This is my job now. It is a full time responsibility. I sleep well, but when I awake at 6:00, the first thing I think of is my mother’s story.
More of her story will follow and will be compiled by her storyteller, me. It is a story I must tell because her story will affect you one day, and you will possibly not even realize it. I write for my mother and father. I write for my family. I write for your family. Heck, I even write for our government officials who make important decisions that will affect your pocket book. I write for the thousands that will try to rebuild their lives after Harvey has taken everything from them.
It happened on a Memorial Day weekend in Georgetown, Texas. I was vacationing with my husband. We had fun things planned. My mother lived in a small group home in Round Rock, just a few miles from Georgetown. She had fallen, which happens as some of us age. I visited her in the hospital. On my way out, I spoke to the neatly dressed nurse and thought I would double check on my mother’s medication.
“She is on her medication, right?” I asked.
The nurse looked a bit confused, but she tried to hide it. After all, none of this story is her fault.
“She is on her anti-psychotic medications?” I asked again, assuming the answer would be in the affirmative.
“I don’t see anything like that on her chart,” she said with a look of confusion.
“We need to contact the doctor right away,” I said firmly. “She NEEDS her medication. If she doesn’t get her medication, you will have a problem on your hands,” I tried to emphasize as politely as possible.
“Okay, we’ll contact her doctor, but he is on vacation.”
I assumed the hospital, the doctors and the nurses would work in tandem regarding the stelazine and other drugs my mother had to take. I checked with the woman who oversaw the group home.
“The doctor is out of town, and Mother is off her medication.”
Sheri’s eyes widened. “I gave them the list of medications,” she said emphatically.
We both knew a tsunami would hit if my mother was not kept on her prescribed anti-psychotic medication.
I struggled to have a good time with my husband on our short trip to Austin. My mind was elsewhere. It was on my mother who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia since she was in her 20s. Paranoid schizophrenia is a horrible disease. We try not to discuss it in polite society. “Break the stigma,” some mental health advocates say. I wish they would come up with a new slogan. BREAK THE DISEASE is what I would like to do. Find a cure is what needs to be cried from the rooftops.
Three words: FIND A CURE!!!!
Another few words: There is a mental health crisis in America! Most people don’t even know it. Most people will be affected by it and pass it every day on the way to work. The dirty, homeless man wandering the streets of downtown alone, the families torn apart because they can’t find help for their mentally ill loved ones who refuse care because of their mental illness. The overcrowded jails, the tax dollars spent on band aids to fix a much larger problem than any of them realize, are all symptoms.
Four words: It is a travesty.
On our way back home to Dallas, we stopped by the hospital to check on my mother. As soon as I stood at the entrance to the unit, I could hear her screaming. The nurse I had spoken to only days before was running back and forth from my mother’s room to me.
“What do you do when this happens?” she frantically asked me.
My heart sank. Mother had been off her medication for three days. It was evident.
As I listened to her loud, persistent cries, I knew there was no way I could help her. There was no way for the nurse to help her.
What do I do when this happens?
“I don’t know what they do! I can’t do a damn thing! She has to go to the psych hospital when this happens!!” I said stunned that this horrible situation had happened and could have been prevented had the doctor returned the phone calls that the nurses made, but he was on vacation.
That simple event of the lack of necessary medications caused a spiral effect. Mother, of course, continued to spiral down due to more delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. No talk therapy could have helped her at this moment. No amount of prayer was going to cure my mother from the severe anxiety she was going through.
Nothing but medication was going to help my mother. Not only did my mother have to suffer, but so did the hospital staff as they desperately tried to ease her pain. It took valuable resources that could have been used on people who were physically ill. It caused distress on other patients who had to hear my mother’s screams. It caused her family anxiety and depression because there was absolutely nothing that could be done. Nothing! As I bang my computer keys to relive this story and its pain, I don’t care that my apartment is a mess or that I desperately need to bathe and comb my hair. I don’t care about me at all in this moment because I don’t tell my mother’s story lightly. There are repeated events in my childhood and adult years that distressed me, but this story is not about me! It’s about you.! It’s about your neighbor and your family. It’s about your community and the first responders, the homeless who will be walking aimlessly down the street looking for anything to pacify the hallucinations, the people who will end up in jail chained to their bed because all they needed was their medication.
I worry and pray for everyone involved with Hurricane Harvey, but I mostly worry about the mentally ill patients and society’s misunderstandings about the importance of their medication. There are many who will need their medications immediately to survive, but there is also an IMMEDIATE need for the government officials to address those who need their medications to stay sane.
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