Thursday, April 23, 2015

Zero Sum

       I intended for the previous post to reassure all the suicidal tendencies which had plagued me throughout the latter half of 2013 had dissipated by early spring 2014. I was still lost, of curse. A 37 year old man trapped in a nursing home for lord knows how long without any idea of what kind of future, if any, he could eke out beyond those walls was bound to feel lost. But at least by this point I was entertaining the idea of possibilities. As the great poet, Robert Frost once said, 'I can sum up everything I have learned about life in three words: it goes on.”
       Go on, it did. I lived day by day, which was strongly against my nature as a goal oriented person. I have always wanted a long term goal to work towards. They were mostly educational and career goals, and they were all gone now. I never much differentiated those from personal goals. I had suffered a rude awakening in recent times upon discovering personal goals were a different animal altogether from educational and professional. It is definitely not a comfortable feeling you are a work in progress neglected far too long. Day by day is the only way to cope with such a daunting task as redefining oneself.
       Old habits die hard, though. Thirty-seven may not be rickety ancient, but it is old enough to be set in certain ways, particularly if they offer the comfort of familiarity. Long term goal setting was too ingrained in me to forsake. The future was more a blank slate than at ant pint in my life, but I needed to look forward regardless. Dr. hiatt once suggested I set a long term goal of living day by day. I argued that goal is not long term because it is satisfied at the end of every day, only to begin again the next. Such goal was, at best, a Sisyphean torture. Dr. Hiatt and I sparred quite often philosophically, as you have probably surmsed by now. No, I needed something else. That something else became thrust on me. Careful what you wish for. You just might get it.
       It cannot be stressed enough the night and day relationships I had with the nursing staff/therapy crew verses management. The former were virtually all warm, caring, and fun people who made Oakhaven bearable. Management, however, made little secret they would like to give me the boot rather than spend ny resources helping me adjust to a new life. I was under a lot of scrutiny which made me uneasy. The occasional heads up from a CNA or nurse she had been asked by Brock about some conversation we had did not help matters. But the big deal occurred the day I was strolling down the hall in mid-February when Lucy, a CNA who handled physical therapy for residents who were not getting the works, walked by me escorting one such resident.
        It was Caligula.
      After Nicole B dragged him out the room to keep him from attacking me again those weeks ago, Ashley, the unit supervisor, came to my room to tell me he was not going to be back. I figured she meant he would not be back at Oakhaven. She actually meant he was not going to be back in my room. Caligula was dangerous. Clearly mentally ill, with no resources at oakhaven to treat him for his mental illness even if the desire to do so existed, which it did not. He did not acknowledge me as he passed, but I immediately feared he would remember his dark fantasy I once “threatened' to stab him with knife. He had remembered other violent delusions. He might come after me, and there might be no one arund to stop him this time. So I had a mission. Somebody needed to put the brakes on how management ran things. The safety of residents could not be so blatantly ignored. The only thing to do was involve the Department of Health and Health and Environmental control, the state agency regulating nursing homes.
       There was one catch. Maybe two, if you count my treading carefully to avoid any further attempts to have me committed to a mental institution. I wanted to avoid the appearance of revenge. Contacting DHEC myself would have appeared aggressive. I needed the matter to come out naturally, and I knew it would sometime soon. There was an annual inspection by DHEc every year. The 2014 inspection was due that spring. On the final day of the inspection, DHEC interviewed residents who were mentally sound. I would be of them most certainly. Under those circumstances, I would simply be telling the truth. Let the chips fall where they may.
       The opportunity presented it self in the middle of March it was six weeks since Caligula attacked me; five since the sitters were removed after Oakhaven failed to have me committed to a mental institution. Interestingly enough, I discovered DHEC was there when I returned from a session with Dr. Hiatt. Sonya, with whom I had not seen in five weeks, ditched a woman she was walking with I did not recognize and scurried over as I rounded one of the hallways on the path to my room.
    "Hello, how are you?” she said, bending down in an awfully patronizing manner considering she was only a couple inches taller than me. “You look great! I'm going to come by and talk to you later.”  
     "Okay,” was all I could get out before she rejoined her anonymous companion.   The lady had been out of earshot during the encounter. It felt weird, but I assumed Sonya might just be an odd duck when it came to being personable. It still bugged me enough to remark about it to Lucy, whom I walked by after turning the last corner to my last room on the dead end hallway.
     “DHEC is here,” Lucy told me.
     Ah, that explained it. The mysterious lady with Sonya was a DHEC inspector. Sonya's behavior was due to her being on edge. Everyone was on edge, actually. This was not simply the annual inspection. The family member of a resident had called DHEC to report a new pressure sore which had developed on her loved one because of neglect. Those inspectors saw other problems, and decided to do the annual inspection now . I figured this was going to be my chance, but I also wondered if management would keep me out of sight as much as possible in the hopes I would not speak to DHEC. I could not let that happen.
      Somya never came back to see me later, by the way.
     The opportunity to prevent any possible silencing from happening presented itself near the end of management's workday. I was on my laptop in the telephone room shortly before five in the afternoon. The telephone room was on the hallway to the employee exit where they had to clock out. Paulette was leaving, but stopped to ask me how I was.
     “I'm all right,” I told her. “Is the Gestapo coming back tomorrow?”
     “What?” she asked, genuinely caught off guard by my dark humor. She often was.
      "DHEC. Are they coming back tomorrow?”
     Paulette came into the telephone room and pull out the only other chair. She literally collapsed into it as though exhausted. No one felt good when DHEC was around. I was about to make things worse.
     “I don't know,” she said.
     “Isn't this the annual inspection?”
     "I guess it is.”
     “They usually interview residents during these inspections, do they not/”
      “I don't know if they will.”
    “Well, I want to talk to them.” I declared this in as firm a tone as I could without sounding too ominous. I was trying to make it clear if I was not given an interview, I was likely to pull an inspector aside and talk to them that way. It wad probably wise to inform DHEC I wanted to talk and take whatever lumps might be due. Paulette got the message.
      “All right," she said. Without another word, she got up and left for the day.

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