Friday, June 30, 2006

Hospital Follies - The Final Chapter

(Elevators! Am I finally being moved to a room?)

No such luck. After exiting the elevators with the gold diamonds painted upon them, and negotiating a few twists and turns, we slowed as we approached an opening on the right-hand side of the corridor. A sign on the wall informed me that I was entering Observation Unit One. The unit was shaped as two sides of a square, with the nurses’ station on the left and a multitude of curtained cubicles on the right. I was wheeled down and to the left, into the other leg of the unit, all the way down to the end cubicle. I observed with some satisfaction that the unit’s rest room lay directly across from my space.

The staff member informed me that here on the unit, at least, tv privileges were free. I failed until later to realize that this fact portended a very short stay - if I had been meant to stay longer, I would have been assigned a room and expected to pay for the amenities. Looking around, I observed a small, wheeled cabinet with a couple of drawers, and a number of items on it. The first object that caught my eye was a combination remote/call button that controlled the wall-mounted tv and served to contact the station if necessary. There was a plastic bag containing a little box of tissues, a pair of no-slip socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, roll-on deodorant and a piece of paper that turned out to be a patient satisfaction survey. I wish now that I had availed myself of the survey. There was a salmon-colored rectangular plastic tub and a smaller kidney-shaped receptacle, and beneath the cabinet on a pull-out shelf were a number of ginger ale-colored plastic jugs, looking for all the world like juice containers, save for the fact that each had a cap attached to the handle of the jug by a plastic strap. These are called by the staff ‘urinals’, which name and function I had learned at the time of my ulcer surgery in 1998.

I picked up the remote and surfed to determine which channels were deemed important enough to be offered free by the hospital. The three broadcast networks and three cable news networks were there, along with CNBC, our erstwhile channel of choice. BET, Univision, Lifetime and Oxygen were all represented, along with Bravo, A & E, and HGTV. There was some sort of in-house educational channel (featuring, not surprisingly, graphic depictions of various operations - joy) and, lastly, a computerized analog clock face that presumably showed the correct time. I switched to CNBC to see what the market had done that day.

At roughly 5:15, a food service cart appeared and my first official meal was delivered to me - the ubiquitous napkin and plastic utensils, milk, juice and dessert choice (generally a fruit cup or apple, but infrequently more imaginative) and the main meal, which this night consisted of canned green beans, runny, flavorless potatoes made from flakes (believe me when I say that I know this - I have had much experience of various potatolike formulations) and a slab of something covered with congealed gravy that the accompanying menu assured me was meatloaf - a more unappealing offering I could not imagine (later, while visiting Bonnie, I discovered that there were indeed more unappetizing concoctions.) After careful consideration, I consumed all but half of the potatoes and most of the disheartening slab - I had sampled it and found it to be inedible.

Tray and remnants removed, I lay back and attempted to concentrate on Jim Cramer, who was valiantly trying to inflate my portfolio, but the pain radiating up my leg made this a difficult proposition. I shifted around for awhile to try to find a position that would decrease the awful discomfort, deciding finally to lie on my right side and stretch my left leg over until it rested upon the metal tube that served as a preventative to my rolling off of the bed. I passed most of two hours in this fashion, waiting for something, anything, to happen.

At around 8:00 pm, a nurse or tech (it was almost impossible to determine which, unless the individual was bearing medication) appeared and offered me a small plastic cough-syrup dispenser containing Motrin and Vicodin (aha! A nurse!) Since my last (and sole) application had occurred at 8:00 am, you can imagine the relief I felt. Unfortunately, the 12-hour interim had allowed the earlier medication to lose all effectiveness, and the pills took a long time to manifest any reduction whatsoever in the amount of pain that I was suffering. There was a gradual lessening, although the pain never completely went away, and I spent another two hours trying to fall asleep.

At some time between 10 and 11 pm, a technician entered my curtained cubicle with her little wheeled machine and proceeded to take my vital signs (blood pressure, pulse and temperature.) By the time the procedure was finished, my leg was once again unhappy, and I was looking forward to the next medicine delivery. Alas, that did not come for another five hours. In the interim, however, I was visited by another tech who inserted what is known around the hospital as a Heparin Lock (I had had one inserted in Emergency, but it had been removed after the CAT scan.) Then I was hooked up to a sodium chloride drip which, as usual, caused more than its share of grief by running quietly for some minutes until a bubble developed, and then beeping continually until someone noticed or complained and a tech arrived to tap and shake the IV line until the bubble broke up or dissolved. The unit, although only partially occupied this particular evening, was pervaded by the almost constant sound of regular, highly annoying beeps.

I spent a bad night, watching the infrequent car coming or going from the parking garage and wishing that I was minus a leg. At one point I tried to rise to my feet to stagger across the intervening space to the rest room, but discovered that my ankle was intensely averse to bearing my weight. In desperation, I finally availed myself of one of the portable urinals (that, I assumed, was why they had been provided.) After I received my next medication at 4:00 am, I managed to get an hour or two of sleep, in between the inevitable vital signs checks.

Of the last day in the unit, I will not say much, as not much happened. I received breakfast (cereal, two pancakes with syrup and !coffee!)

The food service gentleman kindly allowed me to have a second cup, which improved my mood, if not my pain, considerably. I rested and waited for noon to arrive. It eventually did, along with medication and lunch (which was a reprise of the meatloaf from the previous evening, and just as dreadful the second time.)

I had taken to pressing the contact button, hoping to receive medication on a more timely schedule (does it rain in Hell? I think not, and neither did the contact button help.) A disembodied voice always assured me that someone would attend to me (they did not mention when such attention would be forthcoming - crafty of them.)

The only event of note occurred when one of the maintenance staff noticed that I had dared to pollute one of their precious urinals. She looked at me with instant dislike, pointed out the rest room across the way, and snarled, "The rest room’s right there! Can’t you walk?" I said that no, I couldn’t, otherwise I would have. She then snarled, "Make sure you empty that before you leave, and dispose of it." Yes, ma’am. Excuse me.

Oh yes. Around 10:30, I was visited by a social worker who wanted to help me fill out the Medicaid application form. Despite the fact that I was in a bit of pain and did not immediately have all the facts at my fingertips (Bonnie knew more about the bills than I did) we proceeded to struggle through the twenty-four (or -six, or -eight) pages required for a successful process. This, perhaps needless to say, was not one of my more pleasant experiences. (As it happened, since I could not yet walk when the hearing was due to occur, the procedure proved to be useless. We have since reapplied and are awaiting the new due date.)

As the day began to laten, I wondered just what it was that I was doing here. The medication was arriving, granted, but the interval between was so lengthy that I might as well have been at home - I would have been more comfortable. As if receiving my thought, a nurse appeared just before the arrival of dinner. She informed me that I was shortly to be released, and asked me to indicate which method of conveyance I would prefer to use to go home. Then she asked, "You do have a home to go to?" As I was at that point wearing little but a T-shirt, jeans, and a pair of ratty slippers that had all been slept in for three days and two nights, and my beard had gone unshaven for many months, I suppose there was some justification for her rather impertinent question. I informed her that, yes, I did have a home, and that it was not in a public park, and I chose a taxi as my preferred means of travel. The nurse appeared unflustered by my pert remark and vanished back up the corridor.

At length, she returned. She first removed the Heparin Lock, exclaiming, "You can withstand much pain!" When I inquired what she meant, she said that the tech had inserted the lock with a kink in the line. I suppose, if my leg had been ruly, I might have been bothered. As it was ... It did, however, explain the frequent appearance of bubbles.

