Parking Lot...maybe it wasn't so empty after all.

I have been going over to the Pauper House location for months now with Hospice.   My assigned Patient is schizophrenic.  She has been relatively calm the past several months. This day was different. When I walked in the door she jumped up and ran to me and said “they are stealing my clothes” in a loud voice.  She had her shoes on the wrong feet and she was clearly agitated.    I was startled and took a step back.  Then I thought, no- don’t take a step back, take a step forward. I was surprised how the morning progressed.

 Let me define Schizophrenia:

 Schizophrenia is a serious disorder which affects how a person thinks, feels and acts. Someone with schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary; may be unresponsive or withdrawn; and may have difficulty expressing normal emotions in social situations. Contrary to public perception, schizophrenia is not split personality or multiple personality. The vast majority of people with schizophrenia are not violent and do not pose a danger to others. Schizophrenia could be genetic, chemical or an affront to the immune system.  Symptoms include paranoia, withdrawal, strange body positioning, feelings of being watched etc. 1% of the people in the world are Schizophrenic.

 -Mental Health America

 My favorite site director was working that day and immediately came out of her office and got control of the situation. My patient went and sat on the couch.  I went over and asked if I could sit beside her. She shook her head yes.  I reached over and asked her if she would hold my hand, because I needed someone to hold my hand.  She took my hand and visibly sighed. We held hands for about five minutes.  Then she let me put my arm around her shoulders and we sat there together. Me, deep breathing hoping to send calmness her way. She, occasionally looking at me and telling me they were stealing her clothes and that it wasn’t right.   We got in a good solid 15 minutes before she jumped up and screamed “they are stealing my clothes”This time the director took her into her office.

Then I drank coffee with some other ladies I know who are residents at the facility.   The one lady said “this has been going on all week and its making me crazy. I just go to my room.” Referring to my patient.  I said Gezz, I am sorry that’s tough.

 Right then a bunch of cars pulled into the parking lot and seven ladies from a church came in like a freight train.  They were the “Pedicure team” from a local downtown church.  These were seven diverse women. I had them named in five minutes.  We had the “Director” she had the clipboard and the names of who got Pedicures that day. We had the “Head technologist” this woman went through training at Emory on how to do a pedicure on the elderly.  We had the “Doctor” a pediatrician who was also allowed to perform the pedicure procedure along with the head technologist.   We had the "Greeters” two lovely ladies that greeted all the clients.  We had the “Seller”.  Once you had your service you could pick a pair of socks to wear—free of charge of course.  Finally, we had the “Foot bather” who carried the hot water to and fro soaking people’s feet.   These women were on fire for their service. Five out of seven had “bed head” having gotten up early to get over to the facility.  They were all interesting people.

 So I am watching all this and seeing how they work; thoroughly enjoying the beehive of activity.  I introduced myself as a hospice volunteer and chatted them up.  Here’s the good part:  They go through their list of clients for the day and get to my patient’s name—they say, oh (my patient) is on the list.  They all look at each other like- OMG.  I blurted out “oh that’s my lady” and all eyes were on me like laser beams.   They said can you go get her?  I thought-challenge question—I said I can try.   I got up went to the office and told the director it my lady’s turn for a pedicure.  She said she is agitated by the noise. I said let’s try.  My patient proceeded to walk right in there with me like we were going to the Prom and screamed “They are stealing my clothes!”

 Welcome to Schizophrenia.  Somehow the Universe was helping me because I got her seated and put my arm around her shoulders. She smiled at me and calmed down. Those ladies looked at me like I was Gandhi.  If only they knew how hard my heart was beating in my chest.  Could I maintain her, my patient, to see her through this experience?  To net it out, she was okay. She screamed twice that they were hurting her and yelled one more time that they were stealing her clothes.  By the end, her nails were clipped, filed and neatly tucked into the bright blue socks I picked for her from the seller.  The seller had given her a choice of about 15 colors.  I thought really, seriously?  I picked her socks and told her they were awesome.  Her shoes were on the right feet and we were headed out the door to the main living area.   I was feeling good, kind of like a rock star that I was helpful in controlling the situation.   It was then she broke away and threw herself onto the couch and just laid there. Uh huh. So much for my awesomeness.

 I let her be because I was exhausted from the experience and still had another visit in front of me at another facility.

 I said my goodbyes to my patient and to the ladies. I thanked them for what they were doing because they are a gift.   I left before they said I was fired for the free fall at the end.  I walked out into the parking lot which now had about eight cars in it.  I smiled thinking about the seven ladies from the church.  I  remembered the joy on the residents faces as the women joked, rubbed lotion on their legs and brought positive energy into the room.  That my friends, is the living Spirit.

 The parking lot was full that day. 

 Until next time,

 Sat Nam.