door. I stood at the foot of my bed clearly in distress..
     “Do you want the bed closest to the door?” Nicole B asked.
     “I don't want this room period.”
     “You want to talk to Paulette?”
    “She's the one who put me in here. Besides, it's close to five. She's gone already.'”
     “You can talk to her in the morning.”
     “I'll look into that.”
     If Nicole b noticed the bitter sarcasm, she did not acknowledge it. Instead she assumed her place across the hall where a chair hd been placed for her vigil. I laid on the bed to stare at the ceiling. I was angry at everyone, including Denise. Giving her the most benefit of the doubt possible, she wanted me to be well cared for at oakhaven, and here I was sharing a room with a delusional psychopath who cannot keep his hands off people. Denise was responsible for my current turmoil as anyone at Oakhaven. But like Oakhaven management, did not give the first crap.
     I will give the nursing staff at oakhven much credit for caring, however. They knew I was being treated badly, but they could not do much to help. Case in point, Ashley. She came into my room a few minutes before someone was bringing in Caligula to talk to me. Her heart was in the right place, but she did make one huge blunder.
     “I understand what you are going through,” she told me.
    “No, you don't,' I laughed. I did not want to laugh. Ashley had been trying hard to be my advocate, but no one higher up was udging. I was an emotional wreck, though, and I just could not help it. She was not offended, thank goodness.
     “Okay, you're right. I don't know what you're going through. But I can sympathize. My door is always open.” she told me.
     “Thanks,” I said meekly.
     We had barely finished our conversation before Caligula arrived. He left his wheelchair outside the door and was helped into bed by a CNA. She even tucked him in.
     “Did Paulette tell your brother you were moving to a new room/” Ashley asked.
     “Yes,'” Caligula answered.
     “Is this the brother that harmed himself?” Ashley asked.
     “No, it's my other brother that shot himself. He shot half his face off.”
     “Is that what killed him?”
    “No, he survived that. Then he shot the other half of his face off. That killed him.  He came back to life after they buried him. They put a rock on top the casket the second time to keep him in there.”
    Well, he just took things to a new level of terrifying with that lovely story. To this day, I will never figure out why Ashley prompted him to recount his brother's suicide/zombie resurrection. I had already heard his stories and seen him in action, so I was already terrified. The powers that be knew I as, and ignored me, so I do not know what she was trying to make me realize. She was not trying to torment me on purpose. She succeeded in doing so regardless.
     It got eerily quiet after Ashley left. I had no intentions of talking to Caligula. He was too unpredictable with how he took things. But I expected him to keep rattling on. Thankfully, he did not for five whole minutes while I stared at the ceiling and fume over the general state of affairs. Everything was plunging into the abyss.
     Suddenly, Caligula struggled to get out from under his covers. He jumped out of bed and lunged for me. I did not catch anything about what was happening until I heard his feet hit the floor. I tensed defensive when I saw him lunging for me, but thankfully, Nicole B had a hold on him. She was coming to my rescue the moment she saw him turn in my direction. She had him by the collar of his shirt with her left hand and her right arm around his. It was with his right arm he was reaching for me.
     “He was coming at me with a knife!” Caligula screamed as nicole dragged him out the room.
     “You can't stay in here!” she told him. Nicole B dumped him in his wheelchair. They disappeared down the hall.
The whole incident took only a few seconds, but they were enough I could feel my heart pounding hard enough to cause pain in my left arm. Lord only knows the shape I would have been in with Ativan. I sat up on the side of the bed to try to calm myself. Carolyn the CNA was the first to arrive afterward.
     “Are you all right, Jamie?” she asked.
     “He thought I had a knife!” is all I could say. I was too short of breath to get anything else out even if my mind was back on track, which it was not.
     Nicole B came back in and gave me on of those huge bear hugs in which she swayed me back and forth while declaring, “See, Jamie! I'm your friend!” Indeed, she was. She was my savior that day, too. I would have a least been severely inured by Caligula throttling me, if not worse.
     Ashley came in next to tell me Caligula had been taken out of the building. He would not be back. At the time, I thought she meant he would not be back at Oakhaven, but she actually meant he would not be back into this room. She also did not tell me Caligula told her I had a knife with holes in the handle. I threatened to stab him with it “where it hurts.” So, even though I did not talk to him, he apparently engaged in a tense exchange with me anyway. Lucky me.
     The room was mine exclusively now. It took a while for me to calm down. A number of people came into check on me. I knew management had to have already been informed of what happened. I was not expecting anyone to come by that night, but I was curious what it would be like in the morning when they arrived to face me.  

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