The nurse wrapped my leg and foot in an elastic bandage, handed me a second bandage as a backup, and gave me my discharge papers and prescription forms. "Someone will be along soon," she said. Shortly, a marvelous member of the transport staff appeared, helped me into a ‘chair, and took me for my last ride through the anal canal (err... corridors) of the hospital.

As we wended our way through the various halls, my attendant and I had an opportunity to chat, and it was he who informed me of the unspoken policy - "treat ‘em and street ‘em." I knew exactly what he meant. At length we reached a desk, where my discharge was made official, and then it was out to the enormous, echoing lobby, which in an emergency could double as an airplane hangar. We stopped at the pharmacy, a small offshoot of the huge space, to fill my prescriptions. The prescription for Vicodin was for a total of twelve pills, which if taken as prescribed, would last less than four days. To fortify myself for the taxi ride, I immediately dry-swallowed two of them.

My attendant (whose identity I am protecting) then wheeled me toward the front doors (dare I call this aperture a sphincter?) of the lobby. As he walked and I rode, he asked me if I had noticed what was showing on the monitor of the young woman who had finalized my discharge. I admitted that I had not, I had been busy inspecting papers. When I asked what he had seen, he said, "It was a video of a man and woman ... having sex." "Oh." I replied.

Having passed through the lobby doors, and flush (flushed?) with joy at being excreted, I was handed into the taxi, ready to begin anew my life as a free man.


A "Tina" postscript:

The first time that I visited Bonnie on the ward in early May, I caught one glimpse of "Tina" and marveled that she was still there, as to me she had not seemed all that ill. The next time I visited, about a week later, it happened that "Tina" had been assigned the room next to Bonnie’s, and while I could not tell if she recognized me as the wild-haired, bearded, suffering crazy from the prelim ward, she did, while I was visiting, meander in and out of Bonnie’s room at random during the visit, eventually handing me a stamp, a scrap of paper with the address of the "Marians of the Immaculate Conception - Association of Marian Helpers" written upon it, and a letter from her apologizing for having caused us embarrassment, which she had signed as "Ruth". The last time that I saw her, she spent about fifteen minutes loudly praying outside our room as we were attempting to have a quiet visit. It became so annoying that Bonnie stood up, walked to the door, and stood there staring at Ruth without uttering a word until Ruth got the hint, entered her own room, closed the door and began to pray aloud again.

Ruth, wherever you are, may God bless you.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hunter and Hunted: The Dark Rambler - Chapter 4



I thought, when I began this transcription, that I had tuned into a single frequency. I seem to have erred. My inner ear appears to have picked up a number of broadcasts, and this is what I have been able to discern in between the bursts of static.


                         Chapter Four: On the Prowl


Plainfield, Texas

"Excuse me - Detective Grosvenor?"


"The sergeant at the desk said that I should come back and see you."

"Please state your name and business."

"My name is Darla Madison, and I think I may have some information for you."

"Is that so? ... Please - come in and have a seat."




Albuquerque, New Mexico




"Mind if I sit here?"

"It’s a free country, ain’t it? ..... G’wan, take a load off."

"Y’know, ya look familiar. Ain’t I seen ya down ta th’ Adecco agency?"

"Mebbe. Who wants ta know?"

"Francis’s th’ name. Say, that glass looks pretty empty. C’n I buy ya one? Or d’ya like drinkin’ alone?"

"Ain’t often got a choice. Yer buyin’, ya say?"

"Sure, I got money burnin’ a hole in my pocket, and I’m always willin’ ta treat a pretty lady."

"Yer comin’ on a bit strong there, aintcha, sport? But if yer buyin’, sure, I’m drinkin’. Jus’ don’t go thinkin’ yer gonna run th’ bases, okay, Mr. Bigbucks?"

"Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m jus’ feelin’ good ‘cause I got paid, and I don’t like drinkin’ by my lonesome, is all. If ya’d rather I leave ya alone ..."

"S’long’s ya ‘member I ain’t easy, we’ll get along jus’ fine, sport. Since yer feelin’ generous, mine’s gin ‘n’ tonic."

"S’cuse me. Bartender? Could ya set th’ lady here an’ me up? I’ll take a Rusty Nail. Thanks. Obliged."

"Well, if I’m gonna spend yer money, I s’pose ya oughta know my name. Ya c’n call me Jeannie. I was named after th’ teevee show, y’know?"

"Y’mean ‘I Dream of Jeannie’? Yeah, I was ‘bout five when that show started. Yer parents musta really liked that show."

"Yeah, they thought it was a real hoot. Pa loved it, anyhow. I ain’t too sure ‘bout Ma. Yer ‘round forty-six, then, huh, Frank?"

"Don’t call me Frank. I prefer Francis ..... please."

"Touchy, aintcha? Sorry ..... ‘Francis’. I’ll mind my p’s ‘n’ q’s from now on. "

"Don’t mind me ... it’s jus’, my dad’s name was Frank, an’ I ... I like th’ sound a’ Francis better, is all. Classier, y’know?"

"Sure, whatever ya say. Since yer treatin’ me ... right, I guess I oughta treat you right. Francis it is. So yer workin’ outta Adecco too? I did think ya looked kinda familiar."

"Yeah, I jus’ blew inta town a coupla weeks ago, an’ they were hirin’, so ..."

"So where’d they send ya?"

"Tilt Arcade in th’ Coronado Center. Y’know it?"

"Whaddaya think, I’m an idiot? Jus’ north a’ Adecco, an’ ya figure I don’t know where it’s at? Not too smooth, sport. Yer gonna hafta do better’n that."

(Are you listening, my patient auditor? My talent never lies. In truth, I believe that this must be the one.)




June 24, 1960

Genesee Hospital Maternity Ward

Rochester, New York




"Hi, darling. I came as soon as I was allowed. How are you feeling? How’s our son?"

"Oh, honey, he’s so wonderfully handsome. He’s got your eyes, I can tell already. Beautiful gray eyes. Would you like to hold him?"

"If you think I won’t drop him, darling, I’d love to. Are you sure you trust me?"

"Oh, Frank, don’t be silly. You’ll make a wonderful father. The sooner you get used to holding him, the better. Here. Just make sure to gently prop his little head up."

"Gosh, he’s so small and light. Can I take a closer look at him?"

"Of course, he’s as much your son as mine. Oh ... take a look at his left ankle. He’s got a little freckle or birthmark."

"Really? Oh! I see. Unusual, isn’t it?"

"Yes, dear. I think it’s rather fetching. Distinctive."

"Well, Emily, my love, shall we still call him Francis Junior?"

"I wouldn’t think of calling him anything else, darling."






Plainfield, Texas


"And you say he knew Amelia Sirkin?"

"Yes, well, sort of. Just friends, really, you know? Amy and Slim went steady for a while, and Francis and Slim worked over at Allied Depositories together just before they both disappeared, and Francis and I were seeing each other, and of course I worked with Amy, so naturally we’d all get together for a beer now and again. Francis would always tell me Amy wasn’t his type, but he did like me to tell him gossip about her. But then he liked to hear gossip about everybody."

"Hmm. When was the last time that you saw Francis Collinwood?"

"About six weeks ago."

"Have you heard from him since? Phone calls, mail, instant messages, any communication whatsoever?"

"No, not a word. That’s not like him."

"I see. Do you have any other information concerning these missing friends that you think may be helpful?"

"No, that’s really all I know. I hope you can find them, Detective Grosvenor. It makes me uneasy to think that so many people I know can just up and disappear."

"Yes, Ms. Madison. I can well imagine. We are endeavoring to locate them, and every lead that we get is valuable. Thank you for your time and trouble, and if you happen to remember anything else that you think we might want to know, please contact us again. If your information leads to anything, I assure you that we will be in touch."

