Po Boy Views
The Kindness of Strangers
The call comes in as we knew someday it would. Bob’s in the hospital and it ain’t lookin’ good.
You know, when we’re born, we’re all dealt an unjust hand with which to make sense of our lives and desires. Deal with it; life isn’t fair. We all live with seemingly irreversible idiosyncrasies-- which affect us personally –that we’re stuck with. For most of us it’s merely an insecurity that we live with: am I fat, balding, weak, unattractive or will I ever have enough wealth/fame/power to live well? I’m going to die?
Born with Cerebral Palsy (and a 157 I.Q.), Bob’s had a much harder road to hoe than most of us. On the plus side: He’s extremely independent. on the other side of the coin: Bob’s short on taking responsibility for his life, health and welfare. That’s major challenges that Bob faces, or in his case, didn’t face. Bob’s basically screwed.
Bob has his own apartment, motorized scooter and is on the dole; things are hunky-dory, right? No. Bob; has a health care aide that doesn’t show up except maybe to put him on the toilet, Bob lives in his chair, sleeping and not being groomed at all. Bob fritters away his income except on his lights, heat and air conditioning. The end of January, when Bob has not turned on his heater, Bob is taken to a hospital with his body locked in silting position, dirty, smelling of the infections that have swollen his legs and brought them to the point of ooze.
Bob is happy, briefly, to be taken care of until he finds that his salvation has become his prison; flat on is back (with his legs still locked) Bob lacked the strength to feed himself. The aid and assistance (at the facility) Bob received was swift and professional; unfortunately, Bob had let himself deteriorate for so long that his comeback will be long and arduous. Add to that that Bob is not a self starter; his stay consists of him in bed with a diaper on, a radio and a television that he watches (old movie channel) with the sound off and Girlfriend and I, his gophers, who bring him treats, real food (facility provides pureed diet), and pep talk visits at least four times a week,.
Now hear this, Bob’s stay is paid by Medicaid/care for the first hundred days and after that he is either discharged or he stays and (all) his income/assets belong to the facility, they’ll give him $38.00 a month for himself and he’ll be there, barring outside assistance for the rest of his life. On his back. In a diaper. Eating pureed food.
The facility does not have a barber on staff, nor a dentist and a doctor visits pretty much sporadically and infrequently. There is probably 30 nurses to every doctor and a like amount of attendants. If you’d like to see the place that people go and become invisible, visit one of these ‘Nursing/Healthcare Centers’.
Now don’t get me wrong, Bob gets three squares, physical therapy, nurses that care about him specifically, medications, speech therapy and a social worker to conduct his stay. For the rest of his life. They do the best they can. Bob is only sixty-two years old; he wants to get out but cannot. At first he was very adamant, wanting his chair so that he could leave (I personally rode his scooter up the two miles to him----giving me great respect for those in such vehicles). He then resigned himself to care and through the weeks I have been with him through his myriad of moods: fear, depression, anger, frustration, indignity, helplessness, loneliness, and near rage. I have kept his rent paid and his bills; I’ve cleaned his apartment and donated his music collection to anyone who would keep and appreciate it. I have raised what money I can to keep his life available once he’s able, if ever, to go home. I have a new home aide service in place to aid him upon his discharge. It’s complicated.
Friends and acquaintances have sent cards, kids have drawn pictures; we have given talks to Bob from ‘attaboy’ to ‘get off your ass’. I’ve endeavored to keep up his spirits; but you know what(?) I’m not the one in a broken body, bed bound twenty-four-seven with nothing but my thoughts and vulnerability. I’m the impotent friend that can do nothing to help him back to the life he misses and bring him creature comforts and explore ways to get him back to his form of a normal life. Sometimes when I feel frustrated I imagine his plight and realize how blessed I am.
Bob’s doctor and therapist advise him of the riskiness of him going home now and he’s being moved to the residency area of the facility, a hundred days have passed. They told me that his recovery is in his own hands; he’s come a ways but has a long way to go. No one has told him how long that will be so, Bob’s in limbo. It’s up to Bob to overcome his tendency for inaction regarding his welfare and work harder. I believe in Bob, I have faith in him. I pray for him. My troubles are nothing compared with his.