Monday, August 27, 2007


Written by: Nurse James. Drop-In & Rehab Centre Nurse

She’s walking around without any shoes, no socks. It looks like she has been without footwear for quite awhile. She limps badly; her feet are covered with blisters and open lacerations. Probably infected. She knows who I am, but does not come and see me.

As the Nurse at the Drop-In Centre, I can approach clientele and ask if I can take a look at their stab wounds, lacerations, blisters and trauma from fights; but if they do not want to see me, I cannot force the issue.

She comes to my office a few days later after a client prompts her to seek me out. Tells her I am an OK person, that I care. Won’t hurt her.

She is malnourished, skinny, and very apprehensive; she looks to be in her early 50’s. I am not shocked when she tells me she just had her 35th birthday. She looks like crap.

She sits and I wait for the story, her story. Every homeless person has a story. You can vary the details a little from time to time, but it usually sounds very familiar.

Her story I have heard over and over again. She was twelve (or 10, or 14) her uncle touches her. She feels scared, violated.

It’s her fault maybe?

No can’t be, she did nothing wrong.

A month later her uncle visits again. He touches her again, this time more aggressively.

Her mother beats her for lying.

She stops talking. Tears well up in her eyes. I tell her it’s ok to talk, to feel scared, to feel angry. Its not that she says. She cries because I listen, do not judge her, do not make her feel like she is lying. She is crying she says, because it looks like I want to listen, want to help.

She asks about her feet. She tells me she has been without shoes for two weeks. She has been on a binge for a month (crack, meth, alcohol, she does not say which, I do not ask) and when she sobers up she realizes she is not in Calgary and starts walking. She walks for three or fours days. She gets to the Drop-In Centre and stakes out a corner on the main floor for a few days before she finally comes to see me.

Her feet are in bad shape. She needs a Doctor at a Medical clinic. She refuses. You can do it, she asks? She is scared again. I can treat her I say, if she is willing to follow my direction. She agrees. For the next four days she comes to my office without missing a day. I apply bandages, antibiotic ointment and flamezine (a type of crème for burns that works well on really bad blisters). Her feet heal remarkably well, I am impressed. She has stayed in the Centre, away from drugs and alcohol. She has listened to my direction about staying off her feet. I see her one more time. Her feet look better. She has socks; someone has donated a pair of shoes.

She smiles, says thank you and waves as she walks out the door.

I do not see her again.

Written by: Nurse James. Drop-In & Rehab Centre Nurse

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