"Thank you so much, Detective."

"Goodbye, Ms. Madison."


Copyright 2006 Malcolm Mott


Monday, June 26, 2006

Hospital Follies, Part 4

Consistency is not one of my strengths, but I shall attempt to rectify that here, in a small way. Following my perhaps quease-producing analogy of the hospital as a rough beast into the bowels of which I had been precipitated, I consider Admissions to have been the throat, Emergency to have been the esophagus, and the prelim ward to have been the stomach. In the shallows of Thursday, April 20th, I temporarily resided in the duodenum.

It is not often (thank you, Lord) that one is wakened by the disturbing sound of screaming in the obsidian depths of early morning. That I was is something I shall not soon forget. I opened my eyes (remembering not to sit bolt upright) and peered groggily down the corridor at the end of which I was situated. In the middle of the floor twenty or so yards from where I lay, an overweight woman in a shapeless blue shift was sprawled, convulsively clutching a shopping bag and beating her fists upon the linoleum, shrieking ceaselessly, at least until an attendant materialized from the glassed-in inner sanctum of the ward and attempted to help her up and hopefully quiet her down. He succeeded after some minutes and coaxed her into the nearest empty room, after which he spent 15 or 20 minutes seeing to whatever needs she may have had. As I lay there wondering to what fresh hell I might be exposed (thank you, Dorothy Parker, for that elegant and invaluable phrase), my bladder reminded me that at no time since the previous morning had I availed myself of toilet facilities. It was forcefully borne in upon me that it would be to my benefit to expeditiously do so. To that end, I got as close to the base of the bed as I could, and half-dragged myself to the waiting ‘chair (thank you, "Jose", for leaving me that wondrous mode of transportation, you saved me from much humiliation.) The recent arrival’s room was situated two doors away from a sign on the wall that indicated the presence of a rest room, something I had registered as I had watched her being helped into her new abode. I wheeled myself to the door, struggled momentarily with it, and managed to get myself through the aperture in one piece, with my dignity reasonably intact.

Back in the bed, and after my ankle had once again calmed down, I floated anew upon the choppy waves of sleep, waking only at the appearance of "Jose", who was cheerily urging me to accept a Styrofoam tray that bore a plastic pack of cereal, a pint of 1% milk and a spoon. I gladly devoured the offering, and shortly thereafter the male nurse reappeared with another dose of medication. I even more gladly devoured that.

Things began to move rapidly after that. As I listened to a phone conversation from a girl to her parents explaining why she might not immediately be home, "Jose" came into the nook with a large green and white plastic bag labeled "Patient Belongings" and my cane. I peered into the bag and saw my wallet and keys nestled rather forlornly in a corner of the bag. I was happy to be reunited with my meager belongings. "Jose" informed me that it was time for me to be returned to Emergency, and without further ado urged me into the ‘chair (a different one, I noticed, the one with the large rear wheels had mysteriously disappeared.) I was wheeled to the elevator, a security guard accepted me from "Jose" (whom I thanked for his care and attention - he is sure to enter Heaven), and off we went.

"Mr. Mott? What are you doing here?"


(beats the hell outta me)

(patiently [get it? patiently? har har] awaiting further assaults upon my dignity)

"I was deemed to be undesirable and thrown back."

The pretty nurse from the night before was standing over me, at a loss as to how I should have managed to make my way back to Emergency (which will now double as the intestinal tract) without her having been aware of it. I smiled weakly in the face of her exasperation and lay back, hoping that my lame humor would mollify her enough to leave me alone. Scowling and muttering, she turned away and left to torment some other poor soul.

My time in Emergency this day was mostly uneventful - I spent much of the morning and afternoon observing the prosaic life of hospital personnel and the constant stream of EMTs and new patients that circulated through the corridor. I was taken to the X-ray department for a further and more comprehensive series of tests (everything, in fact, but my head was photographed) and during the afternoon I was wheeled to a completely different area of the hospital to have a thorough ultrasound conducted (the dimness of the room would have been conducive to sleep, except for the cold gel, the probe, and the constant swishes, hollow gasps and whistles of the audio representation of my circulation.)

Only two events really stand out - one patient of about my age who was brought in had apparently given the EMTs some trouble, as he was firmly restrained, and was not bashful about informing anyone within hearing distance, at the top of his voice, that he needed to be released posthaste. The other incident involved the attentive son and daughter-in-law of an elderly lady, who insisted on ignoring the strict instructions that only one visitor per patient was to be allowed. One of the nurses asked the woman to leave, at which point she became incensed and began haranguing the nurse, who was obviously unwilling to suffer the woman gladly. A lengthy expostulation followed, after which the woman was escorted from Emergency by one of the security personnel. I would have liked to have offered her my visitor spot, as I had no expectation of receiving any, but that would have been unrealistic, considering the undue attention she had already attracted to herself.

The day passed, not swiftly, and around 4:30 in the afternoon a member of the transport staff appeared behind my bed and prepared to wheel me off. I asked if further tests were to be performed and I received the unenlightening "No" as my only answer.

Next installment: I visit the rectum.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hospital Follies, Part 3

And waited. And waited.

As I stared out through the window, hoping for someone to block my view by entering the room, I unavoidably thought back to the two previous times that I had encountered this particular scene. Always before, it had been Bonnie who was being evaluated, and I was there to supply the information that she could not or would not. Never before had I been a potential patient, and I did suffer some trepidation, wondering if I was badly enough off to be admitted to the regular ward, and belatedly wondering how our mice would fare if such an occurrence eventuated. I had left them enough extra provisions for a week or so, but I knew from past experience that a stay on the ward was likely to be of a much more extensive duration.

At length a woman appeared, introduced herself, and sat down in the chair. She must have wondered, as we shook hands, why I neglected to arise to an erect position as any normal person would. I imagined that she possibly considered me to be either remarkably lazy or so ill that I had forgotten politeness altogether. By this point in the proceedings, roughly about 9 pm or thereabouts, the medication’s effects had completely worn off, and everything that occurred was filtered through a lens of constant pain, so my memory of this portion of the evening is necessarily incomplete in spots. I was asked a number of questions presumably calibrated to zero in on my present state of mind. A recitation of recent events was required of me, which I supplied, and I did not neglect to include the information for which I had originally committed myself to this rigmarole, namely information related to Bonnie’s previous episodes, including the dates, the name of her doctor, and the treatments that were most efficacious.

The interview eventually concluded, and before the woman could exit the room, I asked if it would be possible for me to see Bonnie. She told me that Bonnie had been taken to the regular ward, and my heart sank, knowing it to be located at the other end of the building. I was, however, comforted by the ignorant presumption that Bonnie was shortly to begin receiving treatment and that I could rest easier (you all know how that turned out.) As an afterthought, although quite appreciated by me, the woman asked if I had yet been offered food. I said no, forbearing to mention that as yet, I had not even been offered medication. She assumed a horrified expression and hurried off to remedy my deplorable situation.

She returned bearing two clamshell containers with an expression that practically shouted "Eat, you poor man!" I inspected the contents and unwrapped what proclaimed itself to be "Tuna Salad." It turned out to be an incredibly bulky Kaiser roll with a razor-thin spread of some tasteless, unidentifiable substance. I managed to choke down most of the underdressed roll and the fruit salad, cookies, juice and milk that accompanied the disconsolate (but presumably nutritious) starch product. I set the remainder of the second clamshell aside and, for a goodly while, contemplated my own mortality. After an indeterminate time, I heard a perfunctory knock at the door and a gentleman with the inevitable clipboard in hand appeared. We wended our way through the by now familiar set of questions and responses, ending with the query as to whether I felt myself to be a danger to myself or others, and whether I had ever considered suicide to be an acceptable alternative to my present situation. The gentleman must have been satisfied, because he stood up, smiled, and departed.

