Tuesday, April 22

The Story of Charles, Continued 4/22/14

             The story continues that began earlier this month.  This tale will take time.  But it needs telling.  Installments I'll use.


       When I met him, I didn't understand.  He walked around with a hand on the right corner of his head, where the edge of his forehead met his hairline.

       His hand pushed his head against his left shoulder, cocking it to one side.  With his head in this position, and a hand still placed on it,  he walked tentatively around the mental health center where I worked.  He had been a resident there for two years, when I began work there.  It is so many years ago, I will
honor him by using his real name.

       You will never meet Charles.

       His head was triangular.  His chubby cheeks formed the base of  his head, which came to a point on top.  He would breathe out his laughter in a restrained way, as if cotton filled his mouth.  His gentle eyes matched his soft voice and quiet demeanor.  A patch of curly hair topped his head.  His father, whom he never met, was African American.  His mother was Hispanic.  He was overweight.  And shy.

      The pants he wore were too large.  Slipping down, they revealed his  hairy butt.  You didn't want to see it, after having lunch.  I would know.  On rainy days, while out on the patio on the third floor, he stood alone, wearing no coat, not owning one.

      Many staff members doted on their pets, a resident who received preferential treatment.  Like Richard, who wasn't all there.  This resident had a round mark on his forehead, the size of a nickel.  That part of it was soft, missing the skull. This was was the result of his mother, a RN, allowing Richard to have a lobotomy.  I was told his temper once raged.   Richard always greeted me, by calling me Ben. When I reminded him my real name, he would say my name, not pronouncing the "l".  "Pah bo."  Every time.

      Charles was not pet material.  He was quiet.  Not cute.  And kept to himself.

      Intrigued by his unique behavior, I pulled his chart, he was part of my caseload of twenty-four residents.  The social worker's intake report revealed  his father left his mother when he learned she was pregnant. And then I came upon the most disturbing news in his case history.  Boy was I sad, reading it.

       His mother had kept him in a closet for a few years.

       Charles' pushing his head to his left shoulder was how he comforted himself, then, as a child, and now, as a young adult.  It was a habit kept though he no longer lived alone.  It was his unique quirk while living in a sub-acute psychiatric facility, holding one hundred and twenty residents within its locked doors.
       The story continues a bit further.......

       Although I worked in the Rehab Department, I did nursing duties, while tending to Charles.  No, I wasn't supposed to, but the nursing staff didn't mind.  It was one less person to worry about.  I got a special comb that worked well with his nappy hair, helping him with his grooming skills.  He began shaving regularly.

      "Charles, you can't continue turning on women by showing your butt," I informed him.

       He chuckled, his eyes revealing a sparkle as he gave a shy smile.  We visited the boutique on the first floor.  It had clothing donated by family members and local stores for the residents.

      Charles found pants that fit. I made a point of getting him a belt. That was the last of his displaying his hairy butt. And he picked out a green jacket.

      Working with him, I noticed his eyes lit up, when he saw I was on the floor, the third floor. Residents start out with earning a red privilege card. It allowed them to go for a walk on the enclosed grounds and let them scoot ahead of others when it was snacks time.

     If they attended groups, which my colleagues and I taught, did their grooming and got along with staff and residents they could move up to a green and eventually the coveted gold "P" card. It was doled out, based on a staff conference that assessed the resident's compliance with his or her care plan.

     I skipped the bureaucracy, when it involved Charles. I put him on the top of my list, when we had outings.  His first outing in two years, that took him out of the hospital and into the community was attending a Denny's Restaurant, having hot chocolate.

     While sipping his warm drink, he looked sideways at others who were not fellow residents. This was a first, after more than twenty-six months in the locked facility. Returning to the mental health center, he waited by the vehicle, while I wrote information in the log for the sixteen passenger extended Econoline van.

     "Thank you," he said in a voice I could barely hear, as I locked up the vehicle.  He was the only resident to express gratitude. 


Carl H said...

Dear Innkeeper,

My (belated) Tuesday Gratitudes are;

1. That I can continue losing a little weight each day toward my goal of winning the bet. If I lose 10# by May 1, my wife will join the Zumba Exercise Class at the gym!

2. That I said to myself, "how important is it," and "let it go..." when someone kept switching the PBS channel from high def to regular (709 to 9), seemingly oblivious to it! (I mean, hay - c'mon now...the screen gets smaller and the picture more fuzzy!) I guess HD is a guy thing? I left the room without a word; massive self-control on my part!

3. That #3 son is on his way to making weight for the Army!

4. That I willed myself up from a late afternoon nap to hike 12 laps around our house in the cold, windy dusk. Inertia defeated yet again. Yea! It paid off on the weight scale at 4:30 this morning.

Syd said...

Great story. Glad that you were able to reach Charles. Such a sad thing for him to be mistreated by his mother.

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