Thursday, August 21, 2008

Change Happens When The Caring Starts

Written and Submitted by Christa B. Night Staff Satellite Location: 2507

It was just over a year ago that I met Buddy. I was a new transfer staff member and he was a long time resident. My first introduction to him was when there not enough towels for him at 02:45 am and he was grumpy at the office staff. Two hours later he threw back his lunch as he did not like it. This interaction with him went on for a few weeks. There were times when I got a smile out of him however those were rare times.

One morning, I was working at the office during wake ups and my supervisor asked me to take a look at Buddy’s leg. Having had education in health care, I assessed his leg and found it to be reddened, swollen, warm to touch and painful to weight gain on. I asked Buddy to seek medical attention during his day and if he chose not to do so, advised him that medical attention would be sought out for him that night. As it turned out, the redness had traveled up his leg during the day and he was finding it hard to walk, which caused concern for all staff members at the main building on Riverfront Avenue. Non Emergency E.M.S. was called out to assess his leg.

Later on, I found out that Buddy had not sought attention as he did not have the provincial medical coverage and was scared that he would be billed. E.M.S. transported him to the hospital that night, and I packed a bag of toiletries with some of his clothes for him to have at the hospital, which was sent up with a staff member. Buddy was in the hospital for a few rotations, calling every few days to let the staff know that he was all right.

The night that he returned to the warehouse from hospital will be one that I will never forget. He was the first one on the second bus and when he stepped onto the bus and saw me, he said, “How many thank you’s should I give you. You saved my leg.”

On the ride out to the warehouse he shared that he was in the hospital under isolation and was treated for cellulitis, which the doctor feared would have turned into the flesh eating infection if it had not been caught and treated when it was.

Since that night, Buddy and I have developed a helping relationship. He's come to me to help him with his pension application as well as other things that he needed advice or feedback on. He accepts a towel that I keep back for him at night, and he never complains of his lunch. He has opened up to the staff and allowed us into his life.

Buddy and other hard to love guys are the reason that I do what I do. Someone needs to care for those who society has not cared for.

Change happens when the caring starts.

Written by Christa B. Night staff, Satellite location

Friday, August 15, 2008

Falling down to get back up.

I sat in my 6th floor office and watched an elderly man stumble down the street far below. He pushed his metal walker before him, a human barstool on the move. He came to the curb, attempted to navigate the bump, and fell. He struggled to get up but with each attempt, he fell back to the ground. Sitting up in my eerie, I had an eagle's eye view, and I was helpless. I phoned the security desk on the main floor to ask a staff to go out and help him but as I started to speak, two people came up and assisted the man. Later I went downstairs to ensure the man had made it safely to his destination, the DI. He had.

"Our greatest glory consists not in never failing but in rising every time we fall." Oliver Goldsmith

This man fell down. He got up. A tiny success in a seemingly endless journey through the haze of alcohol that constantly fogs his mind. Once again, I am in awe of the spirit's need to live, of the drive for survival.

This man's life may have little sense to it. It may appear to be a futile attempt to wrest a few more moments or days from fate. But, in the end, this man's life is all he's got. He is a late stage alcoholic. A man for whom sobriety is a long lost relative to the despair that permeates his spirit like alcohol pouring through his veins.

There is little we can do for him other than provide a safe landing when he falls. Provide him assistance with his daily ablutions, clean him up when he messes up, watch over him when he has a seizure and provide him food and a safe place to sleep when he comes in from the street.

The help we provide him is not based on 'cleaning him up' or even getting him into rehab. Too many brain cells have hit the dust, too many synapses have mis-fired. He is walking towards his destiny. A tragic story of one man's life gone grievously astray. A human being no long able to do anything other than what he's doing today -- drinking himself to death.

Is it tragic? Absolutely. Did he make choices? Absolutely. Do his choices make a difference to him today? They make a difference to his quality of life, what he might have done, or been or had. But for today, his choices are limited to a narrow corridor of insobriety, a singular path to keeping himself numbed under the influence.

Does this man need help today? Absolutely. Does he deserve to be helped? Yes.

Regardless of the circumstances that led him down his dark and drunken street, he is where he's at. He is helpless to help himself. All we can do is watch over him as best we can. Provide him the help he needs and will take, and ultimately, note his passing and gather his belongings when he's gone.

We've had and have many clients like this man. Individuals self-medicating themselves to death. We try to intervene whenever we can. We attempt to redirect their attention to some other path. Sometimes, no matter what we do, we cannot divert them from their self-directed date with destiny. For whatever reason, their lives have gone wildly astray, their paths become a constant struggle to get up.

Regardless of the reason, we cannot deny their need. It would be inhumane. No one deserves the street. No one deserves to die there. If he were a dog who had been hit by a car and been left bleeding on the road, we would not hesitate to pick him up and rush him to a vet. And yet, with a human being, we often stop in judgement and say, "It's his own fault."

In the end, it doesn't make a difference who's fault it is. He is falling and needs help. We cannot change his destiny. All we can do is provide the best care we can while he walks in the direction he's going. All we can do is walk beside him whenever we can, hold his hand when he needs us, and let him know we care enough to continue to make whatever difference we can.