I waited for a further length of time, amusing myself by watching "Tina’s" countenance periodically passing by the window as she endlessly paced the circuit of the ward, and attempting to time her reappearances before they occurred. She had passed by about five times before a new lady appeared. After introducing herself as a social worker, she sat down and began to once again question the circumstances that had led to my present predicament. I explained about the onset of Bonnie’s illness, my own health problems and my inability to secure food for us, the persistent toilet leak, the lack of close relatives and my worries about our mice. She wrote on her clipboard, inspected what she had written, looked up at me with an expression that clearly defined her uncertainty, and spoke:

"What we have is a quandary!" To which I could only offer an ironic upward quirk of the lips and the firm statement "Yes."

She stood and bustled out despite the lateness of the evening, and I was left to wonder what might happen next. At length the first evaluator reappeared, explained that under the circumstances my feelings of latent depression were justified, and that in the morning I would be returned to Emergency, it being too late to move me presently. Also, she mentioned that I was to expect to receive one more visit from the social worker with a solution to my problems. When the social worker finally reentered the room, she told me that it had been deemed desirable to place me under the auspices of Adult Protective Services for the duration of our difficulties. This news was not received by me with the unalloyed relief that you might think, given that some help would be necessary until I could do for us again. We are, after all, private people ("Yeah, right!", I hear you saying) and we had read stories in AARP magazine about how the bureaucracy can sometimes abuse the power entrusted to the practitioners thereof. I was forced to agree to the terms, however, and the satisfied social worker departed with a smile, having successfully performed her job and ameliorated the "quandary."

"Jose" appeared not long after, apologizing and explaining that it was necessary that I vacate the room for another’s use and be placed momentarily in the waiting area until suitable accommodation could be arranged for me. I moved back to the ‘chair and was wheeled out. It quickly became apparent that my ankle was in no mood to treat me gently, although bending the leg back, clutching the ankle and resting it upon the ‘chair’s seat lessened the feeling of pressure somewhat. I saw by the clock that it was now 10:45, and I tried but failed to interest myself in whatever was being televised (Surface? Invasion? Lost? One of those.) Of more interest was a family seated in the waiting area, consisting of two parents and two young men. The young man closest to me had an extensive area of scarification on his right arm, appearing to have been executed with a razor blade. There was no scabbing; the reddened skin of the intricate design seemed to have been healed for awhile. The rendering appeared almost to be totemic - the right-hand side of the design consisted of a series of twenty or so dashes parallel to the wrist, ascending from midarm to about 2 inches below the wrist, and to the left of the column a single line rose from the base of the column up to about the third dash from the top. Above the vertical line was a curlicue. Drawn on paper, this would have represented a design of some elegance. Seen on a human arm, it was quite disturbing.

The young man, I noticed, was agitated and fidgeting, but not overly so. I was diverted from my covert inspection by the sight of "Tina" standing on the other side of the partition, staring fixedly at me. Before I could determine what this apparition might portend, she pushed through the door and sat in the chair to my left, obscuring my view of the young man. She began a lengthy peroration on the completeness of her soul, opining that its development had somehow been arrested and was not fully formed. Not knowing what to say to this, I offered her nods and quiet affirmations. When she began explaining that she believed her theory had relevance to the Age of Reason, I mumbled some nothing about the Age of Superstition and wondered how in hell I was going to carry off an appearance of knowledge, given the subject matter. Luckily, we were both distracted by a flurry of sudden activity - the young man had been busy in the interim, and when I looked at him, he was sprawled on one of the chairs opposite his parents, scrubbing vigorously and contritely at his right arm with a paper towel, from which a goodly quantity of blood was now issuing. I was quite relieved at the appearance of "Jose" at my right shoulder, informing me that a bed was ready for me.

I was wheeled down the corridor which harbored the interview room that I had previously occupied, down to the end where a bed was positioned against the wall. "Jose" helped me out of the chair into the bed, then pushed me into the small nook that held overhead supply cabinets. He pushed the bed beneath the cabinets in order to access the supplies, and gave me an extra sheet and blanket. I realized that if I woke up suddenly during the night, it would not be in my best interests to suddenly sit bolt upright, as I might conceivably incur serious damage.

After profusely thanking "Jose" for his untiring solicitude, I asked him if he would kindly do me one more favor.

"Is there anyone on the ward who could prescribe me some pain medication?"

Smiling and answering in the affirmative, "Jose" disappeared after parking my ‘chair at the base of the bed, and shortly thereafter (finally!) I was given a Motrin and a Vicodin by a male nurse, and I stretched out on my right side, heavily favoring my left leg and ankle, and descended into a troubled sleep.

Thus ended my first night, deep in the intestines of the health care system.

To be continued.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fun and Games with Bon and Mal - Hospital Follies, Part 2

Where did I leave off? Ah, yes. The wonderful world of CAT scans. Articles I’ve read assure me that there is no pain involved in the scanning, and as far as it goes, that is true. The scanner itself is just a device, a glorified X-ray machine. However ...

It was by now sometime in late afternoon or early evening, and the efficacy of the Oxycontin was no longer what it had been - as marvelous as that medication is, it does not last forever. I was required to roll from the bed to the scanning platform, an operation uncomfortable enough in itself, and then the technician began the manipulations of my ankle designed to render an optimal scan. This increased my discomfort exponentially, and when the positioning of my ankle attained the point of optimum pain, I was informed that I must hold that position, must, in fact, not move a muscle until the scan was completed, otherwise the scan would have to be redone. I greeted this news with something less than equanimity, as my ankle appeared to be attempting to tear itself away from the rest of my leg, and was twitching uncontrollably.

I have no idea how long the ordeal lasted. I remember only that I shut my eyes, opened my mouth in the manner of a fish out of water gasping for liquid oxygen, and waited for the scan to be completed. Eventually the tech returned, and I uttered a small prayer of thanks. Opening my eyes, I saw another tech on my other side, and the first tech indicated that the second should now inject the contrast fluid. A feeling of consternation began to grow in me as I realized that the testing was not yet done. I begged the first tech for a healthy shot of morphine before the proceedings recommenced, but he mumbled something uncaring and went about his repositioning regimen.

I will spare you (and myself) further remembrances of that episode. Suffice it to say that after the scanning was complete, a twitching bundle of outraged nerve endings was returned to the space in Emergency that blocked access to the supply cabinets.

I retained just enough awareness to observe that a shift change had taken place, and that a whole new crop of medical personnel were circulating around the capacious area behind the fortress of the desk, tapping away at terminals, passing manila folders back and forth, and staring raptly at large monitors upon which were displayed scads of mystical information comprehensible only to those of the profession. Through the pale vermilion haze that seemed to have surrounded me, I noticed a blonde woman in a lab coat crossing from right to left. As the back of her head came into view, I could see a wide stripe of cherry-red dye stretching from the top of her head right down to the hair ends - not a solid stripe, but presenting a feathered appearance. It occurred to me to wonder if she had perhaps lost a bet, as I could not imagine someone intentionally committing an act of such risibility. (Yes, okay, maybe I was being judgmental, but I mean, my Lord.)

I drifted in and out of consciousness for a further undetermined period of time, and my next recollection was of a pretty nurse staring down at me and uttering the inevitable invocation, "Mr. Mott?" She was accompanied by one of the security personnel, and I was informed that I was now being moved to the preliminary ward for my evaluation. With the guard’s help, I was shifted into a wheelchair and rolled down the corridor to the elevator into which Bonnie had disappeared hours earlier.

