He was a mean old man. His body lean and withered by time. He fought us when ever anyone had to get near him. His illness has disrupted his mind but his body strength remained in tact. He was as patients go, forgettable. Just another person who came and went and faded from memory as another person filled the bed in an endless assembly line of souls.
Yet I will never forget him. Can never forget him. I don't even remember his name anymore, But I carry him in my heart.
He tattooed me with bruises every chance he got. He beat on all the nurse's aides. Try as I might I was unable to like this man. Trying to like him was like hugging a roll of barbed wire. Oh my brain was able to separate the dementia that drove his actions from the man inflicted with this illness. But it isn't easy to reach past flying fists and help the person behind them.
Yet I did. I cared for him while he was on my wing for several months. Trying each morning to get him up, toileted, dressed and ready for breakfast while avoiding as many of his blows as I could.
Detatched professionalism that was me. I made sure all my residents were well taken care of while I was on duty. Him included.
The news filtered to the night shift my first day back. Mr Beatyouup was being discharged home in the morning.
Everyone's reaction was at first a sense of relief "Yeah! no more punches" followed quickly by the awful reality. "How are they going to handle him?"
Turned out his family was no longer able to pay for his stay in a nursing home. Money was forcing them to take him home and provide care.
I even mentioned aloud, "we divide him up between 6 people around the clock and he wears us out, I feel sorry for the family."
Next night his bed was empty and he slipped from my mind.
Two weeks later the PM shift nurse met us at the time clock. Her somber pose gave me worry right away.
"Mr Beatyouup is back." she said quietly. "his family couldn't handle him, they beat him head to toe."
She followed me down to his room.
I flipped on the little light and approached his bed.
He wasn't bruised. He was a bruise. Everything black and blue and green from the bald skin on his head on down. The nurse lifted the sheet and revealed his battered body. "and this I think, " she said uncovering his feet "is the worse of it."
I glanced at the soles of his feet. They were bruised. The stick or strap marks clearly visible. Do you know how much force you have to apply to bruise the sole of a human foot?
I gently tucked his feet back in and turned to him. His eyes flutter open, the fire was gone, something else there in its place. He reached up a shaky hand to me. I gently took it. He pulled me up closer to him and made a whimpery-sob sound and put his cheek on my hand and began to cry. He was broken...physically and mentally.
There are many events in my life that have level me to ground zero. That knock me from where ever I am to flat on my face on the floor. That reset all the things in my head and heart, that open doors into the mysteries of the universe and teach me what being a human is all about. This one was a doozy.
The vastness of this tragity is staggering. A family who knows they can't care for an elderly relative, do the right thing and get him into a nursing home where professionals can care for him. Only to forced to take him home because of money issues. Once again facing something so grave that it drove them to action in the first place they become stretched beyond human capacity, loose their grip on the "maintain your sanity" throttle and react with the darkness of the primal human DNA.
My heart breaks for that family, that man too and for me. This family DID the right thing, they knew they needed help, they got it and then something as stupid as money forced actions that ultamently lead to tragedy. People have coping limits. There is a line that exsists. Humans are not endless wells of compassion and understanding and coping.
Yet strangely we as a society feed ourselves lies to try to foster that idea. "If it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger" and the single most damaging one out there...."God doesn't put more on your plate then you can handle."
Wish I could trace back through the eons of time and find the origin of when the human race slid off the "we are in this together" to the "every man for himself" mentality.
I see many bruised souls out there. Who struggle and juggle things that could lead to bruised soles. Makes something well up in me and want to help. On the message boards I haunt, I do so now when I am able. My words I offer come from a deep place of compassion and echo that 'whimpery-sob sound and put his cheek on my hand and began to cry' moment in my past.
My words may help, or they may make no difference, I don't know. All I know is if my gut registers that feeling I reach out. At the very least, those I respond too know they are heard. At the very most, it has given me the knowledge that I can and I must reach out if I ever reach that end of coping, and to do so without shame.