I rapidly discovered that forcing my leg to endure a vertical position, even in a wheelchair, was not something I wished to repeat frequently. I hoped to quickly receive a more felicitous accommodation.

At the cessation of the ride, I was wheeled out into an area bounded by a glass-fronted desk, a narrow but deep waiting area, and two glassed partitions pierced by doorways. There was a door labeled Conference Room to the right of the elevator, and rows of doors stretched most of the length of the corridors leading away from the elevator. I was required to stand and be wanded by a woman sporting a security uniform and my keys, wallet and cane were removed from my possession. (It turned out that, on the wards, canes are considered to be potentially lethal weapons, and no patients are allowed them.) I was then wheeled through the nearer partition, down the corridor, and into a spacious lounge area that held a couple of tables, a number of chairs, a wall-mounted tv, and, to my everlasting relief, a long vinyl couch. I shifted from the ‘chair to the couch, occupying its whole length and at this point not much caring if someone else might have wanted to sit upon it. I glanced first at the tv, which was tuned to an episode of Seventh Heaven, and then peered around at the only other occupants of the lounge, two women of indeterminate age but whom I guessed to be both in their twenties. One was deaf, and was communicating via ASL with one of the medical personnel. The other was a pretty, shy woman who introduced herself to me in a subdued voice as Tina. I found her to be a complex and intriguing person.

We traded banal pleasantries for some minutes, until two people of around my own age entered the lounge, and "Tina" moved to one of the tables to speak with them. I couldn’t help but overhear parts of the conversation between "Tina" and her parents, and it appeared that the episode that had landed her on the ward was a family dinner at which she had "acted out" by pelting her sister with food. Her parents were at once apologetic and frustrated, insisting that she must learn to control herself while reluctantly admitting that perhaps such control was difficult. I couldn’t help but wonder how far her parents’ attitude had affected her condition.

I was eventually notified by one of the medical personnel, a youthful, pleasant and respectful gentleman whose name I wish that I had learned, whom I will refer to as "Jose", that the evaluator was ready to interview me. I replied with some asperity that since my cane had been taken from me, I would require the use of a wheelchair if I was to be moving from my by now comfortable position. The young man cheerfully promised to secure for me the necessary transportation and disappeared, returning minutes later with a ‘chair of which I heartily approved, inasmuch as it possessed outsized rear wheels easily manipulated by the occupant. I actually enjoyed wheeling myself down the corridor - I preferred to demonstrate as much independence as possible. We entered one of the small interview rooms, and I transferred from the ‘chair to the couch that occupied the rear wall, arranging myself as comfortably as possible. And I waited.

It’s now difficult for me to believe that this was still Wednesday, as in a relatively short while I had experienced a number of novel occurrences, but shortly before my first of three evaluations, it couldn’t have been more than ten hours since I had entered the throat of the hospital.

To be continued.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006





Reunited and it feels so good

Reunited 'cause we understood

There's one perfect fit

And, sugar, this one is it

We both are so excited

'cause we're reunited, hey, hey

From Reunited by Peaches and Herb


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Weather Report


The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!

Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none!

When I'm stuck a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,

The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day
A way!
(From the musical "Annie", of course)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

9/11 Tribute - Commemorating the 2996

I interrupt my thrilling tale of mirth and mayhem (aka Fun and Games - Hospital Follies) to call your attention to a worthy website, brought to my attention by Tammy, owner of the journal The Daily Warrior.

You can go here to access it, and feel free to sponsor one of the heroes.

I have chosen to sponsor and pay tribute to this man -

Walter E. Weaver of Centereach, New York, for no better reason than that we both share a first name and last initial, and a love of the outdoors. He was an officer in the Emergency Services Unit of the New York Police Department, and he died in the attack that terrible day, performing his duty as did so many others. I didn't know you, Mr. Weaver, but had we met I am sure that I would have liked you. I pray that your family is well and that you are watching over them.



Friday, June 16, 2006

Fun and Games with Bon and Mal - Hospital Follies, Part 1

No, this is not a puzzle page.

I suppose, to complete the recent series on our experiences with the local health care system, I should detail my own trip through the digestive tract of the hospital. This will probably bore most everyone, so you may feel free, in good conscience, to skip this entry.

Wednesday, April 19th, began as any other day, except for the fact that my left leg, from hip to ankle, was in agony. I had not been able to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time since Saturday afternoon, when the inflammation had first manifested itself. On the occasions when I had to leave the bed, I was able to be on my feet for bare minutes at a time before the muscles in my leg would vigorously protest and force me to lie down again.

The refrigerator was almost empty. I knew that I had to take some action, because I had no idea how long the inflammation might last. The only action left to me was to have us both admitted to the hospital, to allow Bonnie to receive the treatment that she so desperately needed, and to ameliorate my own suffering. I took two Oxycontin that I had been saving for an emergency and, after waiting for most of the morning traffic to leave the neighborhood, which would have been around 10:00 AM, called 911.

In a short time help arrived, and here I wish to publicly thank the EMTs assigned to Ambulance 3759 of Penfield and the officers assigned to Medic 36 for a masterful job of coaxing Bonnie into leaving the house. It could not have been easy for them, although I have no way of knowing, as I was already in the ambulance. In due course, Bonnie and I were on the way to Strong Memorial, she on the gurney and I stretched out on the small side bench. It was a memorable ride, and I gained a full appreciation of what a grueling job EMTs have, although they handle it with aplomb and make it seem incredibly easy.

We arrived at the hospital’s northern Emergency entrance at around 11:15 AM. As I exited the ambulance, I observed with no small sense of irony that it was located directly across the street from the southern boundary of Mt. Hope Cemetery. A small dilemma quickly presented itself as the EMTs realized that they had no transportation for me, and they could not leave the ambulance unattended with a patient inside. I suggested that they procure a wheelchair for me, and they went one better, bringing from Emergency a regular hospital bed so that I would not have to be moved too often. Bonnie and I were wheeled down a short passageway to a crossroads, where the admissions desk and security station were located.

As in previous episodes, Bonnie was unable to supply the information necessary for admittance, so I proceeded to answer all the questions for both of us. After we had received our ID bracelets (red for mental health), Bonnie was wheeled down the eastern passage to the elevator leading to the preliminary ward, and I was taken down a southern corridor to an emergency cubicle.

I thanked the EMT for his solicitude as he left and, thinking that I was here to stay, placed my cane in a corner of the small room and settled in to watch the tv that was mounted near the ceiling. Before many minutes had passed, an aide who was apparently in charge of this portion of Emergency entered and began to wheel me out again. Evidently this area was not for patients who were undergoing mental health problems, and I was to be taken elsewhere. I explained to the woman that she had removed me so quickly that I had been unable to retrieve my cane, and if she would, to please return to the cubicle and secure it for me. She murmured some words that were meant to be reassuring, but somehow did nothing to allay my anxiety. When we reached the admissions desk, the aide returned to her charges and I was left to answer a few more questions. To be on the safe side, I mentioned to the woman presiding over Admissions that my cane was back in the cubicle and I would feel more secure if it was safe with me. I received more soothing words and was wheeled west into the main area of Emergency and positioned against a cabinet in which were stored gowns, sheets, blankets and pillows, it apparently being the only space in the corridor that was vacant. This became annoying, as members of the maintenance staff were forced to frequently move my bed in order to access the contents of the cabinet.

I was also located directly across from the main Emergency station, and in those periods when I was awake and lucid, was able to witness the comings and goings of the various medical personnel. A Xerox machine was directly in front of the station, placed so as to allow the EMTs to duplicate whatever forms were necessary to complete their jobs. To my delight and relief, the Penfield EMT who had first brought me in availed himself of the copier, and I implored him to please bring me my cane, as none of the hospital staff had heeded my pleas. He smiled and agreed, and shortly I was reunited with my third leg.

The medication that I had taken was still exerting its effects, and I began to drift in and out of slumber, finally being able to relax and succumbing to the exhaustion that I had been experiencing since Saturday. During the afternoon, I was awoken at various times by the question "Mr. Mott?" and I was required to answer yet more questions and undergo examinations of my feet and legs. Blood work was done, and some small instrument was used to determine the circulatory capabilities of my toes and left leg. This required me to remove my jeans and submit to a gel being spread from groin to ankle, an uncomfortable proposition. A doctor and his assistant spent some time in discussions as to where the best place to access the pulse in feet may be located. I absorbed all of this with as much interest as I could muster, and as much as my condition allowed.

At some time in midafternoon, as a likeable and forceful doctor was completing yet another inspection, one of the transport staff arrived and began to wheel me away. The doctor remonstrated, and the staff member explained that I was required to undergo X-rays. In somewhat of a huff, the doctor said to me "You will see me again." I never did.

I was taken on a ride through the twists and turns of many corridors; I could still, if necessary, delineate my exact route. I was taken through a set of doors leading into the X-ray department. My attendant announced my arrival, delivered my records unto the desk, and wheeled me into a holding area, explaining that someone would be with me shortly. Some mixup must have occurred somewhere, for after what seemed to be about a ten-minute wait, a member of the X-ray transport team, clutching my folder beneath her arm, wheeled me all the way back to Emergency. Hilarity ensued as my two transport attendants held a lengthy discussion about where I was supposed to be and why. Sometime during this amusing conversation, I drifted off.

I was awakened by movement, and discovered myself to be in the process of being transferred back to X-ray, where a couple of tests were finally conducted. After the tests, oddly enough, although I had not so far been administered any kind of pain relief, the agony had ameliorated far enough for me to once again fall asleep. I drowsed my way back to Emergency and managed to sleep for another hour or so before I was for a third time taken on a thrilling ride through the corridors, this time arriving at a door directly across from that leading to X-ray. This door led to the wonderful world of CAT scans. (You might have thought that a lot of time and energy could have been saved by leaving me in that general area until all the tests were complete. You would, of course, have been wrong. That is not how the health care system operates.)

This seems to be turning into a rather lengthy expose, so I’ll break it off here and continue in the next post.

Until then,


Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Continuing Crisis

Considering my recent experiences, I found this article to be of more than passing interest.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Long May It Wave ...


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Ward

Down at the west end of Crittenden Blvd., a stretch of roughly two miles of macadam bordered by Strong Memorial Hospital on the north and the University of Rochester campus on the south, lies a dauntingly large parking lot. Directly across from that lot is located the entrance to the Behavioral Health Facility, the wing that houses patients with mental health issues.

Once having entered through the automatic doors and turned west, you traverse a corridor roughly half a block long until you arrive at a short hall connecting two corridors. At this junction, two elevators with blue diamonds painted upon them allow access to the upper levels of the facility. The second floor, to the north, houses what is popularly known as the psych ward. There is a 15' x 15' area in front of the locked door with the metal mesh-reinforced window and the outsized handle where family members wait to be admitted.

Press the buzzer located to the left of the door - a ding-dong will sound and a desk attendant will push a button. You will hear a small click which tells you that the door is unlocked and that you may enter. As you walk in, on your left, a wall fronted by cabinets topped with battered boxes of puzzles and games presents itself. To the east is an area large enough to hold six tables and their complement of chairs. The desk is located centrally on the ward, also on your left, and you must stop there to announce the name of the patient with whom you wish to visit and to present anything you may be carrying for inspection. You must not be carrying razors, scissors, pens or pencils, or knives and/or forks. Also, any plastic bags must be left at the desk. Once you have passed inspection, you may notice a small open area west of the desk, known as the lounge, consisting of four plush chairs in a row, a small table opposite them, and a television mounted above the table. North of all of this is the lengthy east-west corridor, off of which branch all the patient rooms.

This is the ward.

Betty. Joan. Lou. Mary. Matt. Tishawna. Tricia. Xavier.


Welcome to the ward.

Alanna. Barb. Craig. Joelle. Karen. Katherine. Peter.

Welcome to the ward.

The ward is not just dimensions, a floor plan, an area in a building.

The ward is not just a set of symptoms and statistics.

The ward is a crucible - a container in which shattered hopes, dreams and lives are blended together into a new form - a form that, it is hoped, will be able to sustain those who may have been weakened or damaged, those for whom the vicissitudes of daily life have been too large to easily confront. 

The ward is a workplace - a collection of co-workers all dedicated to a common goal - the healing and rehabilitation of those who are afflicted and suffering.

The ward is a community - a meeting ground where the afflicted and suffering can stand face-to-face with others like themselves, and come to understand that they are not alone - that there are others like them who share their woes.

The ward is people - common, ordinary, everyday people.

People just like you and me.


Monday, June 12, 2006

What a Difference a Few Days Make

Back in 1959 (when Bonnie and I were all of 10 years old) Dinah Washington recorded a pretty little melody called What a Difference a Day Makes. If you'd like to hear that pretty little melody, visit this site.

During a discussion with Bonnie's doctor over the phone, on May 2nd, I was informed that we needed to meet to discuss Bonnie's refusal to sign the consent required to begin treatments. I agreed to do so, and on May 4th, a Thursday, I fortified myself with medication and drove to the hospital. After having parked in the lot on the south side of the hospital, I crossed the street and headed for the disabled-accessible door that I had used on previous occasions. It was my unlucky day - there was some sort of reconstruction being performed, and the entrance was roped off. I was forced to hobble a block to the east to the next available door, which had a flight of eight steps leading up to it, and in the vestibule, another eight steps leading down. The extra two blocks and 16 steps did nothing to make me feel better.

I made it to the ward at around 9 am. The desk attendants were quite surprised to see me (normal visiting hours are from 3 to 8 pm.) I explained, once I had regained my breath (the walk had consumed most of my small reserves) that I was there to meet the doctor at her request, and they eventually let me in to see Bonnie.

As we had not seen each other since April 19th, you may well imagine the scene that then took place. The doctor came into the room not long afterward to introduce herself, at which point Bonnie curtly asked if she and I could have some time alone. I was a bit nonplussed, as I was eager to discuss matters with the doctor, and I knew that she would be leaving around noon to attend a seminar. After having spent an hour or so talking with Bonnie, I went out to the desk in search of the doctor. We did finally have a short discussion in the small lounge while the staff was cleaning Bonnie's room.

I explained to the doctor that, if Bonnie's consent was not forthcoming, I would be happy to sign in her stead, as I was eager to have the treatments begin. It was at this point that the doctor became slightly evasive, indicating that she didn't think that would be allowable and that, since Bonnie had demonstrated no sign of progress, she had begun making arrangements for Bonnie to possibly receive treatment at the Rochester Psychiatric Center.  At no point did the doctor inquire of me whether this would be inconvenient for me.

The meeting, from my point of view, was rather unsatisfactory and vaguely unsettling. To make matters worse, the haze of pain occasioned by my first real exercise since leaving the hospital on April 21st was interfering with my concentration, and I wasn't quite certain that anything had actually been settled.

Sometime during the afternoon, an attendant came into Bonnie's room , introduced himself to us, and indicated that he would in some capacity (perhaps as nurse) be involved in Bonnie's case once she had been moved to the Rochester Psychiatric Center. This, you may imagine, was cause for dismay, as I had not, I thought, been properly consulted with as to this action, and it seemed that it was being presented to me as a fait accompli.

Over the weekend, I had a discussion with a friend (who accomplished some helpful research for me, and who encouraged me to take action), and on Monday, May 8th, I sent this email -

Dr. Brewer, i am sending this in a small amount of desperation. My wife, Bonnie, who you last treated for clinical depression in early 2000, is once again in the Psych Ward at Strong Memorial. This time, however, despite my assurances and her records, the attending physician seems to want to transfer Bonnie to the Rochester Psychiatric Center.

Since you personally have treated her, you understand how well Bonnie responds to ECT treatments. Bonnie, as on former occasions, is refusing to sign the consent forms. If it is at all possible, as I believe I may have done on the previous occasion, I am willing to sign the forms in her stead, so that her treatment may begin in an expeditious manner.
I am unwilling to see Bonnie transferred, as it would cause a large disruption in both our lives. It would be far easier if Bonnie were to be treated sooner rather than later, and I am unsure that if Bonnie were to be transferred, her records would be transferred with her.
I ask you to please give this matter some consideration, and if possible smooth the way for us.
Any help that you may give us in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time and attention.
As I explained in a previous post, when next I spoke to Bonnie's doctor, her attitude had altered, and I discovered that Bonnie had been assigned a doctor expert in ECT. What I did not realize until this last Friday was how very close matters had approached to having reached a different outcome. Among the papers that any patient receives upon being assigned to the ward, I discovered an envelope containing this missive, dated May 10th and addressed to Bonnie -
SMH Inpatient Service 2-9200
Dear Ms.          ,
A hearing was held on this date to discuss the recommendation of your treatment team that your care should be transferred to the Rochester Psychiatric Center.
It appears to me that you would benefit from continued inpatient care, and that a transfer to a close facility would not inconvenience your family. I am therefore recommending that your treatment team make the necessary arrangements for your transfer to Rochester Psychiatric Center so that you might receive long-term care that is indicated. (Emphasis mine.)
That's how close it came, my friends. If I had not sent the email on Monday, Bonnie would most likely have been transferred that week, and I might have returned to the ward to discover that she was no longer there (needless to say, no one felt the need to inform me of this letter or the imminent transfer.)
One could wish that, at least here in Rochester, family members were held in some small regard, rather than being treated as something to be scraped off one's shoe.
Bonnie is to receive two more treatments, on Tuesday and Thursday, and one of her nurses indicated that there is a very good possibility that she will be released Friday.
As of today, Bonnie is recovering well, but her powers of concentration leave something to be desired. She had managed to acquire a book from somewhere, and she did make frequent attempts to read it, but it seemed that she was making no real progress. I am going to keep a close eye on this development, and if it continues beyond the end of treatment, I may have to make arrangements for maintenance treatments on an outpatient basis.
When I was released from the hospital back in April, I was told by my friendly and kind (and patient) attendant that unspoken hospital policy is to discharge patients as quickly as possible (I believe I have seen this referred to elsewhere as "treat 'em and street 'em".) If this is true (and there is some basis for believing that it is), it is an indictment of our present health care system that must be investigated in some respect, so that patients are not released before everything has been done to assure that they are ready for release. If you or someone you love find yourself in need of health care, all that I can say to you is, be vigilant.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I have received very good news. Bonnie, if all goes as planned and hoped, will be returning home this Friday, recovered from our shared journey through the perdition of depression. This represents a best-case scenario, in that although her treatments were begun later than expected, the quantity has been halved, it having been determined by her doctor that further treatments are at this time unnecessary. I have seen for myself the vast improvement in her condition and am thrilled to once again embrace the vivacious person that I know Bonnie to be.

It was closer than I had ever expected - my next post will reveal just how close, but long-term institutionalization has been averted and our life together, with some modifications, will reinstate itself and continue forward, thanks in great part to the prayers, thoughts and good wishes of you wonderful people whom I have met through this marvelous medium called the Internet, and am proud to call friends.

I have lately been rereading some of my more recent journal entries, reflecting on the experiences that I never expected, nor really desired, to have shared in a public forum. Nevertheless, I am neither a rock nor an island, and an experience such as I have undergone is almost impossible to countenance in solitude - it was necessary to my peace of mind that I reach out to a few people, to share my pain, and to those of you who responded to my need, I cannot thank you enough. I am still here and writing because of you, and I have to hope that that will suffice.

The personality with whom I share a body, that "cold, dead being" who only comes forth when I am beset by intolerable stress, has admirably accomplished the tasks that were required of him, and is once again returning within, to the rest he has so deservedly earned. It is perhaps unfair of me to characterize my alter ego in such a fashion, but it is descriptive only in an emotional manner. I am normally an unambitious, easygoing, somewhat lackadaisical (for which read lazy) and complacent person, and without that other side of me to display the iron determination that I cannot, I would, in all probability, be lost. I speak of this other side of me in the third person, because I neither really know nor understand him. He is inside me, there can be no denial of that fact, but we do not communicate. The times that I have made entries in the journal these past few months have occurred when I was in the foreground - my other half is grim, stolid and uncommunicative. It is perhaps necessary that this be so - I might otherwise have been crushed beneath the weight of despondency with which I found myself freighted.

I have been in a quandary as to whether to continue on with the journal - it has sometimes seemed too monumental an undertaking. I have never kept a paper journal, relying on my memory to stand me in good stead. Now, though, it is, I think, invaluable - I am glad of the opportunity to look back, to see where I’ve been, to understand where I now am, and to perhaps receive at least a dim glimpse of where I may be headed. And reflecting upon it has allowed me to realize something - while the entries may appear to be all over the map, there are at least two underlying themes that represent personal wayposts of sorts - creativity and love. Without either of those two attributes, I would not be the person you have come to know. The Creator has endowed me with the capacity to demonstrate these qualities, to what extent it is not for me to judge, but I am supremely thankful that they constitute a portion of who I am.

I must take this opportunity to say a word or two about mental illness. All too often, even in these supposedly enlightened days, many uninformed people still consider mental illness to indicate a character flaw, to represent some sort of moral failing on the part of people so afflicted. Nothing could be further from the truth. It will in future be demonstrated, I believe, as with so many other afflictions of the body, that there is a genetic basis to the illness. The brain is as yet a comparatively poorly-understood organ, and what we do understand represents still but a drop in the ocean of medical knowledge. The brain is the seat of our intelligence, a complex and delicate biological computer, and as many of you have experienced, mechanical computers are prone to crash occasionally. How much more so, then, is the computer we bear in our skulls likely to suffer a breakdown? The components of our brains are so much more fragile and interdependent than those of a personal computer. How many of us can honestly say that we go through life on an even keel, never deviating from the emotional course we have set ourselves?

Enough of this blather. If you have today told a loved one how much you care for them, tell them again - and again -and keep on telling them. We all need to know that we are loved, that someone truly cares about our welfare, that we have companions on the long and sometimes lonely road of life.

I wish you all limitless love, and unending


Thursday, June 8, 2006

A Tribute

E  X  I  G  E  N  T
L U  S T R O U  S
E  L  U  S  I  V  E
S  O  U L  F  U  L
E C  S T A T  I  C

Monday, June 5, 2006

Chapter 3 - The Dominion of Night

It's always comforting to hear from old friends, isn't it?


                         The Dominion of Night

     So. I understand that you have wished never to hear from me again. Worse luck for you. You will tell my story.

     I am a consort of the night. She is a glorious, captivating inamorata whose soft zephyrs gently caress me as I slip through the folds of her gown, ever in pursuit of the one who requires my service. The night is my mistress and protector, embracing and cloaking me from the probing eyes of those who would circumvent my mission of mercy. Nothing must frustrate me in the completion of my goal, the cessation of some unfortunate’s misery.

     It is needful that I spend a modicum of time in discreet reconnaissance, following my unknowing client and learning the routes and routines I must know if I am to successfully complete my task. There can be no avoiding this necessity - without this knowledge there is a chance that I might be taken unaware by some unsuspected circumstance and diverted or prevented from performing my act of compassion. To this end, I must clothe my person in garments of deepest ebony, that no hue or glimmer might betray me to the unsuspecting denizens of the deep hours of the night or shallow hours of the impending morning.

     Prior to this portion of my purpose I must, of course, first select the person who will most benefit from my compassion. This is a crucial and delicate objective - there are so many souls in this world that suffer the throes of spiritual torture. I must choose one who is so overburdened that the spirit cries out for relief, one who desperately wishes release but is prevented from personally carrying out an act of suicide by the iron bonds of religious belief.

     To discover who might most require my kindness, I often frequent the innermost precincts of whatever city I have fetched up in, for to those locales have the most wretched gravitated, whether through need or greed. The mean streets and low dives of the inmost urban landscape are fertile territories, blossoming with the bitter fruits that it is my calling to harvest.

     I invariably begin my quest by roaming the darkling streets, directing my senses to those whom I pass, feeling for their inner pain. Many there are who suffer, but only in subdued fashion - their perturbations register only as would a quick caress, barely skimming the surface of my empathy. Others, however - ah, those others, whose silent, visceral cries of agony exert a sweet, constant, desirable pressure upon the naked pelt of my talent - it is them by whom I am beguiled, they who will receive the blissful release of their torment through the agency of my finely whetted blade.

     I have been graced with a photographic memory, a faculty that greatly facilitates my efforts at determining the person to whom I will devote myself. I spend perhaps a week in seeking out my ultimate choice, and when the winnowing procedure is finished, it is then that I begin the acquaintance phase of the process. My first course of action is to don my raven garments and shadow my prospect, paying careful attention to any patterns of behavior that may emerge. If, for example, my client is prone to patronize a drinking establishment (and, naturally, many are) that is where I will begin to promote my policy of seduction and solace.

     I have found that another excellent source of clients is the plethora of temporary employment agencies that have sprung up like noxious weeds in the last couple of decades, testament to the fact that employers have discovered the delightful datum that they no longer need care for their employees, that any nobody from the street can perform an entry-level job, and the savings in benefits and vacation time are enormous. If the nobodies are cunning and hard-working, they may be offered full employment at a ridiculously low salary, and glad they are to receive this beneficence. Some of my most productive prospects have come from this pool of part-timers, for they exude equal amounts of hope and despair. The contemplation of their release is as sweet music to my soul.

     Do you think me cruel and heartless? I assure you that I am not. Only by bestowing such a benison may I justify my actions, only by this method may I attempt to balance my unholy craving with an act of imperfect contrition. It is enough.

     Expect to hear from me again.

     This is the last communication that I have so far received from my interlocutor. It is possible that he may be ... busy. However, I did find this news item from the Plainfield Press interesting -




Police are investigating the recent disappearances of four residents of the city of Plainfield. They have been reported as missing by co-workers, friends and families, and attempts to locate them have so far proven fruitless. Their names, ages and last known places of employment are:

James Earl Bottoms - 36  Sargent’s Super Mart

William Kwan - 31           Sargent’s Super Mart

Amelia Sirkin - 27           Blowmold Plastics Co., Inc.

Reynaldo Valdez - 24      Allied Depositories

Authorities request that any citizens who possess knowledge of the present whereabouts of these individuals come forward and contact Detective Joseph Grosvenor of the Plainfield PD to divulge what information they have. The authorities wish to assure citizens that no tangential questions shall be asked of them, and that any information that they may supply will be kept in the strictest of confidence.

This one's for you, Kathy. Thanx.

Copyright Malcolm Mott 2006


Sunday, June 4, 2006

Matters Proceed

Has it really been a month since I last made an entry? How time flies. I haven't felt much like writing; I haven't that much to say at the moment. I can say that after some false starts, Bonnie has now completed more than 30% of her treatment regimen, and she is every day becoming more like the dear woman that I know and love.

I should explain that since her last episode, back in 2000, changes on the psych ward, as in life, had occurred, and the doctor to whom Bonnie's care had previously been entrusted and who intimately understood her requirements had since received a well-deserved promotion and is presently the director of the entire ECT program at Strong Memorial Hospital. As such, he is no longer involved in individual treatment.

More youthful doctors today, it seems (this is only my own personal opinion) are more in favor of treatment through pharmaceuticals than through alternative treatments that may, in fact, be more efficacious. I have become inured to the fact that the opinions of family members are often lightly regarded, no matter how pertinent and informed those opinions may be. I had somehow forgotten that, as part of Bonnie's psychosis, she was wary of affixing her signature to anything, and as I was at first incapable of making trips to the hospital, I did not discover until two weeks had passed that Bonnie had not yet begun treatment because of her refusal to sign the consent forms. When I first managed to reach the hospital to talk to Bonnie's doctor, I found to my dismay that it was almost a foregone conclusion that Bonnie was to be committed to the Rochester Psychiatric Center for long-term care. Her doctor was, in effect (it seemed to me) washing her hands of Bonnie. I found this approach to be untenable for both of us, as it would keep us apart for a much greater length of time than was necessary.

Almost in a panic, I sent an email to her previous doctor, imploring him to remember how well Bonnie had responded to ECT treatments, and to please exert himself to the maximum to see to it that she remained on the ward and began her treatments. Also, I did everything in my power to convince Bonnie that she must sign the consent, because the alternative was unthinkable.

I owe a debt of thanks that I can never repay to Dr. Eric Brewer. Not only did he take time away from his busy schedule to respond to me, but his influence was evident the next time that I spoke to Bonnie's doctor. As the title of the entry indicates, things are now well in hand and under way, and I now expect that Bonnie will return home sometime in mid-July.

Bonnie is so far along now that she is once again taking an interest in things and demonstrating emotions. She has once again begun to read the newspapers that I bring to her, and she has begun requesting small items from home (she always requests scissors and a razor, but of course those items are forbidden to patients - it's a wonder they let me use my cane.) She has also begun requesting that i bring her specific food items - her first request was for a cheeseburger and strawberry milkshake from McDonalds. She has also requested Pepsi and BBQ chicken, so I'll have to see what I can do. Except for the occasional item such as rolls, fruit, and juices, Bonnie finds most of the hospital food to be nearly inedible, and after having experienced 3 days worth of it myself (along with nibbles from what she has received) I am forced to agree with her.

She has taken a dislike to particular aides and patients, and her displeasure is immediately apparent, unlike the almost zombie-like quality which she formerly displayed, and, although I am certain that it is unpleasant for the people involved, I can look upon it as a demonstration of the degree to which she has already recovered.

As for my own condition, I am as capable now as I was before my leg became inflamed - there is little discomfort now, although it is apparent that occasional flareups may continue to occur if I overexert myself. I can drive, I can negotiate the hospital corridors, and I can make necessary trips to stores, so I am at 100% operating efficiency. I have been informed by my doctor that I am now officially diabetic, but you will not be reading much, if anything, about that here. There are many excellent resources to which you can refer if you wish to learn more.

The third chapter of the 'Dark Rambler' saga has finally been completed and will shortly be posted.

Until then, as ever,